One of the biggest games of the year is finally here – and it’s not River Bowl, Fair Bowl or doesn’t involve a single Redding team.
Anderson hosts West Valley in a matchup of two of the top three Northern Section Division III teams Friday in the Redding Rancheria Game of the Week. As if bragging rights weren’t enough, the winner has the inside track for the Northern Athletic League championship and likely the top seed for the playoffs.
“We both have a long road ahead of us but this is the next step to an NAL title and it’s a good thing we’re healthy and we’re ready to go,” Anderson head coach Don Trotter said.
The rivalry has been renewed the past couple of years after being dominated by West Valley. The Eagles (4-1) had won the past 11 meetings between the two, including last year’s regular season clash. But the Cubs (4-1) got the last laugh with a 24-21 semifinal victory to snap the skid and rekindle the rivalry. Last season was also the only time since 2004 both teams finished the year with winning records in the same season.
“It lost its pizzazz and luster but it’s back now,” West Valley head coach Greg Grandell said. “It’s fun to be in the conversation for a league title and this is what makes high school football fun.”
Both teams enter with run-heavy offenses led by stud running backs. Anderson senior Parker Phillips leads the Northern Section in rushing with 1,003 yards and 15 touchdowns in four games thanks to a pair of 300-yard games. The Cubs like to impose their will on others with a stout offensive line that has helped them lead the section in total offense with 449.8 yards per game.
“They have a lot of size and we don’t really have any,” Grandell said. “They’ll try and lean on us so we’ll have to stunt and do different things so they don’t get one-on-ones.”
West Valley counters with senior Bailey Sulzer, whose 845 yards is good for fourth in the section to go with 13 TDs. One difference, though, is Sulzer has needed 114 carries to get there, which is tops in the section. But being the bell cow for the Eagles is continuing to pay off for West Valley so far.
“I love Bailey,” Trotter said. “I nicknamed him ‘Superman’ when he was a sophomore and that hasn’t changed. Their offensive line is looking good, the offense is clicking so we’ll have to stop the run first and hang on against the pass.”
West Valley’s defense has the tough task of stopping Phillips, something no one has been able to do for over a year. The Eagles rank sixth in scoring defense allowing only 11 points per game but they also haven’t seen a unit with power quite like the Cubs. Add in the rain all week, throw these smash mouth teams with grit on a real grass field with high stakes and you have the makings of a potential classic.
“(West Valley defensive coordinator) Jimmy Vert is going to have those guys ready to go,” Trotter said. “It’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out, go behind the woodshed type of games.”
REDDING RANCHERIA GAME OF THE WEEK
Who: West Valley (4-1) at Anderson (4-1)
Where: Bob Reid Stadium, Anderson High School
When: 7:30 p.m., Friday
Pleasant Valley (4-2, 2-0 EAL) at Enterprise (1-4, 0-1 EAL), 7:30 p.m.
The Hornets showed their backbone is a tough 21-14 road loss to Chico last week, as quarterback Leslie Cummings accounted for both Enterprise scores. The senior will need to be on his game again against a Vikings team that opened Eastern Athletic League play with a convincing win over Shasta after a grueling preseason schedule.
The Hornets are led offensively by Cummings, who has 407 yards rushing on 66 carries and has added 549 yards passing at a 50 percent completion clip. His favorite target is senior Sean McDonald, who has caught four of Cummings’ TD strikes. Enterprise could use a healthy Matt Amasaki, who has been limited with an ankle injury.
Defensively, the Hornets will need Cummings, McDonald and the secondary to limit what PV likes to do best – have quarterback Tanner Hughes find wideout Caleb Cooley. The duo has hooked up on more than half of Hughes’ completions for more than a dozen scores.
Red Bluff (1-5, 0-2 EAL) at Shasta (1-4, 0-2 EAL), 7:30 p.m.
The Wolves lost their fourth straight last week against PV, but had a better overall showing against the Vikings than the previous week’s loss to Chico. This game might go a long way toward who gets in the Division II playoffs, as bylaws don’t allow teams to be seeded out of order of league finish.
The Spartans have relied on the arm of quarterback Eli Wehbey, who has looked brilliant and pedestrian at times. He nearly led an opening-night comeback against Anderson, trowing for four TDs in a 31-28 overtime loss. Against Corning, he was 22-of-33 passing for 203 yards and three scores. But, Wehbey has throw at last one pick in each of Red Bluff’s six contests.
The Wolves come in banged up after their two fullbacks, Alec Meek and Johari Woods, went down with injuries against PV. But Shasta showed a little fight in the loss to the Vikings as Brayden Coon scored twice and the Wolves got sophomore wing James Weaver back after sitting a week with concussion-like symptoms. The Wolves switched things up on defense last week, bringing Don Hicks up to a linebacker spot and asking other playmakers to go both ways.
Lassen (3-2, 1-0 NAL) at Central Valley (2-3), 7:30 p.m.
The Grizzlies come into their NAL opener at Ron Hale Memorial Stadium battle-tested after preseason games against upper division teams Enterprise, Foothill, Las Plumas and Chico – beating LP and the Hornets, while falling 31-28 to Foothill.
Tom St. Jacques’ Grizzlies is throwing this season more than he traditionally has, as quarterback Hayden Chittock has thrown for 754 yards and eight scores with a nearly 60 percent completion percentage. But the Grizzlies can also pound the rock behind Tucker St. Andre, who has rushed for 489 yards on 55 carries and six scores.
The Falcons enter with two wins, a feat that hasn’t happened since 2014. But Jesse Rogers’ crew isn’t satisfied. He’s got a handful of playmakers in running back Will Flowers, quarterback Kevin Seaman, wideout Brett League and sophomore back Isiah Polk. Defensively, the Falcons will have to stop St. Andre as Mount Shasta showed CV can have a tough time with teams that ground and pound.
University Prep (3-2) at Hamilton (1-4), 7:30 p.m.
Coming off their bye week, the Panthers head south to face a down Braves squad. Still, Hamilton managed to beat Biggs in its opener.
U-Prep comes into the game with an extra week to prepare and riding the high of a 55-0 beating it put on Western Sierra on Sept. 21. Senior Dylan Cabral paces the offense at quarterback, having thrown for 589 yards and 10 TDs, while adding 169 yards rushing and three more scores. The backfield has been led by Riley Seay, who has nearly 300 yards rushing and three scores. Defensively, the Panthers have 12 players who’ve logged double-digit tackles this season.
The Braves, meanwhile, have thrown for less than 200 yards among three QBs, while Gio Cabral and Johnny Voight each have just under 300 yards rushing for a team that’s scored 41 points in five weeks.
Fall River (5-0, 3-0 CVL) at Etna (4-2, 2-1 CVL), 7:30 p.m.
This Cascade Valley League gem features the top two teams in the league.
The Bulldogs can beat you a number of ways, but rely on senior running back Bailey Small to do the heavy lifting. Small averages nearly 10 yards per carry and has run for 618 yards on 68 carries and seven scores. But teams have tried to take Small out of the game by stacking the box. Todd Sloat’s crew promptly goes to the air behind the arm of senior quarterback Gavin Dobson, who has 600 yards on 40-of-69 passing and 10 TD strikes. He’s got weapons downfield in Jeffrey Kask and Cody Jorgensen.
The Lions, however, have a three-headed rushing attack that’s bulldozed nearly 2,000 yards. Wyatt Black, Tyler Robinson and Parker Finley ground opponents down with 195 carries between them.
Burney (0-6, 0-4 CVL) at Chester (4-1, ,2-1 CVL) , 7:30 p.m.
The Raiders are one of two winless teams in the section (Trinity is the other) and have been shutout in their past two games.
The Volcanoes have only lost to 4-2 Etna, but Terry Hernandez’s section title winner from last year lost a lot to graduation.
Redding Christian (3-3) at Butte Valley (1-5), 7 p.m.
The Lions head to Dorris to face a Bulldogs team with one senior on its 12-man roster.
RCS is looking for its first two-game win streak of the season, having beat Happy Camp 54-8 last week. Isaiah VanDenend is the leader of the offense, having run for 1,045 and 10 TDs, while passing for for 515 yards and an additional 10 scores.
Sophomore Clark Smith leads the Lions with 57 tackles, and Ryne Luaces and Sam Standifer have added 38 and 37 tackles, respectively.
Bye: Foothill (3-3)
Other Northern Section Games
Chico at Paradise , 7:30 p.m.
Corning at Yreka , 7:30 p.m.
Orland vs. Oroville at Harrison Stadium (Oroville), 7:30 p.m.
Sutter at Gridley, 7:30 p.m.
Las Plumas at Wheatland, 7:30 p.m.
Durham at Colusa , 7:30 p.m.
Esparto at Live Oak , 7:30 p.m.
Willows at Pierce, 7:30 p.m.
Modoc at Maxwell , 7:30 p.m.
Quincy vs. Portola at Feather River College (Quincy), 7:30 p.m.
East Nicolaus at Trinity, 7:30 p.m.
Mt. Shasta at Williams , 7:30 p.m.
Happy Camp at Big Valley, 7 p.m.
Tulelake at Dunsmuir, 7:30 p.m.
Weed at Hayfork, 6 p.m.
Loyalton at Westwood, 6 p.m.
Princeton at Los Molinos, 6 p.m.
Herlong at McCloud, 7 p.m.
Saturday, 8-Man Football
Mercy vs. Greenville at Sacred Heart Parish School (Red Bluff), 1 p.m.