We are now into the seventh year of the Open Division format in the North Coast Section, but six years in actuality since COVID cancelled the NCS championships. Then last year the format was tweaked and divided into a split bracket.
The way it works is in actuality the eight teams are split in half with four teams in the Open bracket and Division I has the other four teams. The twist is that although they are separate brackets they are seeded as one bracket.
What that means is the top half of the bracket is the Open half and Division I is the bottom half. A second twist to this format is it eliminates the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds from being able to win the Open Division championship but gives that opportunity to the Nos. 7 and 8 seeds.
The final twist in the scenario is while the Open Division champion only has to win two games to claim the title, the Division I champion has to win three games because the loser in the Open title game drops down to the D1 half of the bracket to play the team that won its first two games in the D1 title game.
The scenario in year two of the Open/Division I playoff bracket is not a lot different than last year.
Some had dropped De La Salle below Pittsburg in their pecking order, but when it came time for seeding, the fact no one has beaten the Spartans from the NCS since 1991, and as much as we feel the computer is flawed it couldn’t be far off in this scenario. The fact is that even having three losses, the computer power ranking of De La Salle is over twice that of Pittsburg, although we disagree with some of the other computer rankings that have Clayton Valley and even D2 San Ramon Valley higher than Pittsburg.
Be that as it may, the top three seeds are exactly the same as last year: De La Salle, Pittsburg and Clayton Valley, respectively. Also, just like last season the Spartans open with No. 8 seed James Logan.
From there things start to change as Pittsburg opens with BVAL rival Antioch instead of Amador Valley like last season. Clayton Valley tops the bottom half of the split bracket and hosts D1 sixth-seeded California. With Amador Valley beating California last week they snagged the No. 5 seed and visit No. 4 seed Liberty.
Can Pittsburg send off retiring head coach Vic Galli with the biggest upset in the NCS in 31 years by delivering a victory over his alma mater and dethrone De La Salle, or can a roaring Liberty Lions team that gave Pittsburg all it could handle before falling short take down Clayton Valley if those four teams advance as they should? We’ll just have to wait and see.
As for De La Salle, which has had its line go through some rough stretches, head coach Justin Alumbaugh reports that senior Chase Tofaeono, who was projected as an anchor on the line, is back on the defensive line after missing all season with a back injury.
For his part, and after the un-Spartan like seaso,n De La Salle has had so far, Alumbaugh was realistic.
“To be honest, the way we had played at times we left ourselves open to criticism, Alumbaugh said. “I was very pleased with how we responded. Hoping we continue that way.”
Click here (PDF) for full printable bracket.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
De La Salle: RB Charles Greer, TE/DL Cooper Flanagan, Derek Thompson OL/DL, QB Carson Su’esu’e, QB/RB Toa Faave, DL Chase Tofaeono, DB/WR Johnathan Guerrero, RB Dominic Kelley
Pittsburg: QB Jaden Rashada, WR Rashid Williams, WR/DB Khai Taylor, WR/DB Zack Card, RB Elijah Bow, DL Odera Okaka
Clayton Valley: QB Christian Aguilar, WR Davin Amos, RB/DB Micah Avery, RB Nicholas Khashabi, WR Hank Phifer
Liberty: QB Nate Bell, RB/DB Jamar Searcy, RB/LB Giancarlo Olveda, WR/DB Darell Carr
Amador Valley: RB Jake Goldsworthy, DL Brady Nassar, DL James Rothstein
California: RB/DB Devan Love, RB/LB Sione Hingano, WR Nabi Wahab
Antioch: RB Charles Brown Jr., QB/RB Larenzo Mayfield: James Logan: QB Thomas Miller, RB Al Jacko
We don’t see a sleeper in the Open half of the bracket, but in the Division I portion we see the possibility of Liberty and its explosive dual-threat quarterback Nate Bell giving Clayton Valley a game and being capable of an upset.
TITLE GAME PREDICTION
We really don’t see things changing from last year when De LaSalle won the Open Division with a victory over Pittsburg and then the Pirates dropped down to Division I and prevailed in a title-game victory over Clayton Valley.
It’s going to be De La Salle, but it might not go to a running clock, and it would not be surprising to see Liberty score one or two touchdowns if they survive Clayton Valley to qualify for a CIF NorCal Bowl game even if they get hammered.