Freedom football

San Leandro strong safety Finau Mataafa can’t snag Freedom wide receiver Devontae Young during a matchup between the two teams in 2012. The squads will play again during Freedom's Homecoming game. Heritage's Homecoming game is also this Friday.

Another week of high school football is right around the corner. In this preview, correspondent Nate Smith highlights some of the top performers from last week’s action and tells fans what to expect on the gridiron come Friday.  

STAR PERFORMANCES

-       Nick Moore (Pittsburg): Moore got the Pirates’ offense going with 13 carries for 153 yards and two scores in their 29-0 win over Monte Vista. 

-       Joseph Tolentino (Liberty): Tolentino led an efficient Lions’ offense in the final three quarters against Berkeley, completing 10-of-15 passes for 164 yards and three scores.  He also picked up 23 yards on the ground, ran for one two-point conversion, and passed for another.

-       Sam Hinn (Heritage): Hinn carried the ball ten times for 56 yards and a touchdown, and returned an interception for another score as the Patriots continually rallied against Marin Catholic, but fell short, 45-27.

-       Najee Harris (Antioch): Harris topped the 150-yard mark for the third consecutive week, running for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.  He also scored on a two-point conversion.

-       Ronnie Rivers (Freedom): Rivers ran for 44 yards and a touchdown, and also completed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Birk.  His touchdown pass tied the game against Granite Bay, midway through the fourth quarter.

-       Charlie Ramirez (Pittsburg): Ramirez was a stalwart again for the Pirates’ defense, totaling 13 tackles, one sack, and two interceptions in their shutout victory.

-       Nick Perry (Antioch): Perry ran for 101 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, providing an excellent complement to Harris.  He also had eight tackles defensively.

-       Willie Williams (Liberty): Williams was electrifying in the Lions’ win over Berkeley, scoring on a 32-yard sweep and a 65-yard wheel route.  On both plays, he eluded multiple Jacket defenders.

-       Gabe McCoy (Pittsburg): McCoy registered three sacks against the Mustangs.

-       Kobie Beltram (Antioch): Beltram racked up 13 tackles and forced a fumble in the Panthers’ 32-18 win over Santa Rosa.

-       Noah Palega (Pittsburg): How can I not mention the heart of the Pirates’ defense?  Their senior middle linebacker racked up 12 tackles in turning away each scoring opportunity for the Mustangs.

 TAKING THE FIELD – THIS WEEK’S GAMES

 Deer Valley returns to action after their bye week, hosting Santa Rosa. The Panthers lost to Antioch, 32-18, last Friday night, and take on a Wolverines team that defeated Oakland Tech, 13-6, two weeks ago.  Ray-Shian Alexander was the star in that game, running for 193 yards and both touchdowns.  Jordan Farmer was a destructive force defensively for the Wolverines in the Tech game, registering 11 total tackles, along with two tackles for a loss, three sacks, and five quarterback hurries.

Liberty travels to Danville to take on Monte Vista, seeking their first 4-0 start since 1967.  The Mustangs moved the ball against Pittsburg last week, but could not overcome four interceptions.  Sophomore quarterback Jake Haener will look for a better game against the Lions, who contained Berkeley quarterback Noah Suszkiewicz last week.  Liberty also held Berkeley to -4  yards rushing in the game, and will look for comparable success against the Mustangs and senior tailback Zach Cribb. Liberty and Monte Vista do have Berkeley as a common opponent – the Lions defeated the Jackets 30-0, while Monte Vista prevailed 44-20.

No one can ever accuse Freedom of scheduling soft opponents, as they follow up the tandem of Foothill and Granite Bay by hosting San Leandro. The Falcons played tough against the Sac-Joaquin power Grizzlies, tying the game at 13 midway through the fourth quarter.  San Leandro, meanwhile, continues to play with quarterback Stephen Johnson III, and continues to impress, hanging tough with Bellarmine a week after their victory over James Logan.  Reuben Baker is as explosive a receiver and kick returner as anyone in the BVAL will see this season.  Freedom has received steady play at receiver from Brandon Birk, and Joe Sweeney increased production in the passing game against Granite Bay.

Pittsburg dominated Monte Vista last week, and looks to do the same against the same Berkeley team that was shutout by Liberty.  The Yellowjackets’ receivers looked on a completely different page from Suszkiewicz last Friday, though Anthony McMath showed potential with ability to run after the catch.  The Pirates’ Keith Walker was highly efficient at quarterback last Friday, and Nick Moore proved to be a great one-two punch with Jaylyn Morgan.  If the Jackets can’t find more success in the running game than they did against Liberty – a tall task against Pittsburg’s front seven – then they will have to try to throw the ball against a secondary that already has nine interceptions this season.

Sitting at 3-0 and looking to make a statement, Antioch gets their chance at that this week when they travel to Vacaville to take on Will C Wood.  The Wildcats are fresh off a 21-17 come-from-behind victory over Bishop O’Dowd, and boast an outstanding tandem in their backfield with Damon Lewis at tailback and Marcus Howard at quarterback.  Both are threats to run the ball, and Howard has displayed a strong arm.  Wood is 2-1, with its lone loss in a 52-39 shootout with Concord.  The Panthers, meanwhile, showed they are more than just Najee Harris offensively, as Nick Perry broke the 100-yard barrier on the ground.  Kobie Beltram has been a force in the middle of the Panthers’ defense as well, while Ryan Payne, KJ Wilson, Tay Thompson and company will look to slow down Howard and the Wildcats’ passing game.

Heritage has a chance to rebound from its loss to Marin Catholic, facing a winless College Park team on Friday.  Both Patriots’ losses have come to highly-regarded opponents in Marin Catholic and undefeated Campolindo.  Sam Hinn and Leeandre White split the carries last week, with both of them having success on the ground.  The Patriots’ defense will need a solid performance against College Park’s triple option attack to even their record. 

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