The Newark Memorial High football team opens the North Coast Section Division II playoffs Friday night at 7.
Newark, which has won three games in a row, is the sixth seed in a 12-team bracket. It will host a familiar opponent in the first round, MVAL foe American (5-5), which earned the No. 11 seed.
The winner advances to face No. 3 Northgate Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.
Newark beat American in mid-October 41-16. This is the first time Newark will host a section playoff game since suffering a 21-7 loss to visiting Washington in the NCS 3-A East Bay playoffs.
Newark had the top defense in the league, allowing a paltry 11.6 points per game. On defense, the Cougars are paced by defensive lineman John Tai. Fellow lineman Damien Banford had a sack and a fumble recovery return 40 yards for a touchdown in last week’s 42-13 regular-season finale win over John F. Kennedy.
Marty Leggett (OLB/DB) and Fred Tidwell (DB) have also been keys on defense.
On offense, Newark averaged 40.8 points a game in league play – 35.1 in 10 games overall. The Cougars scored 40 or more points in a game seven times.
The Cougars are a run-first attack team. They are paced by running backs Leggett and Mark Morton. They also sprinkle in some runs from Tidwell.
But where the Cougars have surprised some teams this year is through the air. Quarterback Riley Pivin is coming off a 7 of 9, 91-yard passing game against Kennedy. The last time Newark played American, Pivin threw for 172 yards on a 9 of 12 effort that included four touchdowns.
His top targets have been Tidwell, Tai, Robert Ramirez, Leggett and lately Banford, who plays tight end.
In that win over American last time, Newark set the tone with two first-quarter touchdowns and had a 28-0 lead at the half. Newark scored 41 points before American got on the board with a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
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