By Ray Hamill — Saturday’s NCS Division-5 championship game between Del Norte and Encinal will likely be decided on defense.
The Warriors, who are the No. 2 seeds in the bracket, will play the No. 1 Jets at Hayward High School in their first-ever appearance in an NCS championship game in the sport.
Encinal is looking for a first title since 2008.
And the matchup could very well be decided by which of these two stellar defenses has the better night.
“They have a really good defense, and that’s the strength of their team, so it will be tough to get yards on them,” Del Norte head coach Nick White said. “And offensively, they have kids that are really good after the catch making people miss.”
The Jets also feature a good running game, led by seniors Isaiah Smith and Archie Cole, as well as a very efficient passing attack, led by senior quarterback David Ronero-Reinholz, who has averaged 160 yards passing a game this year.
As you would expect in a championship game between two teams that featured identical 11-1 records, the Warriors should present plenty of mismatches themselves.
Del Norte has dominated along the trenches on both sides of the ball this fall, and in addition to their stellar defense they have won games with an overwhelming running game that just continues to grind out yards on almost every play.
That ground attack will be tested as much as ever against the Jets’ defense.
Weather conditions are also expected to play a part, with rain and wind and temperatures in the low 50s forecast for game time.
And that means turnovers, or lack of them, will be key for both teams.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on KPOD 97.9 FM, as well as streamed live through the NFHS Network.