There are no football juggernauts in the East Bay Athletic League this season -- just a lot of good, well-coached teams.
Which explains the cliffhangers. On Oct. 18, it was a little hard to separate the bottom from the top: three games were decided by an average of 3.67 points.
EBAL trailers Livermore and Monte Vista nearly pulled off massive upsets, and Granada gave explosive San Ramon Valley a battle a 31-26 loss.
Livermore (2-5, 0-3 EBAL) lost just 10-7 to Amador Valley (5-2, 2-2). Monte Vista (1-6, 0-4), threw a pre-Halloween scare into highly ranked California (6-1, 4-0) in a 31-28 defeat.
It all sets up nicely the action this week, in which San Ramon Valley travels to California (6-1, 4-0) in a battle between last season's EBAL co-champions. The Grizzlies bested the Wolves 41-38 in 2012. San Ramon Valley (4-3, 3-0) will try to slow the Grizzlies' methodical run game, from which spins the play-action passing from dual-threat quarterback Cameron Owen.
Another EBAL cliffhanger seems in the offing Oct. 25 in San Ramon.
"I hope it is," Wolves coach Mark Kessler said. "They're a good football team. Obviously, they run the ball really well, and it's something we keep working on to get better at, trying to stop it. It's two good offenses, and they've got a really stout defense. Hopefully, we can continue to get better. We've been overcoming a bunch of injuries and are trying to get our squad back to where we'd hoped it would be."
Because of injuries, the Wolves were playing with just three or four linebackers on the roster. That made running a 3-4 defense, playing one of the area's toughest schedules, a difficult task.
Quarterback Matt Winaker has delivered in the big games and probably has the college football recruiters doing double-takes, even though he's committed to Stanford for baseball. With the graduation of 2012 standout quarterback Cameron Birse, Winaker, after backing up Birse, has kept the offense humming along.
"He's definitely a bright kid going to Stanford and everything, and that helps him out," Kessler said. "Couple that with his athleticism and he's been able to make plays all year."
Granada (4-3, 1-2), which also dropped a nail-bitter against California 16-14 on Sept. 27, will get another shot at an upset this week against Foothill (6-1, 2-1), which should be fresh off a bye week after a 24-7 loss to California.
Against San Ramon Valley, Granada wideout Javonn Williams undoubtedly gave the Wolves flashbacks of their 67-36 nonleague loss to Folsom with his catch-everything style. Williams had six receptions for 135 yards and a 36-yard touchdown reception from Tyler Offill.
Leaguewide, what does it mean when also-rans nearly smack down the leaders?
"When you take away De La Salle, there's nobody that's just that front-runner that can just dominate everyone," Kessler said. "All good teams with good coaches, and that usually bodes for some good contests, and I think that's what you're seeing."
WOLVES VOLLEYBALL SHINES ON: After losing virtually all of its starting lineup to graduation, the San Ramon Valley girls volleyball team did not lose its way to the top. The Wolves, under coach Brian Fujinaga, entered the week unbeaten in the EBAL and ranked No. 1 by Bay Area News Group East Bay. They feature two outstanding sophomores Katherine Claybaugh and Milla Anderson.