Casey Harrington tossed three first half touchdown passes as the host Acalanes High football team scored 35 points in the first half and coasted to a 49-10 victory over Sonoma Valley on Friday in the first round of the North Coast Section Division III playoffs.

With the Dons leading 21-10 with less than two minutes in the half, Harrington found receiver Brett Merrill for a 40-yard touchdown, then located Merrill again seconds later after a Dons' interception for a 50-yard touchdown.

The Harrington to Merrill touchdown passes turned an 11-point lead into a commanding 35-10 advantage at the half.

Making sure to squash Sonoma Valley's hopes of a comeback early on, Acalanes (8-3) scored on its opening possession of the third quarter on a 55-yard scamper by Jared Finney.

Finney scored the Dons' final touchdown of the evening on a 40-yard run with 4:38 to go in the third quarter, while Acalanes' defense picked off Sonoma Valley (7-4) twice in the second half to thwart drives.

Running back Peter Mitchell rushed for 112 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Dan Deely led the Dragons with 92 rushing yards and one touchdown pass.

With the victory, Acalanes moves on to the quarterfinals and will face Diablo Foothill Athletic League rival Campolindo, the No. 2 seed, next Friday in Moraga.

Eureka 29, Hercules 12: It took the Titans nearly a quarter and a half to seize the momentum from host Eureka. It took the Loggers only 16 seconds to take it right back.


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Marcus Finney returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown to help propel Eureka past Hercules (9-2) in an opening round NCS Division III playoff game.

The special teams play accounted for six of the 19 unanswered points the Loggers scored in the fourth quarter to break away from the determined Titans.

Hercules struck first on a 22-yard touchdown run by Joshua Jackson. The team took a 12-10 lead after Clarence Corbin's two-yard plunge early in the fourth quarter, but the advantage didn't last long.

Eureka (9-2) travels to face Marin Catholic next Saturday at 1 p.m.

-- Ray Aspuria, Eureka Times-Standard

Novato 23, Encinal 6: The Hornets went winless outside of their league and came into the NCS Division III playoffs with a losing overall record.

Neither fact mattered Saturday as No. 11 Novato (5-6) felled No. 6 seed Encinal (8-3) in the first round of the postseason.

"I was really proud of our guys," Novato coach Jason Searle said. "I thought we came out really strong in the first half and we had a good game plan."

Novato scored first on a touchdown run by Nathaniel Barkus and had a 21-0 lead by halftime. The Hornets had little trouble running the ball in the first half, and Barkus finished with a game-high 85 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

Encinal's defense tightened in the second half, but the Jets could get little going offensively. Sophomore running back Jordan Parker, a key Encinal playmaker, left the game in the second quarter with a torn left groin.

The Jets broke the shutout in the fourth quarter on a touchdown pass from Derrick Purvis to Kealii Pedro.

Novato faces No. 3 El Cerrito on Saturday at De Anza High.

-- Justin Lafferty, correspondent