California at Pittsburg, Friday, 7 p.m. Two of the top Division I squads in the North Coast Section get together for an early season showdown. Pittsburg will be looking to right the ship in its home opener after a surprising loss to Analy-Sebastapol last week. Standout running back Harris Ross didn't see action until the second half for undisclosed reasons, and by then the Pirates had too big of a hole to overcome. California cruised in its opener against Washington-Fremont, winning 46-20 behind big offensive games from QB Cameron Owen and RB Blake Bierwith. When Pittsburg and Cal faced off last year in San Ramon, the Grizzlies emerged as 40-34 winners.
Monte Vista at Berkeley, Friday, 7 p.m. The tough portion of the nonleague schedule begins for the Yellowjackets when they host a Monte Vista team that beat them 21-0 last season. Besides Monte Vista, Berkeley will play two other 2012 NCS Division I playoff teams in Pittsburg and James Logan before the start of the West Alameda County Conference play. Friday's game will provide the Yellowjackets a better gauge as to how they stack up with their Division I peers. The Yellowjackets easily defeated Washington-San Francisco 40-8 in their opener. Monte Vista will be looking to shore up its defense after a 57-56 overtime loss to Castro Valley in its opener.
Foothill at Freedom, Friday, 7 p.m. Freedom will need to find a way to take some of the load off standout Joe Mixon, who had a brilliant first half in a 35-28 loss to Amador Valley last week but had to leave the game with bad leg cramps. Mixon, a five-star recruit, started at both running back and defensive back, scoring four touchdowns and rushing for 147 yards in the first half alone. But in order to avoid being swept by the Pleasanton schools, Freedom will need more playmakers to emerge. Foothill got its season started by using a balanced attack to easily get past Novato 51-6.
De La Salle at Serra-San Mateo, Saturday, 1 p.m. The Spartans renew their early-season rivalry with the Central Coast Section power and its head coach, Patrick Walsh, a De La Salle graduate. Walsh's squads have given his alma mater some trouble in the past, posting close losses in 2009 (14-7) and 2008 (29-28) before the Spartans cruised 45-7 in their most recent meeting in 2010. This will be the season opener for Serra while De La Salle kicked off the year with a 34-14 win over Clayton Valley Charter in new coach Justin Alumbaugh's debut. Serra may be without three of their top players, however. TE/DE Matt Dickerson (a Notre Dame commit) and SS Tyson Terrero are both dealing with injuries and are questionable against the Spartans while Hamilton Anoa'I, recovering from an ACL tear, is definitely out.
Bellarmine Prep-San Jose vs. El Cerrito at De Anza High, Saturday, 7 p.m. El Cerrito didn't shy away from top-notch competition in constructing its nonleague schedule, and the Bells might be the best team the Gauchos face until the playoffs. Both squads are coming off stellar 2012 seasons and feature some of the Bay Area's top recruits. El Cerrito has a trio of Pac-12 bound playmakers -- linebacker D.J. Calhoun (USC), cornerback Adarius Pickett (UCLA) and wide receiver Jalen Harvey (Cal), though Harvey will serve a one-game suspension after being ejected from the Gauchos' season-opening win against Sutter. Bellarmine boasts Vanderbilt-bound QB K.J. Carta-Samuels.