CONCORD -- The Clayton Valley Charter High football team hosts Northgate on Friday night at 7 p.m. in what amounts to a de facto Diablo Valley Athletic League championship game.
Perhaps the only people not surprised by this are members of both teams.
In a league that was supposed to be Concord's to lose, the Eagles and Broncos, using big-play offenses, are both 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the DVAL -- with each team owning a win over the preseason favorite Minutemen.
The winner clinches a share of the DVAL championship with one week to go, and earns the league's automatic berth to the North Coast Section playoffs.
Clayton Valley is searching for its first DVAL title since 2008. Northgate hasn't won a league championship since 1994, when it captured the now-defunct Foothill Athletic League.
"They run the ball well and they have an aggressive defense," Eagles coach Tim Murphy said of Northgate. "They just look like a really hungry football team right now."
The offenses of both teams have been explosive at times. Just in the last two weeks, the Broncos have had five touchdowns on offense of 25 yards or more, and the Eagles have had seven.
Running back Joe Protheroe and quarterback Michael Protheroe are two of Clayton Valley's biggest playmakers, but Murphy is also happy with the improvement shown by his offensive line.
With a bye week after his team's season-opening 40-27 loss to Pittsburg, Murphy and his coaching staff got an extended chance to work with their line and install a greater portion of the offense, review film and work on the fundamentals. In the seven weeks since, Clayton Valley has rushed for over 430 yards per game with no turnovers by the first-team offense.
Linemen Logan Bangert, Justin Rogers, Dakohta Cramer, Brenden Crabbe and Max Conner, and tight ends Spencer Wraa and Dylan Jue, among others, all have played an integral role so far.
"We made the biggest strides possible in that two-week period," Murphy said. "We had so many things that we needed to teach. That period was very valuable."