Story by Maria Carrillo High School student Caroline Cooper 

As football season steadily approaches, teams of the North Bay Redwood League are preparing for their first season fully unaffected by the COVID-19 virus. Players and coaches have been preparing for upcoming scrimmages and pre-season games.

The NBL Redwood League is home to a host of competitive football programs.

St. Vincent de Paul will return as reigning Redwood League co-champions following an 11-2 outing last season. St. Vincent won the North Coast Section Division 7 Championship and competed in the 2021 CIF State Division 6-AA Championship game.

The Mustangs returning roster is nothing short of star-studded and includes RB/LB Kai Hall (Redwood OPOY), OL Cam Vaughn (First-Team All-League OL), and TE/LB Nathan Rooks (First-Team All-League LB).

Hall, while battling injury most of last season, still rushed for 1,474 yards and 20 touchdowns. Rooks returns as the team’s fourth-leading tackler from last year. 

St. Vincent will open the season in Eureka at St. Bernard’s. Other highlighted games are the NCS D7 Championship rematch with St. Helena on September 10, a second matchup with St. Bernard’s on October 15 and their regular season finale against Maria Carrillo.

Speaking of it, the Maria Carrillo High School Pumas will look to improve on their 2021 season they spent in the Oak League.  Maria Carrillo Head Coach Jay Higgins believes this season will be a return to normalcy for the often successful Puma football program.

“Last season has served as a motivator for our current team, a reminder to take preparation more seriously,” Higgins said. “I can sense a real determination in them, that they want to go out on the field and redeem themselves.”

The Pumas are led by an experienced and eager backfield offense, including RB/LB Sam Mortimer (First-Team All-NBL Oak RB), RB/DB Reed Sherman (Second-Team All-NBL Oak DB), RB/DB Sam Lawson (Second-Team All-NBL Oak RB), and RB/DB Gio Lucchesi (First-Team All-NBL Oak DB).

Jay Higgins acknowledged the value of a fully returning backfield.

“We’ll be relying on them. Those guys are a real core of our team in addition to others,” Higgins said. “Our whole team is up for the task, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do.”

For Higgins, Maria Carrillo’s game against Ukiah High School is a matchup the Pumas are excited for.

“We are looking forward to it,” Higgins said. “That will be a redemption game.”

The Pumas fell short against Ukiah in 2019, a loss that eventually cost them a playoff spot.

The Piner High School Prospectors and Healdsburg High School Greyhounds will also look to bounce back following a losing 2021 season.

Piner returns Second Team All NBL-Redwood inside linebacker, junior Matt Erickson. The Prospectors will open their season next Friday at Willits.

Healdsburg returns Second Team All NBL-Redwood running back Cameron Pippi as well as Second Team All NBL-Redwood lineman Logan Cardona, who won the award last year as a sophomore. One defensive player really stood out for the Greyhounds last season and that was Nathaniel Rowland. He earned Second Team All NBL-Redwood outside linebacker as a freshman. 

With many teams hungry for redemption, as well as those looking to defend their throne, the North Bay Redwood League is primed for a competitive and exciting season.