George Watkins: It's CCS or bust for Alisal

George Watkins: It's CCS or bust for Alisal

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George Watkins: It's CCS or bust for Alisal

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Everybody’s favorite underdog is playing for a Central Coast Section playoff berth Friday.

The Alisal High football program no longer resembles the team that went through a 33-game winless streak in 1982-1985 and again from 1998 to the early 2001 season.

The Trojans have gone to the playoffs three times since 2003 and had near misses in 2011 and 2010.

They’re making another post-season charge this season, and a win Friday at home against Monte Vista Christian could be the clincher.

But to appreciate the Trojans of today you have to know the Trojans of yesterday.

Their past included some disheartening times in more ways than one.

I stood on the sidelines during both losing streaks and couldn’t help but admire those kids who suited up week after week knowing they had no chance.

That losing streak in the late 1990s was nothing short of cruel. Just when Alisal looked like it was putting a competitive team back on the field, realignment in 1998 ruined everything.

It darn near sunk the program.

A member of the small-school Mission Trail Athletic League, Alisal had made a run at its first CCS playoff berth in school history in 1996 with a 6-4 record.

The next year the Trojans finished with a winning record again at 5-4-1.

But 1998 was a realignment year and someone had the bright idea to form a 10-team Monterey Bay League. Included in that group of heavyweights were powerhouses Palma, Live Oak, Monterey, Hollister along with Alvarez, North Salinas, North County, Salinas and Gilroy.

Five of those 10 teams finished with a winning record and a sixth was .500.

Alisal went 0-10, but that didn’t begin to tell the real story. The 1998 Trojans were out-scored 442-24. Only one team in the CCS scored fewer points. They were shutout six times and scored only four touchdowns. Two of those came in the final game of the season.

By the time the season reached the halfway mark there was concern that because Alisal was running out of players it might not finish the season.

There was barely enough players to hold a practice.

Two more winless seasons followed.

Three games into the 2001 season it was victory at last — 7-0 over Monterey.

Today, Alisal is widely recognized as a team that still might be undersized and out-manned, but plays hard, wins its shares of games — it’ll take a regular-season record of 48-47-1 into Friday’s game since Sunil Smith became head coach in 2003 — and is a perennial playoff contender.

Win, lose or tie it’s never for lack of effort.

I’m picking Friday’s game to be my upset of the year. So make it Alisal 26, Monte Vista Christian 23.

Last week’s record, 7-1. Season record, 61-16.

Here are the remaining predictions for games this weekend involving Monterey County teams:

* Who: Marina (0-7) at Greenfield (2-6)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Greenfield 30, Marina 13

Fact: Marina may have got here just in the nick of time for Greenfield.

* Who: King City (4-4) at Pacific Grove (6-2)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: King City 28, Pacific Grove 25

Fact: King City tries to beat Pacific Grove for the third time in a row. Prior to that, Pacific Grove had beaten King City nine straight times.

* Who: Monte Vista Christian (7-1) at Alisal (6-2)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Alisal 26, MVC 23

Fact: Alisal has never lost to MVC in four games. All games were played between 2002 and 2005.

* Who:
North Salinas (2-6) at Salinas (4-4)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Salinas 30, North Salinas 23

Fact: Salinas leads all-time series, 30-24-1. Cowboys are trying to beat North Salinas for the fourth year in a row. If so, it would be the longest win streak for either team since North Salinas beat Salinas seven times in a row from 1984 to 1990.

* Who:
Seaside (8-0) at Watsonville (3-5)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Seaside 32, Watsonville 14

Fact: Watsonville beat Seaside in 2009 for the first time in 20 years. Seaside has won the last two meetings, 35-15 and 41-24.

* Who: Hollister (4-4) at Alvarez (0-8)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Hollister 34, Alvarez 7

Fact: After being shut out by Hollister three years in a row, Alvarez finally scored last year for its first points against the Balers in 13 quarters.

* Who:
Monterey (7-1) vs. Christopher (1-7) at Gilroy High

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Monterey 41, Christopher 14

Fact: Monterey trying to end regular season with two losses or less for the third time in four years.

* Who: Gilroy (2-6) vs. Palma (6-2) at Sports Complex

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Palma 35, Gilroy 10

Fact: Gilroy beat Palma three times in five years, including back-to-back wins over the Chieftains in 2007 and 2008. Palma has won the last three, highlighted by a 65-27 trouncing last year.

* Who: Soledad (5-3) at Carmel (7-1)

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Prediction: Carmel 34, Soledad 21

Fact: Carmel leads all-time series 12-1. Soledad’s win came in 2000. Carmel has scored 30 or more points against Soledad nine straight years.

* Who:
Gonzales (1-7) at Stevenson (4-3)

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Prediction: Stevenson 30, Gonzales 17

Fact: Stevenson has won the last nine meetings in a row from Gonzales.

* Who: Pajaro Valley (1-7) at North County (4-4)

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Prediction: North County 23, Pajaro Valley 6

Fact: Pajaro Valley hasn’t won a league game since beating North County 23-8 in 2007. Since then the Grizzlies have lost 29 straight league games.

* George Watkins is a sports writer for the Salinas Californian. He can be reached at gwatkins@thecalifornian.com or 754-4264.

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