George Watkins: Save the best for the last

George Watkins: Save the best for the last

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George Watkins: Save the best for the last

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There are several reasons why high school football rivalry games should be played on the final day of the season — common sense being the most obvious.

History and geography play a big part, too. But it doesn’t get much better for fans, coaches and players than closing out the season, and in some cases a career, in a game that will always have importance no matter what the win-loss record.

Throw in a championship or playoff berth, and so much the better. At least for us sports writing folks. We need all the angles we can get.

There will be no shortage of hype, hope and heart this weekend when the regular season comes to a close with rivalry games from one end of the Salinas Valley and the Monterey Peninsula to the other.

The Monterey-Seaside rivalry is one of the more intriguing, and not just because these two teams are perennial playoff contenders and league champions. It is a rivalry that has been owned by one school or another for years at a time ever since 1978.

Seaside beat Monterey nine straight times from 1978 to 1986. Monterey beat Seaside 12 times in 13 years between 1987 and 1999. Seaside beat Monterey eight consecutive times from 2000 to 2007. The two schools swapped wins in 2008 and 2009, with Monterey having won the last two.

That’s a lot of streaks and slumps.

The Palma-Hollister rivalry has had a little bit of everything. There was that famous 1992 clash won by Palma, 27-10, where things got so heated a truce was called and no games between the two teams were played in 1993, 1994 and 1995.

There has been some serious football ever since. The series returned 1996 and Hollister has beat Palma six times in 16 years — the best record of any public school in the tri-league area by far against private-school power Palma.

The Hollister-Palma games have not only been fueled by bad-blood and controversy (that’s a story for another column. Wait, that’s been a story for several columns), but more than anything have been an incredible lengthy list of close games.

Eleven of the last 13 Hollister-Palma games have been decided by seven points or less. Eight of those 13 games were decided by four points or less. Three of the last four games have been determined by three points or less and two of the last three have been decided by one point.

So plan on sticking around to the end.

One of the most historic Salinas Valley rivalries is King City and Gonzales, which has returned to its normal end of the year spot. About time.

Last year some administrator got this crazy notion that the final week of the season should be about King City-Greenfield and Gonzales-Soledad. Yeah, and while we’re at it lets build a couple more schools in South County so we can have another diluted and meaningless season-ending game.

If my facts are correct (and I realize I’m taking a big step on a short limb here) King City and Gonzales played in the first game of War Memorial Stadium in 1948. That fact alone should make this game sacred, and played at the very, very, very end of every, every, every season. Gonzales prevailed, 7-0.

Rivalries notwithstanding, here are the predictions for this weekend’s games involving teams from Monterey County.

Last week’s record, 10-1. Season record, 71-17.

* Who: Alisal (7-2) vs. North Salinas (2-7) at Sports Complex

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Alisal 28, North Salinas 21

Fact: North Salinas beat Alisal 66-6 in 1983 and the teams didn’t meet again until 1998. Alisal finally beat North Salinas in 2003 and has gone 4-3 against North Salinas since then. Alisal has won the last two meetings.

* Who: North County (5-4) at Monte Vista Christian (7-2)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: MVC 24, North County 17

Fact: North County leads the all-time series 9-3. Monte Vista Christian won last year, 17-0.

* Who:
Alvarez (0-9) at Salinas (5-4)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Salinas 35, Alvarez 13

Fact: Salinas leads series, 10-3-1. Salinas has beat Alvarez nine straight times.

* Who: Palma (7-2) at Hollister (5-4)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Palma 21, Hollister 18

Fact: Only twice in the last 14 years has the difference in this game been more than seven points — 2002 (Palma, 41-20) and 1998 (Palma, 57-26). Hollister won last year’s game, 13-12.

* Who:
Gonzales (1-8) at King City (4-5)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: King City 32, Gonzales 20

Fact: King City leads all-time series 44-29-2. King City has won the last eight meetings. Gonzales has scored more than 10 points in just one of those those eight games.

* Who: Greenfield (3-6) at Soledad (5-4)

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Soledad 38, Greenfield 14

Fact: Greenfield leads series, 7-6. Soledad won last year, 34-24.

* Who: Stevenson (5-3) vs. Marina (0-8) at MPC

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Prediction: Stevenson 31, Marina 7

Fact: Marina will win a game next year. Remember, you read it here first.

* Who: Monterey (8-1) at Seaside (9-0)

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Prediction: Seaside 28, Monterey 27

Fact: Monterey leads series 25-23. Monterey beat Seaside last year, 35-6 for its second straight win over the Spartans. Seaside trying for first unbeaten regular season since 1982 when it finished 9-0-1.

* Who:
Pacific Grove (7-2) at Carmel (8-1)

When: Saturday, 2 p.m.

Prediction: Carmel 38, Pacific Grove 23

Fact: Pacific Grove leads series, 32-29-2. Carmel has averaged 61 points per game while beating the Breakers four in a row.

* 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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