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SBLive's Northern Section Top 10 football teams: Top 8 remain the same; West Valley emerges

Bragging rights between Chico and Redding at stake when No. 2 Pleasant Valley visits No. 3 Enterprise.

The start of league play begins this week, with at least three games to watch that should be exciting. Two of the top three teams from the last three weeks face off with Enterprise-Redding and Pleasant Valley-Chico, in what should be a tight battle in Redding.

The Vikings must find a way to stop the QB/RB tandem of JJ Johnson and Davion Welch from Enterprise. But the Hornets must find a way to stop the running back contingent of Matt Kinoshita, Parker Williams, Anthony Seiler and Bryson McFall from the Vikings. 

Gabe Garretson, a 6-foot-3, 230-pounder, also makes appearances running the ball from the fullback position in the downhill running game.

Chico unning back Dion Coleman is scheduled to make his long-awaited return from a knee injury that caused him to miss the last six games of last season and first five this season. 

Coleman tied the section record for most rushing TDs in a game with eight last season against Yuba City.

West Valley-Cottonwood makes its first appearance in the rankings at No. 10. Shasta makes its first appearance on the bubble after defeating West Valley, losing to Orland, but defeating Paradise on Friday. The Wolves get a tough test this week.

1. Foothill-Palo Cedro (4-1 record)
Last week rank: No. 1
Last week game: Beat Corning 47-7
Next game: Friday vs. Shasta
The Cougars host their second straight home game to begin Eastern Athletic League play Friday, having won three straight. The Cougars feature a balanced offense (702 yards passing, 13 touchdowns; 609 yards rushing, five TDs). The Cougars, who lost in the Northern Section D2 championship to Chico last season, are off to a strong start in 2022. They will get Shasta and Red Bluff to begin league play, before facing the higher ranked teams in the section Chico, Enterprise and Pleasant Valley to close the season.

2. Pleasant Valley-Chico (3-2)
Last week rank: No. 2
Last week game: Lost 32-21 to Rancho Cotate-Rohnert Park
Next game: Friday at Enterprise
Despite the loss last week Pleasant Valley remains in the No. 2 spot after a valiant effort against North Coast Section powerhouse Rancho Cotate, which went 10-2 in 2021 and its lone loss this season came by one point Sept. 16 to undefeated Vanden. The Vikings fell behind 20-0, but scored just before halftime and took the lead at the end of the quarter on an interception returned for a touchdown by Anthony Seiler. The Cougars outlasted the Vikings in the fourth quarter, but Friday was a good test as they begin EAL play against a strong Enterprise team this week behind newly-named starting quarterback in Hayden Rick.

3. Enterprise (5-0)
Last week rank: No. 3
Last week game: Bye
Next game: Friday vs. Pleasant Valley
The Hornets are coming off a bye and get the toughest test of the season to open EAL play in Pleasant Valley in what appears to be the game of the week. The Hornets have outscored opponents 274-30 led by sophomore quarterback JJ Johnson (45 of 75, 756 yards, 15 TDs, 0 INT, 230 yards rushing, 2 TDs), who many believe to be one of the most electric players in the section this season. RBs Davion Welch (38 carries, 393 yards four TDs) and Jayden Saechin (29 carries, 267 yards, 3 TDs) provide depth.

4. Orland (5-0)
Last week rank: No. 4
Last week game: Beat Durham 52-14
Next game: Friday at Oroville
Orland continues to prove that its second year in a new offense with Grant Foster behind the center is working, and its defense is backing up the offense. Foster passed for his first TD Friday and ran for two, increasing his rushing TD total to nine. RB Jaime Albarran has six TD rushes and has shown runs up the middle and outside. The Trojans’ offense has begun to score points in the first half of games, after struggling in their first three first halves. Head coach Nick Velazquez said after the game against Durham to expect to see many players get a chance against 0-5 Oroville Friday night.

5. East Nicolaus-Nicolaus (4-1)
Last week rank: No. 5
Last week game: Beat Lindhurst 45-0
Next game: Friday vs. Durham
The Spartans open Sacramento Valley League play having won their last four games — the last two by shutout. They have rushed for over 2,104 rushing yards as a team, including 593 yards QB Ty Grigsby, 528 yards by RB Rhett Risse and 408 yards by RB Dalton Novak. The Spartans, in just their second season in the SVL, lost 13-7 to Durham in 2021.

6. University Prep (5-0)
Last week rank: No. 6
Last week game: Bye
Next game: Friday at Lassen
The Panthers, a D3 team, are coming off a bye after defeating D2 Las Plumas, and will face a 2-3 Lassen team which defeated Las Plumas 30-29 last week. QB Spencer Hokanson (36 of 63 passing, 552 yards, 7 TDs) and RB Ryan Dyab (118 carries, 719 yards, 5 TDs) lead the way for the Panther offense. The reigning Northern Section D4 champions look to continue their strong showing in league play, having not lost in league since the start of the Northern Athletic League in 2021.

7. Fall River-McArthur (5-0)
Last week rank: No. 7
Last week game: Beat Mt. Shasta 42-7
Next game: Friday vs. Etna
The Bulldogs have won three of their first five games via a shutout, and its opponent this week Etna has won two games with a combined record of 1-8. Despite an offense that passes more than extreme run-heavy Durham at No. 4, the Bulldogs are still a very run-heavy team. Their QBs are a combined 21-of-30 passing for 458 yards and eight TDs, but their rushers have ran 211 times for 1,136 yards and 15 TDs. Most impressive is this: 176 points scored, 27 allowed. 

8. Chico (1-4)
Last week rank: No. 8
Last week game: Bye
Next game: Friday vs. Red Bluff
The anticipated wait for Coleman has come to an end it appears. Coleman, who injured his knee Oct. 15, 2021 against Foothill, will most likely return in limited action to be game ready for next week’s matchup against cross-town rival Pleasant Valley, the Almond Bowl. The Panthers are already plagued with injuries to their offensive/defensive line, in addition to losing RB Dylan O’Hair to a broken collar bone, so the return of Coleman will be a relief against EAL opponent Red Bluff.

9. Colusa (5-0)
Last week rank: No. 10
Last week game: Bye
Next game: Friday vs. Pierce
Colusa is coming off its bye week following a shutout against Biggs and now begins SVL play against Pierce. The RedHawks offense has been balanced between QB Bo Coronado (54 of 80, 895 yards, 11 TDs) and six rushers who have combined for 117 carries, 782 yards and 14 TDs.

10. West Valley (2-3)
Last week rank: N/A
Last week game: Beat Red Bluff 34-6
Next game: Friday at Central Valley
After an 0-3 start, the Eagles have won their last two games by large margins. Quarterback Noah Mason (54 of 104, 832 yards, 7 TDs, 7 INTs) leads a balanced offense that features six rushers who have combined for 698 yards and 11 TDs. Its defense has 7.5 sacks and three interceptions in five games, led by leading tacklers Jesus Cervantes (40), Brayden Bishop (40) and Wade Reginato (39 tackles, 7 for loss).

On the bubble: Red Bluff (3-2), Shasta (2-3)

Top 5 Games of the Week: Week 4

No. 2 Pleasant Valley (3-2) at No. 3 Enterprise (5-0), Friday: What looks to be the game of the week, the Vikings and Hornets face off as two of the top-3 teams in the EAL. Despite an undefeated record, the Hornets have not had the strength in schedule to start the season the Vikings have had, so it will be interesting to see how the two teams match up.

Durham (4-1) at No. 5 East Nicolaus (4-1), Friday: The Sacramento Valley League looks to be exciting this season, and two of the top teams face off to start league play. If you take away the Trojans’ final non-league game against Orland, both teams look very similar in their styles of play, and in points for/points against.

Red Bluff (3-2) at No. 8 Chico (1-4), Friday: Chico has battled injuries thus far and faced tough opponents, but the most exciting part of this matchup is the return of one of the most exciting players in the section — Panthers’ RB Dion Coleman. Coleman tied the section record for most TDs in a last game before injury, and is expected back for the start of league play.

Pierce-Arbuckle (3-2) at No. 9 Colusa (5-0), Friday: Pierce has been on the bubble for the last two weeks, but fell off this week and was replaced by Shasta. Colusa has gone unbeaten to start the season, but has remained near the bottom of the rankings due to strength in schedule. The two teams face off on The RedHawks' home turf in a matchup that could change next week’s rankings.