The Clayton Valley Charter High "Ugly Eagles" are back, and they've brought their usual North Coast Section playoff kit -- a marquee runner in Miles Harrison and a voracious double wing shotgun offense designed by second-year coach Tim Murphy.
No. 2 seeded Clayton Valley (9-1) will open defense of the program's first Division II title on Friday night against visiting No. 15 San Lorenzo (5-5).
Considering that most of the Eagles' wins have been blowouts, Murphy has worked to keep his players properly grounded.
"Right now the kids are just a little immature," Murphy said. "I think we need to understand that every week is a huge thing. In the playoffs, it's over. If you lose now, there is no tomorrow."
The Diablo Valley Athletic League has four teams in the Division II playoffs, including No. 5 Concord (7-3), No. 6 Northgate (8-2) and No. 11 College Park (6-3-1). The Broncos will host the Falcons on Friday night.
Casa Grande-Petaluma (10-0), which beat Heritage 12-7 in nonleague play, is the No. 1 seed in Division II.
Clayton Valley almost let one game slip away in a 49-48 win over rival Concord on Nov. 1. But the Eagles followed with a 56-28 win over Northgate, forcing five turnovers.
Harrison, a junior, has enjoyed a breakout season with 1,360 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. He's averaging 10.88 yards a carry.
"The big thing about him is, the year before when he was a JV kid, he turned the ball over all the time," Murphy said of Harrison. "He hasn't had one turnover all year, so I'm extremely proud of what he's done this year. The size and strength he's put on in the weight room -- a tremendous difference. If he keeps the grades going he's a big Division I back."
Miramonte (8-2), the No. 3 seed in Division II, features quarterback Drew Anderson, who leads the section in passing yards at 272.1 per game. Anderson had a spectacular first half in a 56-28 rout of Alhambra last week, with six touchdown passes and 343 yards in the air.
Concord quarterback Mitch Daniels is ranked second in the section at 260.7 passing yards per game.
A stacked Division III: Similar to the past few seasons, the NCS Division III bracket has several teams that are true contenders for the title.
El Cerrito coach Kenny Kahn said the team that wins the title will need to surprise its opponents.
"I think they have to go a step beyond what they've shown anybody thus far. How do you augment, how do you make those little wrinkles in your calls and schemes and do it successfully?" Kahn said.
El Cerrito (8-2), the No. 3 seed, played in the Division III championship game last year and has the talent to reach that game again. But its side of the bracket includes undefeated Campolindo (10-0), the No. 2 seed and 2011 champion. The Cougars beat El Cerrito 42-27 on Sept. 20 in a nonleague game, but Campolindo coach Kevin Macy pointed out that Cougars star receiver Phillip Rei was playing then. Rei had 164 yards receiving and three touchdowns against the Gauchos, but he tore an ACL on Oct. 18 against Las Lomas, Macy said.
On the other side of the bracket is No. 1 seed Marin Catholic, another undefeated team at 10-0.
"The top eight are very strong (this year)," Macy said.
Analy, the No. 4 seed, could be a sleeper. The Tigers' only loss was to Miramonte (23-13 on Sept. 13).
The Matadors are one of three Division III teams who petitioned up to the NCS Division II playoffs this season.
Staff writer Phil Jensen contributed to this notebook.