Daniel Powell 8:30 a.m., Jan. 28
Game of the Week
No. 3 Eastlake at No. 2 Helix Friday 7 p.m.
The best game of the opening weekend may be one of the best matchups of the entire season, as two of the section’s most talented and experienced teams square off in La Mesa. Helix and Eastlake both entered last year’s playoffs as top seeds and both were upset in the semis. Whoever wins this one will have a legitimate argument as section’s best – expect a fast, physical contest full of big plays that comes down to the wire.
Best of the Rest
Anaheim Servite at No. 1 Oceanside Thursday 7 p.m.
A rematch of last year’s season opener, Oceanside will be looking to avenge a loss to the Friars that ended its then 39-game winning streak in the Red Zone season opener on Thursday night. The Pirates return a core of starters, including star linemen Grant Bays and Eduardo Middleton, and their young skill position players will face a big challenge in the opener. After finishing runner-up in the Open Division State Bowl, Servite comes down to San Diego ranked eighth in the nation by USA Today, led by senior quarterback Cody Pittman and senior linebacker Butch Pauu. In the Cal-Hi Sports preseason state rankings, Servite was ranked third and Oceanside 11th. For the Pirates, it will also be interesting to see who gets the snaps at quarterback – junior incumbent Tofi Pao Pao or senior transfer Ryan Lamb.
No. 9 Steele Canyon at No. 6 Cathedral Catholic Friday 7 p.m.
For the eighth season in a row, Steele Canyon and Cathedral Catholic start the season by taking aim at each other. The Dons have won five of the previous seven matchups but the Cougars own the most recent victory, a 35-12 win last season that sprung Steele Canyon to its best season in school history. The Dons will be looking to exact revenge and get a win before starting an arduous four-game preseason stretch that includes Top 10 teams Helix, Eastlake and Torrey Pines all on the road.
Scripps Ranch at Poway Friday 7 p.m.
Both the Falcons and Titans teams could be contenders in 2011, and a victory in this game would be a big first step. These neighbors have met each of the past four seasons and split those four matchups, with Scripps Ranch winning the last two meetings – including a 17-14 win last year.
Punahou (Hawaii) (2-1) at No. 4 Vista (0-0) Saturday 7 p.m.
The defending Division I champion Panthers welcome Hawaiian powerhouse Punahou to the mainland on Saturday night. Vista will be leaning on youth to defend its ninth section title in school history and will be tested right away against the Buff ‘n Blue, who are playing their fourth game of the 2011 season. Punahou fell last week, but still come in as one of the best teams in Hawaii.
In the Red Zone
Hoover vs. Christian Saturday 7 p.m. at Granite Hills High
An intriguing cross-division matchup between the Cardinals and Patriots on Saturday wraps up the Red Zone’s opening weekend. Hoover showed promise under head coach Cree Morris last year, and the Cardinals are one of the largest enrollment schools that Christian will face the entire season. The Patriots feature one of the best quarterbacks in the section in Shane Dillon, a senior that participated in the Elite 11 quarterback camp during the summer and is committed to Colorado.
Pictured: Helix senior running back Darrion Hancock