Ken Leighton 5 p.m., Jan. 24
First Round High Five
All games Friday at 7 p.m.
Game of the Week
(11) Rancho Bernardo (5-5) at (6) Valhalla (7-3) (Division II)
Division II is the deepest of the five brackets, and the Game of the Week between Rancho Bernardo and Valhalla reflects that depth. Led by dual threat quarterback Frank Foster (2,009 passing yards, 306 rushing yards, 34 total touchdowns), Valhalla’s three regular season losses came to teams with a combined .821 winning percentage – including top-ranked Helix. The Norsemen can score points in bunches and have topped the 40-point mark six times this season. Valhalla hosts Rancho Bernardo, a team that has been up and down under first-year head coach Tristan McCoy but comes in with two wins in its last three games. Quarterback Trent Sessions (1,958 yards, 17 TDs) leads the Broncos offensively, and the senior’s favorite target is receiver Jake Arnell (78 receptions, 760 yards). Both teams are balanced offensively and this North-County East County showdown should be a back and forth, high-scoring contest. The winner of this game gets third-seeded and seven-time defending section champ Oceanside in the quarterfinals.
Best of the Rest
(9) Morse (6-3) at (8) Torrey Pines (4-6) (Division II)
The best of two City-North County first round clashes comes in Division II, where Morse travels north to play Torrey Pines. Both teams enter the postseason heading in different directions – Morse rolled past its last four Central League opponents while the Falcons lost their last two in the Palomar League. Both teams lean on senior running backs to carry the load – Andrew Fargo for the Falcons and Tre Roberts for the Tigers. Morse is in the playoffs for the third straight year and the Tigers are seeking their first playoff win in more than a decade.
(10) San Diego (6-3) at (7) El Camino (4-6) (Division I)
No three-loss team in the section is closer to perfection than San Diego, as the Cavers losses have by a combined five points. San Diego narrowly missed out on a home playoff game, instead having to travel up Interstate 5 to face El Camino in the most intriguing Division I first round contest. San Diego has split its four games since losing starting quarterback Khari Kimbrough to injury, with running back Deshaun Scott and receiver Eric Judge trading off at quarterback for the Cavers. El Camino played a tough regular season schedule and had an up and down campaign as a result. The Wildcats are hosting a first round game for the second year in a row and aiming for a different result than last season, when they were bounced out in lopsided fashion. This should be a game full of big plays that comes down to the wire.
(9) Mission Bay (5-4-1) at (8) Coronado (7-3) (Division IV)
Mission Bay and Coronado finished in the middle of the pack in their leagues, and this first round matchup is the best of the Division IV slate. Coronado clinched a home playoff game with a narrow 14-13 win at San Diego last week and the Islanders are led by one of the better dual threat quarterbacks in the section in senior Austin Denson (1,383 yards passing, 561 yards rushing). Mission Bay beat La Jolla last week without injured quarterback Nate Long, and if Long doesn’t play expect a run-first attack with running back Chris Byrd taking the snaps at quarterback. Either way the Bucs will look to establish their running attack, and will have trouble against the Islanders without a ground game. Winner gets top-seeded Mount Miguel in the quarterfinals.
(10) Montgomery (5-5) at (7) Mar Vista (9-1) (Division III)
These South Bay schools had identical 4-1 records when they met in the regular season, and since Mar Vista won that matchup on Oct. 14 they have headed in different directions. The victory vaulted the Mariners to wins in their next four games and the Metro South Bay League title, while the Aztecs dropped three of their last four after the loss. Mar Vista won the regular season meeting 13-0, but this game could be closer because Montgomery is getting a second look at the Mariners’ tricky Double Wing offense and should be better prepared. This game will be won on the ground by one of two 1,000-yard rushers – Mar Vista sophomore Jimmie Hill (1,220 yards) or Montgomery junior Charles Williams (1,406).
Pictured: Coronado quarterback Austin Denson and the eighth-seeded Islanders host ninth-seeded Mission Bay in the First Round of the Division IV playoffs