Catherine Spearnak 10:30 a.m., March 31
Quarterfinals High Five
All games Friday at 7 p.m.
Game of the Week
(5) Steele Canyon (8-3) at (4) Mission Hills (6-3-1) (Division II)
Mission Hills and Steele Canyon met in the playoffs in 2010, and they meet one round earlier in the postseason this year. Few teams in the section have had a bigger turnaround than Mission Hills, as the Grizzlies have gone 6-0-1 after losing their first three games. The Grizzlies saved their season with a stout defense that has allowed 24 points in their last four games and an offense that is hitting its stride with a run-heavy approach. Steele Canyon has battled injuries in the last half of the season, and the Cougars shook off the injury bug to beat Scripps Ranch 21-7 in the first round. Steele Canyon’s three losses have come to section powers Helix, Cathedral Catholic and Eastlake, and the Cougars rely on solid defense and a steady offense led by quarterback Brandon Andrade and running back LaShawn Ware. This game is a rematch of the 2010 Division II semifinals, in which Mission Hills knocked off Steele Canyon 24-14 in Spring Valley. Which team will prevail when they meet again?
Best of the Rest
(10) San Diego (7-3) at (2) Eastlake (7-3) (Division I)
For the first time in a long time San Diego is in the quarterfinals, and the Cavers head east to face perennial contender Eastlake on Friday night. Both teams prevented key injuries from derailing their seasons and sit one game away from the semifinals – San Diego lost starting quarterback Khari Kimbrough while Eastlake has been without playmakers Jude Isbell and Travis Gardner for a large chunk of its campaign. Led by running back Deshaun Scott and receiver Eric Judge, San Diego has won three of its last four games including a last-minute 14-13 victory at El Camino in the first round. Both teams are allowing less than 14 points per game, which means this game could turn into a defensive battle. Can San Diego keep its run going or will Eastlake return to the semifinals for the eighth straight season?
(6) Valhalla (8-3) at (3) Oceanside (7-2-1) (Division II)
After a bye week, Oceanside begins its quest for an eighth straight Division II title – a tall task in a loaded division. The Pirates host Valhalla, who raced out to a 20-0 lead against Rancho Bernardo in the first round and hung on for a 27-21 victory. Oceanside shut out its last two regular season opponents and the Pirates’ fast, physical defense will be tested by Valhalla quarterback Frank Foster and a Norsemen offense averaging 34.5 points per game. This East County-North County battle has the potential to be a high-scoring shootout; is Valhalla game for an upset?
(7) Mar Vista (10-1) vs. (2) St. Augustine (9-1) at Mesa College (Division III)
Of the 20 quarterfinal matchups on Friday night, no game features more combined wins than the 19 totaled by Mar Vista and St. Augustine. St. Augustine’s Holy Bowl loss dropped the Saints to the two-seed in Division III and into a decidedly tougher lower half of the bracket. St. Augustine will be challenged right away against Mar Vista and its tricky Double Wing attack. The Saints have allowed 98 points all season – third best in the section behind only Cathedral Catholic and Helix – and will be tested by Jimmie Hill (1,321 yards, 7 TDs) and the Mariners’ run-first attack averaging 380.7 rushing yards per game. St. Augustine has more talent than Mar Vista, but this game will be closer than expected.
(7) Westview (8-3) at (2) La Costa Canyon (8-2) (Division II)
Two of the biggest teams in the section take aim at each other in this Division II quarterfinal with North County flavor. La Costa Canyon won its final seven games en route to the two-seed, allowing an average of 9.3 points during the streak. The balanced Mavericks host Westview, who thumped Bonita Vista 48-0 in the first round and have upset potential in a stacked bracket. This contest features two of the top prospects in the section – LCC offensive lineman Erik Magnuson (committed to Michigan) and Westview tight end Taylor McNamara (undecided). La Costa Canyon has won all four meetings between these two teams, which haven’t played since 2007.
Pictured: Receiver Eric Judge and 10th-seeded San Diego play at second-seeded Eastlake in the Division I quarterfinals on Friday night