Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Semifinals High Five
Game of the Week
(3) Oceanside (8-2-1) at (2) La Costa Canyon (9-2) Thursday 7 p.m. (Division II)
Oceanside is one win away from playing for an eighth consecutive Division II title – but to get to Qualcomm Stadium the Pirates have win at La Costa Canyon against a Mavericks team they lost to in the regular season. When La Costa Canyon and Oceanside met at Simcox Field in Avocado West League play, the Mavericks rallied from a six-point halftime deficit behind a stout defense and solid ground game with running backs Isaac Maquet and Deon Dickey to beat the Pirates 21-16. La Costa Canyon has allowed an average of nine points per game since that win, including a 13-6 win over Westview in the quarterfinals. Most importantly, La Costa Canyon’s regular season win gives the Mavericks a mental edge heading into this game that most of the Oceanside’s opponents don’t have. Oceanside finished the regular season by shutting out Carlsbad and El Camino, and the Pirates survived Valhalla 31-28 with a last-second interception in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals for an 18th straight season. With late-season injuries Oceanside has leaned on junior William Gulley on both sides of the ball, and against Valhalla the junior anchored the defense and accounted for all of the Pirates’ four touchdowns. Expect a fast, physical game with a championship trip on the line.
Best of the Rest
(7) Mar Vista (11-1) at (3) Olympian (8-3) Thursday 7 p.m. (Division III)
A South Bay showdown in the bottom half of the Division III bracket features two teams looking for their first section title appearance. Behind its Double Wing offense, Mar Vista notched the biggest upset of the postseason so far by knocking off second-seeded St. Augustine 42-28 in the quarterfinals. The Mariners are averaging a staggering 404.1 yards rushing per game, led by 1,000-yard rushers Jimmie Hill and Keevin Moore. Mar Vista heads east to take on Olympian, whose three losses have come to teams with a combined 30-3-1 record. The Eagles are led by senior two-way star Asante Gibson, and have a host of talented skill players. None of the Eagles’ playmakers will matter, however, if they can’t stop the Mar Vista run game. This game will have a lot of emotion, a lot of scoring, and could be one of the best of the postseason.
(3) Valley Center (10-1) at (2) Madison (10-0-1) Thursday 7 p.m. (Division IV)
Madison and Valley Center have met in the Division IV finals twice in the past four seasons, including last season – a 40-14 win for the Warhawks that was later vacated when CIF ruled quarterback Chase Knox ineligible. Knox is still at the helm for Madison this season, and the senior threw for 245 yards and three touchdowns against Mater Dei in the quarterfinals. Valley Center has reached the 10-win plateau for the fourth season in a row, and the Jaguars have gone undefeated since losing their season opener to San Pasqual. On defense Valley Center has allowed a total of 14 points in its last three games, and the Jaguars turn to running back Garrett Fiehler (31 touchdowns this season) when they have the ball. Top-seed Mount Miguel is gone, leaving these familiar postseason foes as the favorites in Division IV. Which team will make it back to the finals?
(3) Vista (6-5) at (2) Eastlake (8-3) Thursday 7 p.m. (Division I)
A rematch of the 2009 Division I title game, Eastlake and Vista meet on Thursday with a trip to the finals on the line. Each team has taken a different route to the semifinals – the Titans were ranked No. 1 in the section early but slowed down the stretch due to injuries while the defending section champion Panthers have won six of their last seven after an 0-4 start. Eastlake has won two straight games since losing to Olympian and have found an offensive spark in running back Tavarus Green, who rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns against San Diego in the quarterfinals. Vista relies on its defense and a run-first attack led by running back Jacob Bedford, averaging 166.3 rushing yards per game over the last three contests. No matter who wins, this semifinal means at least one perennial contender will be back in the Division I finals.
(4) Mission Hills (7-3-1) at (1) Helix (10-1) Thursday 7 p.m. (Division II)
Top-seeded Helix showed no ill effects from a bye week in the quarterfinals, racing out to a 30-0 halftime lead against Torrey Pines en route to a 44-7 win. The Highlanders have won 10 games in a row by an average of 41.1 points and held their last seven opponents to a touchdown or less. Is defensive-minded Mission Hills the team to slowdown high-powered Helix? Anchored by a big defensive line, the Grizzlies have allowed 6.2 points per game in its last five contests. Mission Hills is riding an eight-game unbeaten streak and looking for a second straight appearance in Qualcomm Stadium. These teams met in the semifinals in both 2006 and 2007, splitting those games decided by a combined four points.
In the Red Zone
(3) Francis Parker (6-4-1) vs. (2) Christian (8-3) Friday 7 p.m. at Granite Hills High (Division V)
For the third season in a row the last four teams standing in Division V hail from the Coastal League, making for a familiar atmosphere in the semifinals. Led by Colorado bound senior quarterback Shane Dillon (2,510 yards, 18 TDs), Christian has averaged 33.9 points per game and is seeking its first finals appearance since 2007. Francis Parker has won four of its last five games and is seeking its fourth straight finals appearance. The Lancers have a balanced offensive attack with quarterback Gabe Harrington (1,906, 19 TDs) and 1,500-yard rusher, but on defense the Lancers are surrendering an average of 27.2 points per game. In the Coastal League opener, Christian started fast to beat Francis Parker 42-23 for its first win over the Lancers in four seasons. Which team will prevail in the rematch?
Pictured: Mission Hills plays at top-seeded Helix in the Division II semifinals on Thursday night