John Kral 9 a.m., July 29
Game of the Week
No. 1 Helix at No. 8 Eastlake Friday 7 p.m.
Defending Division II state champion Helix opens the season in the South Bay against Eastlake in the Game of the Week. The Highlanders face an uphill battle to defend their title, and are challenged to replace a host of talent lost from the best team in program history. Senior running back Michael Adkins and receiver Kendal Keys will make plays offensively for Helix, and other impact returners include senior lineman Amu Milo and senior linebacker Rocky Fuga. Eastlake is one of the fastest teams in the section, highlighted by Boise State bound running back/safety Aaron Baltazar. The Titans defeated the Highlanders 21-14 in a week one matchup in 2011, Helix’s only loss of the season on the way to section and state supremacy.
Best of the Rest
Lincoln at No. 10 Madison Friday 6:30 p.m.
The second-best offering on Friday night is a showdown between Lincoln and Madison, a pair of highly touted city teams. Madison boasts some of the best skill talent in the section, led by the Arizona bound tandem of running back Pierre Cormier and receiver Lee Walker, and the Hornets provide a tough test early for sophomore quarterback Kareem Coles. After a subpar 2011 season, many tabbed Lincoln to bounce back this year behind senior playmakers Tyree and Tyrell Robinson. The Hornets have a talented secondary, and it will be interesting to see how they use the Robinson twins against the Warhawks. Adding to the intrigue is Hornets receiver Kevon Mitchell, who transferred from Madison to Lincoln in the offseason.
No. 4 Cathedral Catholic at Steele Canyon Friday 7 p.m.
For the ninth season in a row, Cathedral Catholic and Steele Canyon open the season against one another. The Dons have a talented, experienced team this season led by senior quarterback Garrett Bogart and senior linebacker Toshaun Poumele, and head to Spring Valley to start the pursuit of their sixth straight Division III crown. Under the leadership of new head coach Scott Longerbone, Steele Canyon switched to a spread offense in a move designed to make the Cougars more explosive. The Dons have won six of the last eight matchups between these teams, including a 27-7 win last season.
No. 2 Oceanside (0-0) vs. Oakdale (1-0) Friday 5 p.m. (at Westlake High)
Oceanside begins the season with a state-caliber test against Oakdale in the Battle for Veterans Game at Westlake High. The two teams fared similarly last season as the Mustangs fell short in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III title game against Loomis Del Oro, Helix’s opponent in the Division II State Bowl. The Pirates return a majority of its offense playmakers from last season led by three-year starting quarterback Tofi Paopao, and are eager to get back on top of Division II after having their streak of seven section championships snapped last season. Oceanside is currently ranked 12th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and will be challenged against Oakdale, who beat Turlock 21-7 in its opener last Friday.
Mira Mesa at Valhalla Friday 7 p.m.
An intriguing contest on the season’s opening night features city school Mira Mesa traveling to East County to face off against Valhalla in a matchup of two teams under the radar to start the season. Mira Mesa was up and down last season and will look to the San Diego State-bound tandem of quarterback/safety Trey Lomax and receiver Addison Morrow for stability this year. Valhalla has won at least eight games in three of the last four seasons, and has a senior-heavy team in 2012. This could be a high-scoring game that comes down to the wire.
In the Red Zone
Orange Glen at Mission Bay Friday 3 p.m.
The Red Zone’s first Friday matinee of the season features a pair of teams looking to start the season off on the right note after rough 2011 campaigns.
Pictured: Madison sophomore quarterback Kareem Coles makes his varsity debut against Lincoln on Friday night