Dave Rice 7:30 a.m., Feb. 28
First Round High Five
All games Friday at 7 p.m.
Game of the Week
(12) Patrick Henry (9-1) at (5) El Camino (6-4) (Division I)
Division I has the deepest of the five brackets, as evidenced by one-loss Patrick Henry earning the last spot in the field. The Patriots’ reward for a first playoff appearance in four seasons is a trip to North County to face El Camino in the section’s best first round matchup. Patrick Henry is enjoying one of its best seasons in school history, led by a stingy defense that hasn’t allowed a point in the past three weeks and an offense quarterbacked by experienced senior James McCormick. The Patriots face the task of stopping Wildcats senior running back Justin Williams, who rushed for 1,901 yards and 22 touchdowns in the regular season and topped the 200-yard plateau in five games. El Camino’s four losses came to teams with a combined winning percentage of .800 – including top seeds Oceanside and Olympian – and strength of schedule is the main reason the Wildcats are seeded seven spots higher than the Patriots despite three more losses. Both teams enter this game with something to prove – El Camino to show it’s a true title contender and Patrick Henry to show it’s as good as its record suggests.
Best of the Rest
(10) Monte Vista (6-4) at (7) Serra (7-3) (Division III)
The only first round contest that doubles as regular season rematch comes in Division III, where Serra and Monte Vista will start the playoffs the same way they began the season. The Conquistadors beat the Monarchs 26-14 in both teams’ season opener on Aug. 31, and familiarity should breed a closer result in second act between these two teams. Both Serra and Monte Vista are playing their best football headed in to the playoffs – the Conquistadors won five of their last six and ran the table in the City League and the Monarchs have won four straight games after a slow start. Winner of this one gets a shot a five-time defending champion Cathedral Catholic in the quarterfinals.
(11) Rancho Buena Vista (5-5) at (6) Chula Vista (6-4) (Division I)
The best of two North County-South Bay opening round battles in the Division I bracket features a pair of up-and-down teams – Chula Vista won its first four games but struggled down the stretch and finished third in the Metro Mesa League while Rancho Buena Vista shook off an 0-2 start to notch its best record in five seasons. Both teams lean on dynamic running backs – the Spartans have bruiser Jevante Reed and the Longhorns boast power back Nico Cortez. Chula Vista has more balance offensively than Rancho Buena Vista, and the Spartans’ passing game featuring the senior duo of quarterback Ricky Estevez and receiver Ray Holden could ultimately decide this game.
(9) Hilltop (5-5) at (8) Orange Glen (5-5) (Division II)
Orange Glen catapulted itself to a rare postseason home game by stunning Valley Center in the last week of the regular season, and the Patriots host Hilltop in the only Division II first round game that doesn’t include a team with a losing record. The team that establishes its rushing attack first will have a huge advantage in this North County-South Bay clash. Top-seeded Oceanside awaits this winner of this contest.
(10) Mater Dei (8-2) at (7) Mount Miguel (6-4) (Division IV)
The section’s only first round matchup between two league champions is an East County-South Bay clash that features a pair of streaking teams – Mount Miguel has won five straight games while Mate Dei has won its last six. No other game in Division IV matches up teams with winning records, which makes this the best of the bunch in the field that features a mix of public and private schools.
Pictured: Orange Glen junior defensive back Adam Hernandez carries the ball upfield