Justin O'Connell 4:30 p.m., Nov. 25
Quarterfinals High Five
North County-South Bay clash highlights second round of playoff action
Quarterfinals High Five
All games Friday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.
Game of the Week
(10) Torrey Pines (6-5) at (2) Eastlake (7-3) (Division I)
Torrey Pines has been the section’s most enigmatic team this season, without a streak longer than two games in a campaign that has featured wins over Cathedral Catholic and La Costa Canyon but also three shutout defeats. Those victories along with a 42-7 win at Escondido in the first round indicate the Falcons can play with anyone in the section and are capable of making a deep postseason run.
The Falcons head south to face Eastlake, who still have something to prove after a second straight runner-up finish in the Metro Mesa League. The Titans enter the postseason tested – their three losses coming to teams with a combined .900 winning percentage – and with a dangerous offense capable of turning any play into a score.
Both teams prefer to keep the ball on the ground game but do so in differing fashion. Eastlake has a speedy Wing-T attack fueled by lighting fast running backs Aaron Baltazar, Tavarus Green and Isiah Olave while Torrey Pines opts for a power approach behind senior running backs Chase Pickwell and Billy Maggs. The Titans have one of the fastest teams in the section but the Falcons will counter with a size advantage, making this an intriguing battle of contrasting styles.
Best of the Rest
(5) Valhalla (8-3) at (4) La Costa Canyon (7-3) (Division II)
The best quarterfinal matchup in Division II features two teams currently heading in opposite directions – La Costa Canyon stumbled to consecutive losses to close out the regular season while Valhalla has won five in a row including a 52-21 win over Rancho Bernardo in the first round. Both teams’ strengths will be on display when Valhalla has the ball – the Norsemen spread attack led by senior quarterback Ramsey Romano is averaging 37 points per game while the Mavericks defense anchored by senior lineman Scott Quessenberry has pitched four shutouts this season. If La Costa Canyon can’t shake its recent funk, Valhalla is more than capable of pulling an upset.
(11) Rancho Buena Vista (6-5) at (3) Grossmont (8-2) (Division I)
No team has had a bigger turnaround this season than Rancho Buena Vista, who upset Chula Vista in the first round to make a quarterfinals appearance one season after a winless 2011 campaign. Under first-year head coach Paul Gomes, the Longhorns have blown past opponents with a run-first attack that features a heavy dose of senior running back Niko Cortez. Grossmont won its first seven games of the season and boasts an Oregon-style spread offense quarterbacked by junior Anthony Lawrence (2,819 yards, 29 TDs). This game has the potential to be a shootout – can the Longhorns keep up with the higher-seeded Foothillers?
(6) West Hills (7-4) at (3) Ramona (6-4) (Division III)
In the bottom half of the Division III bracket, two teams that started the season fast and slowed down the stretch square off with a trip to the semifinals in the balance. After winning four of its first five games, Ramona lost three straight then closed out the season with a pair of wins while West Hills won its first five games before stumbling to a 1-4 mark in the difficult Grossmont Hills League. This should be an even game with a slight edge given to the host Bulldogs, who have only lost once at home this season. The dismissal of five-time defending section champion Cathedral Catholic from the playoffs leaves the Division III title up for grabs, and the winner of this game will be the highest remaining seed in the lower half of the bracket.
(5) El Camino (7-4) at (4) San Pasqual (6-4) (Division I)
Six of the eight remaining teams in Division I hail from North County, and the top half of the bracket features a pair of all-North County matchups. San Pasqual’s main objective will be containing El Camino senior running back Justin Williams, who topped the 2,000-yard mark for the season and the Wildcats’ all-time career leading rusher in last week’s first-round victory. El Camino and San Pasqual are both physical teams that prefer to keep the ball on the ground, and the team that can establish its rushing attack and maintain possession will have a distinct advantage in getting to the semifinals.
Pictured: El Camino senior receiver Arrion Howard