Don Bauder 3:39 p.m., Jan. 31
Game of the Week
No. 9 Eastlake (3-2) at Chula Vista (4-1) Friday 7 p.m.
The Metro Mesa League typically features the best teams in the South Bay – and this year its top teams are amongst the best in the section. As Metro Mesa play begins three of its teams in the top 10, and the race for the banner will be highly competitive this season. A high-profile matchup highlights Metro Mesa’s opening week slate, featuring two teams looking to bounce back from upset losses last week. Ninth-ranked Eastlake is one of the fastest teams in the section, but Boise State-bound senior Aaron Baltazar and the Titans hit a speed bump last week in a 42-28 loss to St. Augustine. Eastlake has allowed more than 30 points in each of its last three games, and will need to tighten up its defense when it visits Chula Vista and senior running back Jevante Reed. The Spartans won their first four games before falling 26-21 at Brawley last week, and have been within reach of the rankings for the past couple weeks. Eastlake has won five straight meetings in this rivalry, including a 49-17 win last year.
Best of the Rest
No. 6 Poway (3-2) at Torrey Pines (3-2) Friday 7 p.m.
Defense leads the way for each of these Palomar League favorites, and points will be at a premium in this battle between the league’s last two champions. Sixth-ranked Poway has allowed less than a touchdown per game in its three wins, behind a defense led by senior linebacker Alec Moreno (committed to Nevada) and senior cornerback Derek Babiash (Arizona). The Titans have struggled offensively at times, but the group quarterbacked by junior dual-threat Max Washam comes in on a high note after putting up 35 points against Valley Center last week. Torrey Pines has played stellar defense since its victory over Cathedral Catholic on Sept. 7, allowing only two points in a three-game stretch that included two shutouts. Expect a low-scoring slugfest between two of the best defenses in the section.
Steele Canyon (1-3-1) at West Hills (5-0) Friday 7 p.m.
West Hills is off to its best start in school history, but the true success of the Wolf Pack’s season will be measured by how they perform in the competitive Grossmont Hills League. Behind a solid defense and talented offense, West Hills opens its league slate on the blue turf against a Steele Canyon team that is better than its record indicated. With first-year head coach Scott Longerbone and a new spread offense, the Cougars have labored through a tough nonleague schedule. Steele Canyon’s lone win came against Temescal Canyon during a stretch that included losses to a trio of ranked opponents and a record-setting 49-49 tie last week at Canyon. Both teams have something to prove in this game – West Hills wants to show its as good as its unbeaten record while Steele Canyon wants to prove its better than its one-win mark.
Serra (3-2) at Patrick Henry (5-0) Friday 6:30 p.m.
Patrick Henry is one of the section’s most surprising unbeatens and sits atop the realigned City League along with undefeated Hoover. The Patriots have equaled their combined win total of the past three seasons behind a defense allowing an average of five points per game, including a pair of shutouts to start the season. Serra has been up-and-down from the beginning, alternating wins and losses while trying to find consistency. Is the City League more than a two-team race? The first meeting between these two teams in more than a decade will lend some insight into that question.
Horizon (4-1) at Santa Fe Christian (2-3) Saturday 2 p.m.
The Coastal League is one of the best small-school leagues in the state and will offer competitive matchups for the rest of the season, including this Red Zone pick on Saturday afternoon. Horizon has won three straight since falling to bigger Mission Bay, and the Panthers’ senior two-way duo of Markel Byrd and Darren Carrington (Oregon) are capable of a big play anytime they touch the ball. The three teams that beat battle-tested Santa Fe Christian currently have a combined record of 14-2, indicating that the defending league champion Eagles enter Coastal play better than their nonleague record suggests. Winner of this game will have a leg up towards the Coastal League crown, which looks like it could go any one of four different ways. Santa Fe Christian has won three of the last four meetings between these two teams.
In the Red Zone
Kearny (2-3) at Point Loma (3-2) Friday 3 p.m.
The Red Zone Friday matinee features Western League action between two teams currently headed in different directions. Point Loma has outscored its last two opponents by a combined score of 62-9, and the athletic Pointers have won all three of their home games so far this season. Kearny has lost three of four since winning its opener, and will be looking to bounce back from a 56-12 loss at Lincoln last week.
Pictured: Point Loma junior running back D.J. Lacy