Marty Graham 8:30 a.m., Jan. 16
Game of the Week
No. 1 Oceanside (7-1, 2-0) at No. 2 La Costa Canyon (7-1, 3-0) Friday 7 p.m.
Friday night’s marquee matchup is one of the best of the entire regular season – a showdown between the top two teams in the section. Top-ranked Oceanside faces second-ranked La Costa Canyon in a game that will decide the Avocado West League title, and has section and state playoff implications. Both teams come in riding hot streaks – the Pirates have won six in a row and beaten their last three opponents by a combined score of 147-9, and the Mavericks have won five in a row in a span that has included three shutouts.
Oceanside’s explosive offense led by senior quarterback Tofi Pao Pao will face a challenge against La Costa Canyon’s dominant defense. Anchored in the trenches by UCLA commit Scott Quessenberry, the Mavericks are allowing just more than a touchdown per game and have shut out four opponents this season. La Costa Canyon’s offense has struggled at times this year, and senior running back Deon Dickey and the Mavericks will find yards tough come by against a physical Oceanside defense. Oceanside and La Costa Canyon are two of the most complete teams in the section, and this game will likely come down to the wire. These teams split last season, with the Mavericks winning the regular season matchup 21-16 and the Pirates winning 27-7 in the Division II semifinals.
Best of the Rest
No. 9 Eastlake (6-2, 2-0) at No. 7 Olympian (8-0, 2-0) Friday 7 p.m.
Olympian took the South Bay by storm when it beat Eastlake last season on the way to a Metro Mesa crown, and a season later this matchup between two of the fastest teams in the section will again establish area bragging rights and likely determine a league champion. The Eagles are one of the section’s two remaining unbeatens, and have blown past opponents with speed and the senior trio of quarterback Christopher Humphery, receiver Sergio Bailey and running back Andrell Snowden. Eastlake has won three straight games since losing to St. Augustine on Sept. 28, and the Titans are averaging more than 50 points in each of their victories by leaning on the senior backfield duo of Aaron Baltazar and Tavarus Green. The Eagles and Titans have speed all over the field and both teams like to play fast, which should make this a high-scoring shootout. In their first-ever meeting last season, Olympian delivered a landmark victory by beating Eastlake 16-7.
Grossmont (7-1, 2-1) at No. 4 Helix (6-1, 3-0) Friday 7 p.m.
Helix has been quietly dominant the entire season, and the defending state champion Highlanders have delivered four straight convincing victories since losing to Cathedral Catholic on Sept. 14. Led by senior lineman Amu Milo and senior linebacker Rocky Fuga, Helix’s defense has been stout throughout the season and hasn’t allowed a point in its last three games. Grossmont is counting on its Oregon-style spread offense led by junior quarterback Anthony Lawrence (39 pass completions last week) to trip up Helix’s defense, and the Foothillers will need to put up points to have a chance at an upset. Grossmont suffered its first loss last week against Valhalla, who lost 24-0 to Helix on Oct. 5. Can the Foothillers prevent the Highlanders from taking a big step towards a third straight Grossmont Hills League title?
Christian (6-2, 2-0) at University City (4-4, 2-0) Friday 6:30 p.m.
Defending Division V champion Christian hasn’t played like the smallest school in the Central League upon its return this season. After a narrow win at Clairemont last week, the Patriots appear to be the frontrunner for the league crown at the halfway point. Tied atop the league with Christian is University City, whose record has come from alternating two-game winning and losing streaks since the start of the season. The Centurions shut out Crawford and Coronado in their first two league contests to raise their overall record to .500, and will look to continue its undefeated start in league. Christian and University City haven’t met since 2003 – when they were both members of the Harbor League – and the winner of their first meeting in nine seasons will be in the driver’s seat for a league championship.
Steele Canyon (3-4-1, 2-1) at Valhalla (5-3, 2-1) Friday 7 p.m.
A pair of East County rivals with prolific offenses takes aim at each other in this contest, promising that this year’s battle for the Jamacha Helmet will light up the scoreboard. Valhalla is averaging 34.3 points per game this season, led on offense by senior quarterback Ramsey Romano (2,315 yards, 22 TDs). Steele Canyon comes in scoring an average of 31.5 points per game, and senior quarterback Brandon Andrade (2,003, 20) leads the Cougars’ spread offense installed before the season. A duel between 2,000-yard passers means that it might take only one or two defensive stops to prevail. Since Steele Canyon started playing varsity football in 2002 this has been one of the most even matchups in the section – the 11 meetings have been split 5-5-1.
In the Red Zone
Point Loma (6-2, 2-0) at Mission Bay (5-3, 2-1) Friday 3 p.m.
This Western League matinee features a pair of streaking teams – Point Loma has won five games in a row while Mission Bay has won its last two. Both these teams have talented playmakers, and this one could come down to a couple of big plays. Mission Bay will be retiring the jersey of Arian Foster, running back for the Houston Texans who played for the Buccaneers from 2002-03.
Pictured: Point Loma junior running back A.J. Smith