Jeff Smith noon, March 8
Game of the Week
No. 3 Mission Hills (3-1) at No. 1 Oceanside (3-1) Friday 7 p.m.
For the second straight week, the Red Zone heads to North County for a showdown involving top-ranked Oceanside. The Pirates solidified their spot atop the rankings last week with a 23-13 win at Poway, a victory fueled by a stout defense and a playmaking offense featuring senior quarterback Tofi Paopao. Oceanside hosts Mission Hills, who jumped No. 3 after a decisive win over Valley Center. The Grizzlies came into the season highly touted, and haven’t lost to a section opponent this season led by a strong core of returning players. A name familiar to Oceanside’s program quarterbacks Mission Hills – junior Connor Wynn, brother of former Pirates quarterback Jordan Wynn (2007-08). Until last season Oceanside had won every meeting between these two teams, including a pair of victories in the Division II finals. In 2011, that streak ended with a 10-10 tie at Mission Hills.
Best of the Rest
No. 7 Poway (2-2) at No. 10 Valley Center (3-1) Friday 7 p.m.
In a matchup of defending section champions looking to rebound from losses to quality opponents, Poway heads north to take on Valley Center. Poway started slow last week against Oceanside and fell for the second time in three weeks. A stellar defense featuring a pair of Division I-bound seniors – defensive back Derek Babiash (Arizona) and linebacker Alec Moreno (Nevada) – leads the Titans, but their offense has struggled in both defeats. Valley Center suffered its first loss of the season last week at Mission Hills, ending a 15-game winning streak dating back to September 2011. The Jaguars get a chance at a bigger school for the second consecutive week, and will need big plays from the senior duo of quarterback Ryan Kleiman and receiver Michael McInerny to upend Poway. The winner of this game gets back on track, while the loser likely drops out of the Top 10.
No. 6 Eastlake (3-1) vs. No. 9 St. Augustine (3-1) Friday 7 p.m. at Mesa College
Since its season-opening loss, Eastlake has been on a tear offensively. The Titans have rolled up an average of 51 points in three straight blowout wins behind an offense loaded with senior speedsters Aaron Baltazar, Jalen Mondane and Tavarus Green. Sixth-ranked Eastlake heads north to face ninth-ranked St. Augustine, who suffered more than just its first loss of the season against Otay Ranch last week. In the Saints’ two-point loss to the Mustangs they also lost leading rusher, junior running back Tyler Herburger (86 carries, 504 yards), to a fractured right leg. St. Augustine’s offense is limping into the game, and its defense will need a solid performance to slow down Eastlake. These two teams met last season in a thriller that St. Augustine won 21-20.
Imperial (3-1) at Francis Parker (3-1) Friday 7 p.m.
Francis Parker has won two games in a row, including a come-from-behind win last week that knocked defending Christian from the unbeaten ranks. If the Lancers want to make it three in a row, they will have to slow down one of the section’s most prolific – and least known – running backs. Imperial is making the two-hour trip west to play the Lancers, and the Tigers feature junior running back Royce Freeman. A 2,000-yard rusher as a sophomore, Freeman has 833 yards and nine touchdowns so far this season, and this game offers the last chance for locals to see Freeman in action during the regular season. Imperial beat Francis Parker 63-31 last season, and this year’s matchup could have just as many points.
No. 2 La Costa Canyon (3-1) at San Pasqual (3-1) Friday 7 p.m.
Defense has led La Costa Canyon so far this season, as two of the Mavericks’ three wins have been shutouts. The Mavericks’ defense will need to be sound against San Pasqual and its triple option attack led by quarterback Sebastian Tengen. La Costa Canyon’s defense is full of talented players, including highly recruited senior defensive lineman Scott Quessenberry, senior defensive back Kyle Mummau and senior linebacker Ty Toolson. San Pasqual bounced back last week in a 21-14 win over Mt. Carmel, and the Golden Eagles are quietly putting together a solid follow-up campaign to their breakout 2011 season. This will be a low-scoring, physical game to see who can win their second in a row.
In the Red Zone
Mission Bay (3-1) vs. Christian (3-1) Saturday 7 p.m.
A pair of teams coming of their first losses of the season meet in an intriguing cross-division matchup in the Red Zone’s Saturday night pick. Christian has played well in defense of its Division V title and faces a tough challenge against an athletic Mission Bay squad. If the Patriots can handle the Buccaneers’ size, this will be a back-and-forth game.
Pictured: Eastlake in the offensive huddle