Jeff Smith noon, March 8
CIF Finals High Five
No. 1 La Costa Canyon (10-2) vs. No. 2 Escondido (10-2) Friday 8 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium
The first meeting between these two on Halloween was one of the best games of the season, and this one should be no different. In their first meeting, the Mavericks trailed by 10 at halftime but came from behind for a 21-17 win. This game will be won on the ground – Escondido’s Ricky Seale (205.3 yards per game, 29 touchdowns) and Tim Zier (101.5, 17) make up the section’s best backfield and La Costa Canyon suddenly has a ground game to add to their passing attack, led by Seth Hanson’s 151.5 yards per game and three touchdowns in the last two games. La Costa Canyon is making its first appearance in the section finals and Escondido is making its first appearance since 1995.
No. 1 Oceanside (11-0-1) vs. No. 3 Helix (10-1-1) Friday 4:30 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium
The Pirates and Highlanders have defined success in the section in recent years and this marks their fifth meeting in the last eight years in the Division II title game. Of all those tilts, this one could be the most even. Both teams feature great offenses with star quarterbacks – Oceanside’s Utah-bound Jordan Wynn and Helix’s Ty Culver, a dual threat signal caller. Both teams also feature stout defense – Helix comes in allowing 13.1 points per game and Oceanside allows an average of 14.1. Of the five section finals, this one features the most collective talent on both sides of the ball.
No. 1 Cathedral Catholic (12-0) vs. No. 3 Valhalla (11-1) Friday 1 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium
No one yet has been able to run with the unbeaten and defending Division III champion Dons this season. But the final obstacle on their road to perfection could be their most difficult. No one has been able to stop Cathedral Catholic running back Tyler Gaffney, who averages 191.5 rushing yards per game and has run for 36 touchdowns this season, but Valhalla has allowed on 9.4 points per game, including only seven points in their two playoff games. The Norsemen offense features a near 3,000-yard passer in Pete Thomas and a 1,000-yard rusher in Traivonne Brown, and should test a Dons defense that has allowed seven points per game in the playoffs.
No. 1 Valley Center (10-2) vs. No. 2 Madison (12-0) Friday 10 a.m. at Qualcomm Stadium
Things begin in Qualcomm with what should be an entertaining battle between the defending Division IV champion Jaguars and the unbeaten Warhawks. Both teams can put up points – Valley Center scores 37.3 per game and Madison puts up 40.8. Both teams offenses are led by senior stars, quarterback Tyler Bernard (2,360 yards, 26 touchdowns) and receiver James Johnson (1,083, 15) for Valley Center and diminutive running back Robbie Rouse (2,375, 34 touchdowns) for Madison. Both teams could score in the 40s in this one. Will Valley Center repeat or will Madison finish unbeaten for the first time in school history?
No. 1 Francis Parker (11-1) vs. No. 6 Bishop’s (7-6) Saturday 7 p.m. at Southwestern College
Can the defending Division V champion Knights pull off an upset for the third straight week. Bishop’s has beaten Horizon and Christian in consecutive weeks to get back to the title game. As high as the Knights are coming in, it is hard to imagine anyone beating the Lancers – or even coming close. Possibly playing for the South Division spot in the Small Schools State Bowl Game, Francis Parker has crushed its last two opponents by a combined score of 139-10. Junior Deon Randall does it all for the Lancers. Randall has thrown for 1,510 yards and 19 touchdowns, run for 1,355 yards and 19 touchdowns and intercepted 10 passes at defensive back. Bishop’s had lost four straight before winning their last three in the playoffs. The young Knights team are led on offense by freshman quarterback Joey Moreno, who has thrown for 1,691 yards and touchdowns. In their meeting on Oct. 17, Francis Parker beat Bishop’s 31-23.