Yorba Linda (8-0, 4-0) vs. Cypress (6-2, 3-1) at Western HS, Thursday, 7 p.m.
A victory by Cypress and running back Vincent "Bug" Rivera (19 TDs) could create a three-way tie for first place in the Empire League, so the Centurions should be plenty motivated. There's no guarantee that it will happen, though. Cypress was throttled by Tustin last week, 42-21, and Yorba Linda beat Tustin, 14-12, three weeks ago. This is Yorba Linda's first team with a senior class and the Mustangs are making the most of it led by quarterback Alex Bernstein (13 TDs, 3 int.). Still, they remain largely untested -- Cypress is one of only two opponents with a winning record (Tustin was the other).
No. 1 Servite (7-1, 3-0) vs. Mater Dei (3-5, 1-2) at Angel Stadium, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
After losing to Mater Dei for 20 straight seasons, Servite is going for its third consecutive victory against the Monarchs. A Servite win will clinch a share of a seventh consecutive league title since Troy Thomas became the coach, it will prevent Mater Dei from reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1986, and it will ensure Mater Dei's fifth losing season since 1950. Mater Dei should be the more motivated and emotional team, but the key will be mounting a ground game against Servite's stellar defense led by linebacker Butch Pauu. The Monarchs couldn't do it against Orange Lutheran in last week's 28-0 loss, and Servite's defense is even better. It could mean Ryan McMahon (5 TDs, 9 int.) throws a lot of passes, and though the Servite secondary might be its Achilles heel, McMahon will likely be under pressure and won't get many good looks. The battle will be won in the trenches. Servite's solid ground game could see the return of its leading rusher before he got hurt, Charlie Etiaki, and quarterback Cody Pittman (10 TDs, 2 int.) continues to be an efficient winner.
No. 16 St. John Bosco (6-2, 2-1) at No. 6 Santa Margarita (7-1, 2-1) at Saddleback College, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Second place is on the line in the Trinity League. Bosco is coming off its emotional loss to Servite, and Santa Margarita is trying to maintain momentum heading into a season finale against the Friars. Both teams have potent offenses, and though Bosco might have the more dynamic skill players in receiver Bryce Treggs and running back Davonte Young, Santa Margarita figures to be stronger in the trenches, and that has been enough for RB Ryan Wolpin (20 TDs) and dual-threat QB Johnny Stanton (6 TD, 7 int.), who has rushed for 12 touchdowns. This should be the game of the night.
Tesoro (6-2, 2-0) at No. 8 Mission Viejo (6-2, 2-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
There is no love lost between these South Coast League teams. Tesoro has struggled offensively, and coach Brian Barnes says his team is trying to find its identity. It's a little late in the season to be saying that. Their identity is that they're inconsistent. One thing is certain: the Titans have a talented corps of running backs that include Nate Tago and Blake Rodgers, and if they can control the clock and not make turnovers or drive-killing penalties, they have a chance. Mission may be unbeatable if it plays as it did in the first half last week in a victory over San Clemente. Coming off a foot injury in the first game of the season, Buzzy Yokoyama showed he is a terrific runner, and QB Alex Bridgford can be a threat when he is making good decisions.
Huntington Beach (6-2, 2-1) vs. Los Alamitos (5-3, 1-2) at Veterans Stadium, Friday, 7 p.m.
The biggest victory in a couple of decades could be at hand for Huntington Beach and QB Michael Chislock (17 TDs, 4 int.). If the Oilers win, it should knock Los Alamitos out of a Sunset League playoff berth and provide the kind of marquee victory the program is looking for. Los Alamitos running back Cody Paul (13 TDs) will be a tough force to stop, but it will be necessary to contain him if the Oilers hope to win. Los Al, which opened the season with four victories over overmatched opponents, has lost three of its last four, including last week's loss to Newport Harbor, which was beaten by Huntington Beach, 35-7.