East Valley Division
Sierra Canyon (10-0) is growing up fast. It didn’t take the Trailblazers long to be a force in the East Valley Division. They are the top seed, have yet to lose a game and have already beaten Paraclete, the reigning East Valley Division champion. Paraclete (8-2) finished in second place in the Alpha League and still earned the No. 2 seed in the East Valley Division playoffs. The road to the division championship goes through Paraclete and Sierra Canyon. No. 3 seed St. Margarets won the Academy League championship and has a seven-game winning streak. Bishop Diego (9-1) is the fourth seed and won the Frontier League championship. Here’s a breakdown of the division
The seeds: No. 1 Sierra Canyon, No. 2 Paraclete, No. 3 St. Margaret’s, No. 4 Bishop Diego
Best first-round matchup: Brentwood (5-5) vs. Bishop Diego (9-1) -- Brentwood, the third-place team from the Alpha League, enters the East Valley Division playoffs with two wins in a row. Bishop Diego won the Frontier League with a 4-0 record and hasn’t lost since the season opener, 23-22, on the road to Santa Ynez. Facing tough teams is nothing new to Brentwood though. The Eagles played Sierra Canyon and Paraclete in league. They lost both games, but preparing for another tough opponent should be nothing new to Brentwood. However, the Eagles probably need to play a perfect game to beat Bishop Diego.
Toughest road: St. Margaret’s (8-2) -- The Tartans will most likely face Paraclete in the semifinals. If St. Margaret’s can get past the reigning East Valley champs, top-seeded Sierra Canyon awaits in the championship game. On the positive side, the road to the East Valley Division semis doesn’t look to tough for St. Margaret’s. A potential quarterfinal game against Big Bear, the De Anza League champion, will be the toughest test.
Potential shocker: Brethren Christian (6-4) vs. Ontario Christian (7-2-1) -- Ontario Christian won the Ambassador League with a 5-0 record, but went 2-2-1 against nonleague opponents. Ontario Christian finished in second place in the Academy League, behind St. Margaret's. The Warriors have won three of their last four games and scored 40 or more points in four of their six wins. If Ontario Christian can get on a roll against Brethren Christian, the Warriors might be able to pull off a first-round upset.
Darkhorse: Bishop Diego (9-1) -- The Cardinals have a nine-game winning streak and are averaging 34.4 points. The path to the semis starts against Brentwood, an at-large team, and the winner of the 29 Palms-Rubidoux game. If Bishop Diego can find a way to knock off top-seeded Sierra Canyon in the semifinals, it will prepare the Cardinals for a potentially tough game against Paraclete in the championship game.
Final analysis: Paraclete rarely gets tested in the regular season let alone in playoffs. Sierra Canyon has become the Spirits biggest nemesis in the past two seasons. The Trailblazers beat Paraclete for the first time in three mettings two weeks ago. After the game, the coaches jokingly told each other they will meet again in a couple weeks. Four weeks to be exact.
Championship prediction: Sierra Canyon and Paraclete are the class of the East Valley Division. The most recent meetng between the two teams was hard-hitting and tight until the end. Sierra Canyon scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter to win by 10 points, 36-26. Paraclete’s strarting quarterback Tyler Carvalho was knocked out of the game in the third quarter after he injured his ankle. Sierra Canyon lost receiver Xavier Menifield because of a concussion in the first quarter. Who knows how this game will end if both teams are at full strength and healthy. Sierra Canyon has been playing like a team of destiny all season. A CIF championship would be a fitting end to their break-out year.