No. 6 Santa Margarita (10-2) at No. 2 Mission Viejo (10-2), Friday, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports West
This Pac-5 semifinal is as good as any championship game. Mission knocked Santa Margarita out of the playoffs last year, 31-28, and went on to the section finals where it lost to Servite. The second-seeded Diablos will try do it again riding the legs of Buzzy Yokoyama; though injured much of the season, Yokoyama (12 TDs, 112 yards/game) has shown in six games that he is a huge threat. He rarely goes down on the first hit, and he will be even more dangerous now that quarterback Alex Bridgford (23 TDs, 15 int., 208 yards/game) seems to be dialed in. That wasn't always the case this season. The pressure is on the Mission defense to control quarterback Johnny Stanton (22 TDs), who ran wild against Servite, who ran wild against Long Beach Poly, and who is fully capable of running wild against Mission. Stanton is averaging 98.7 yards rushing, and though his passing numbers aren't eye-popping (62.4 percent, 8 TDs, 8 int., 161 yards/game) he can still make the big play with talented receivers. Running back Ryan Wolpin (24 TDs, 115 yards/game) is no slouch either. The last two Servite quarterbacks to beat Mission in the playoffs, Cody Fajardo and Cody Pittman, were dual-threat QBs like Stanton. Both head coaches, Bob Johnson (265-91-1) for Mission and Harry Welch (246-54-2) for Santa Margarita, are among the best around.
No. 9 San Clemente (11-1) vs. No. 12 Tesoro (8-4) at Orange Coast College, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Tesoro beat top-seeded Servite last week, 24-20, so throw out everything the Titans have done this season and focus on what they bring to the table right now. Actually, one might look at their run over the past four weeks. They gave away a 14-7 loss to Mission Viejo, and the following week were flat in a 31-6 loss to San Clemente. Then they beat fourth-seeded Alemany, then Servite. Their emotional health going into this game against San Clemente vs. the last game with San Clemente will be night and day. Matt Adam (8 TDs, 6 int., 83 yards/game) must have a good outing so that Mission cannot gang up on the run game, which features Nate Tago (12 TDs, 103 yards/game) or Blake Rodgers -- who was the difference-maker when he sparked Tesoro's victory from a 20-3 deficit to Servite after replacing the injured Tago. The defense will have its hands full because San Clemente is among the most balanced teams in the playoffs, featuring a strong offensive line led by Kyle Murphy that protects runner Mike Elespuru (13 TDs, 118 yards/game) and Utah-bound quarterback Travis Wilson (21 TDs, 7 int., 158 yards/game). To a lot of people, San Clemente's second-round victory over St. John Bosco, 42-24, was an upset too; the Tritons hadn't won a playoff game since 2005, but three of the four semifinalists -- including Tesoro and San Clemente -- are from the South Coast League instead of the Trinity League. And, if you're looking for motivation, San Clemente might have the edge; this is the team that had their coach, Eric Patton, removed just weeks before the season for his alleged role in a kickback scheme with a now defunct athletic apparel company. Coached by Jon Hamro, the team has been playing for Patton as much as themselves.
El Toro (11-1) at No. 23 La Habra (9-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
This Southwest Division game actually has a Pac-5 kind of intrigue to it in Orange County. El Toro brings a no-huddle offense and a prolific passing attack into the game with junior Conner Manning (35 TDs, 5 int.), who is 88 yards from matching Matt Barkley's single-season county passing record (3,560 yards). La Habra has faced the no-huddle of Servite, and it's faced a terrific passing game in St. John Bosco, but the combination might catch the La Habra off guard early as it gets used to the pace. Then again, El Toro -- which has averaged 43.9 points and hasn't lost since a season-opening 23-21 setback to Huntington Beach -- hasn't seen a defense like La Habra's or a player like linebacker Aaron Porter. There's plenty at stake for La Habra; the Highlanders are trying to win a fifth consecutive title, but they won't get the chance if they don't contain Manning.
Foothill (8-4) at Tustin (9-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
These two rivals play each other annually and use Tustin High as a home field, so this game is huge. This is 50th meeting and at stake is a spot in the Southwest Division finals. Tustin has won the three previous playoff games between the schools (the last in 2000), as well as the last three games, including 27-14 in the season opener. It's the first time these teams have met as deep as the semifinals. Tustin's Tyler Siudzinski (19 TDs, 141 yards/game) rushed for 152 yards in a 35-7 victory over top-seeded Villa Park, and Foothill's Jack Gilchrist (12 TDs, 11 int., 112 yards/game) threw a 32-yard TD pass and scored on a three-yard run in the last 2 1/2 minutes to beat fourth-seeded Cypress, 34-24.
Beckman (10-2) at Estancia (10-2), Friday, 7 p.m.
When they played earlier this season, top-seeded Beckman scored a 12-10 victory but did so without their best offensive threat, Jeff Kim (22 TDs, 138 yards/game). Fourth-seeded Estancia -- which has since won seven in a row -- was down a few players too, although not junior running back Robert Murtha (19 TDs, 165 yards/game). Beckman beat Estancia in the first round last season, 56-22. In the semifinals for the first time in school history, will the pressure to reach the Southern Division finals be too much for Estancia? Beckman is trying to return to the finals after losing last year's title game to Garden Grove in an Instant Classic.
Corona del Mar (10-2) at Laguna Beach (10-2) Friday, 7 p.m.
Second-seeded Corona del Mar has appeared to be on a collision course with Beckman all season, but Laguna Beach is a dangerous opponent that defeated third-seeded Segerstrom, 51-40. Powered by Drake Martinez (27 TDs, 145 yards/game), the Breakers have averaged 47.8 points; their last loss was 63-47 to Costa Mesa. Behind quarterback Brent Lawson (25 TDs, 10 int.), CdM has scored at least 31 points in its last six games, and at least 42 points in its last four.