Top-seeded Rancho Verde is set to take on No. 2 Palm Springs in the CIF-Southern Section Central Division championship game Friday night at Palm Springs High. It’s the only matchup this weekend of top-seeded and undefeated teams. Here’s what to look for:
How they got here:
Rancho Verde (13-0) – defeated Don Lugo (44-0), San Gorgonio (44-28) and Colony (42-14).
Palm Springs (13-0) – defeated Rialto (35-0), Chino (42-14) and Carter (17-13).
Recent championship history:
Rancho Verde – The top-seeded Mustangs were upset by Colton in last season’s Central Division final, 17-7.
Palm Springs – The Indians won the 2009 Eastern Division title, 24-14, against Serrano, lost the 2005 Division VIII championship, 42-30, against Ridgecrest Burroughs, and the 2004 title against Serrano, 25-18.
Players to watch:
Rancho Verde – Demorea Stringfellow is a junior wide receiver for the Mustangs who came into this season with a UCLA offer already on his resume. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound speedster is a favorite target of quarterback Carlos Hernandez and can turn a short pass into a long touchdown in the blink of an eye.
Palm Springs – Nick King is a three-sport star for the Indians who has been making plays on both sides of the ball the last three seasons. He has six interceptions this fall to give him 12 for his career On offense, he’s the team’s No. 1 ball carrier and a primary target out of the backfield as a receiver. He returns punts pretty well too.
Other game changers
Rancho Verde – Blair Brown, a 5-11, 210-pound senior, moved from defensive line to middle linebacker this season and emerged as the central leader on a unit that gives up an average of just nine points a game. He plays a little tight end on offense too.
Palm Springs -- Jordan White is another three-year starter for the Indians and played a key role on the 2009 championship team. A 6-4, 200-pound wide receiver, he presents a matchup problem for most defensive backs. Yet, he’s just as dangerous after the catch.
More key matchups:
*Palm Springs quarterback Dane Tiedeman vs. Rancho Verde defensive back Devonte Collier.
*Rancho Verde running back Kenny Torrence vs. Palm Springs linebacker Kyle Lass
*Rancho Verde offensive lineman Kevin Shelton vs. Palm Springs defensive lineman Ricky Owens.
Common opponents: Rancho Verde hosted Moreno Valley in an Inland Valley League opener Sept. 30 and won, 28-7; A week earlier in nonleague play, Palm Springs beat the visiting Vikings, 54-21.
Prediction:Palm Springs 24, Rancho Verde 21.