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Thursday, December 2, 2010
Inland Empire: Games of the week

By Dan Arritt

One of the most impressive efforts of the postseason was delivered by Vista Murrieta in a 45-6 victory last Friday against Norco in an Inland Division quarterfinal.

On defense, the Broncos played like they knew what was coming before the ball was snapped. On offense, they attacked Norco’s weaknesses.

Well coached might be the best way to describe Vista Murrieta.

Third-seeded Rancho Cucamonga (11-1) is likely a little faster and more athletic than the second-seeded Broncos (11-1), so the visiting Cougars should make for a great semifinal opponent Saturday night.

Rancho Cucamonga senior running back Sateki Finau carved up Eastvale Roosevelt for a career-high 276 rushing yards and four touchdowns last week in a 51-36 quarterfinal victory. Quarterback Dimitri Morales threw another touchdown pass, giving him 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in the last six games.

They’ll have their work cut out for them against the Broncos' defense, however.

San Diego State-bound defensive lineman Jonathan Sanchez holds down one end of the field for Vista Murrieta, often filtering runners inside to leading tacklers Jeremy Castro and Manuel Moreno. The other key cog is sophomore safety Su’a Cravens, who already has scholarship offers from UCLA and Hawaii.

The Cougars played two Southwestern League opponents this season, beating Temecula Great Oak, 34-17, in Week 1, and eliminating Murrieta Valley, 37-13, in the first round of the playoffs. Vista Murrieta beat Great Oak, 45-18, and Murrieta Valley, 38-15, both in league play.

Three more to see:

In the other Inland Division semifinal:

Corona Centennial (12-0) at Chino Hills (10-2), Friday -- Is Chino Hills just a bump in the road in Centennial’s run for a section title? Or can the Huskies manage to put up a roadblock, something no other team has accomplished against Centennial this season?

Chances are, the former is much more likely to occur.

Chino Hills, seeded No. 4, has good athletes on the offensive side of the ball in running backs Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Nate Harris, and an opportunistic defense led by the Oregon-bound defensive back Ekpre-Olomu and nose guard Auston Johnson, who has 19 sacks, but top-seeded Centennial has great athletes at every position.

Centennial quarterback Michael Eubank will likely surpass 1,000 rushing yards and 2,500 passing yards in the game, running back Barrinton Collins is inching up on the 2,000-yard barrier and receiver Larry Scott, who received a scholarship offer from Oregon State last week, is 100 yards away from topping 1,000 for the season.

Chino Hills has taken on two Big VIII League teams with mixed results. The Huskies lost to Corona Santiago, 24-12, in Week 1, but played much better in a 70-42 victory against Corona in the first round of the playoffs.

Centennial, well, the Huskies beat both teams by a combined score of 151-34.

ESPNLA.com’s pick: Centennial 54, Chino Hills 24.



In the Central Division:

Moreno Valley Rancho Verde (12-0) at La Quinta (10-2), Friday -- After a pretty light regular season schedule, top-seeded Rancho Verde has answered any questions surrounding its depth and talent during the playoffs, outscoring its first two opponents, 119-10.

Rancho Verde dropped down to the Central Division after posting a 1-2 record in the Inland Division playoffs the last two seasons. La Quinta moved up from the Eastern Division after getting eliminated by Phelan Serrano two straight years.

The Blackhawks, who average about 280 rushing yards a game, benefited from a 1-2 rushing attack during the regular season, but Chyl Robinson has had to carry the load during the playoffs because Desmond Dukes has been sidelined with a knee injury. Reports indicate he might return against the Mustangs, however.

Both teams played Riverside Arlington this season. La Quinta won its match up, 21-0, in Week 3. The Mustangs defeated Arlington, 28-12, in their Inland Valley League finale three weeks ago.

ESPNLA.com’s pick: Rancho Verde 42, La Quinta 17.

In the Eastern Division:

Fontana Summit (9-2-1) at Serrano (11-1), Saturday -- Serrano is making its third consecutive trip to the semifinals. The Diamondbacks lost to Palm Springs in last season’s championship game.

Serrano doesn’t bother disguising its offense. Taylor Ruize gets most of the touches and the senior running back has responded with 1,793 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. But the real story of Serrano’s success lies with its defense, anchored by linebackers Ethan Hillyer and Andrew Reagan. The second-seeded Diamondbacks haven’t allowed more than two touchdowns in a game this season and have forced 33 turnovers.

Summit relies on pure athleticism to defeat teams. The SkyHawks have one of the Southland’s best athletes in Devon Blackmon, and if they can find a way to get the ball in his hands, Serrano will have a tough time keeping up. On defense, junior cornerback Donte Deayon has nine interceptions.

Both teams played Victorville Silverado this season. Serrano won, 22-10, in Week 1, the SkyHawks lost a bit of a shocker, 20-18, in Week 5, back when they were ranked No.1 in the division.

ESPNLA.com’s pick: Serrano 16, Summit 14.