Thursday, December 9, 2010
Inland Empire: Championship game previews
By Dan Arritt
Corona Centennial and Vista Murrieta, who have emerged as two of the Inland Empire’s strongest football powers in the last decade, will meet for just the second time Friday night in the Inland Division championship game at Centennial.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
The only other time the teams played was two years ago in the semifinals. Centennial won, 41-14, behind three touchdown passes and two rushing by quarterback Taylor Martinez, now at Nebraska. That team went on to defeat Concord De La Salle in the CIF-Division I state bowl game and finish 15-0.
Offensively, the top-seeded Huskies (13-0) are very similar this season. They also feature a talented dual-purpose quarterback in Michael Eubank, a senior who has thrown for 2,532 yards and 21 touchdowns this season, with just three interceptions. On the ground, he has amassed 1,092 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging 10.1 yards per carry.
The biggest difference between this season's offense and the 2008 version is running back Barrinton Collins, whose quick feet and explosiveness prevents defenses from focusing on Eubank. Collins has rushed for 2,026 yards (11.3 avg.) and scored 37 touchdowns.
Defensively, they’re a plus-23 in turnover ratio. Ryan Jack, a San Diego State-bound linebacker, is the team’s leading tackler.
Vista Murrieta (12-1) will hope for a big game from its own dual-purpose quarterback. Derrick Brown, who has committed to Utah, has passed for 1,568 yards and 18 touchdowns, with six interceptions. He has rushed for 992 yards and 18 additional scores.
The second-seeded Broncos also feature an opportunistic defense that has forced 36 turnovers. They showed their mettle Saturday night with a goal-line stand in double overtime to beat Rancho Cucamonga in a semifinal.
In the Central Division:
Colton (10-3) at Moreno Valley Rancho Verde (13-0), Friday: The Mustangs are one win away from accomplishing their goal of winning a section title. They’ve dedicated their season to Emil Smith, who would have been the team's starting outside linebacker this season but was killed in a car accident in July, just a month after committing to Boise State.
Rancho Verde has a variety of offensive weapons, as shown when it totaled 493 yards in a 42-21 semifinal victory at La Quinta, but the biggest mismatch is created by fleet-footed tight end Junior Pomee.
Rancho Verde hasn't played for a section title since 1998, Colton hasn't reached the championship game since 1982.
Rick Brayplayed for Colton High and served as the team's assistant coach for 21 years before earning the opportunity to run the program this season. He accomplished something his three predecessors did not, advancing to a section final.
Colton running back Tyler Ervin continues to get stronger since missing three games with an ankle injury. He rushed for 222 yards and four touchdowns last weekend in a 42-41 overtime victory against San Bernardino Cajon, the third consecutive week he has surpassed his season high in rushing yardage.
In the Eastern Division:
Fontana Summit (10-2-1) at Elsinore (11-2), Saturday: Top-seeded Fontana Kaiser seemed like a shoe-in to reach this championship game, but that’s why they play the game. Un-seeded Elsinore ended those plans last weekend with a shocking 20-12 upset.
The Tigers are fairly meat and potatoes. They’re one of the few teams in the Inland Empire that still runs the wing offense, but it continues to fit with their personnel. Elsinore features three linemen who play both ways, Zach Dembroski, Will Ulrich and Ricardo Morales. They've opened enough holes for the offense to grind out 3,527 rushing yards this season, and the trio has combined for 18 sacks on defense.
Summit likes to spread out its offense, and the SkyHawks have several athletes who can break big plays. Highly regarded recruit Devon Blackmon has 14 receptions for 208 yards and four touchdowns during the playoffs, his most productive stretch of the season.
Quarterback Bernard Porteris also playing his best football, rushing for a season-high 107 yards last week against Phelan Serrano and throwing for 187 yards and a season-high three touchdowns.