Los Angeles Preps: Corona Centennial

ESPNLA prep football final Top 25

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
12:22
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LA PrepESPN.com Illustration

Santa Margarita moves into the top spot after winning the CIF State Division I bowl in thrilling fashion. Westlake's stay atop the rankings was short-lived as the Warriors were overwhelmed by a superior Northern California power. The final ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25 rankings:

1. Santa Margarita (13-2)
If we learned anything about junior quarterback Johnny Stanton it's that he thrives when the lights shine the brightest. Stanton's go-ahead score with 16 seconds remaining secured the CIF State Division I bowl championship, and it'll be remembered for a long time. Coach Harry Welch won his third bowl game with the third different school. Last week: Beat San Jose Bellarmine, 42-37.

2. Vista Murrieta (9-5)*
The Broncos were a perfect 14-0 on the field but weren't selected for a state bowl game. They could reach the spotlight next year with the dynamic Su'a Cravens returning for the Inland Division champs.

3. Westlake (14-1)
Not exactly how coach Jim Benkert envisioned the CIF State Open Division bowl game, but consolation lies in the fact that it wasn't the first time De La Salle embarrassed a team, and it won't be the last. The Warriors figure to be in the mix again next year, with top playmakers Dashon Hunt and Justin Moore returning. Last week: Lost to De La Salle, 35-0.

4. Narbonne (11-3)
The City Section Division I champions are favored to repeat in 2012, if only because they've got the section's leading passer in Troy Williams (3,247 yards and 34 touchdowns).

5. Corona Centennial (12-2)
Quarterback Hayden Gavett exceeded expectations in his first year as starter following Michael Eubank's graduation. Running back Romello Goodman finished seventh in rushing in the section.

6. San Clemente (12-2)
The Tritons reached the Pac-5 Division championship game but must replace Utah-bound quarterback Travis Wilson next season.

7. Mission Viejo (10-3)
Safety Max Redfield, one of the top defensive backs in the 2013 class, has already bagged an offer from USC. He'll draw plenty of interest next season.

8. Upland (12-1)
No matter what you call them -- the Highlanders or Scots -- Baseline League champion Upland has a good group returning, led by quarterback Nate Romine.

9. Oaks Christian (11-3)
The Lions could take the next step if quarterback Brandon Dawkins, only a sophomore, develops the way many expect him to.

10. St. Bonaventure (10-3)
The Seraphs finished in third place in the Marmonte League and will have to find replacements for leading offensive standouts Shaun Wick and Marc Evans.

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I.E.: The final Top 10

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
12:18
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Well, that’s a wrap on the 2011 high school football season. The Inland Empire is certainly more respected than ever for what it accomplished this fall, beating Pac-5 Division foes Mission Viejo, Alemany, Crespi, Loyola, Tesoro and Mater Dei. They also staged a few memorable matchups against each other, none better than Vista Murrieta’s 35-28 come-from-behind victory against defending champion Corona Centennial in the Inland Division championship game. Here’s a look at the final top 10 of the season.

1. Vista Murrieta, 9-5 – The Broncos went undefeated on the field, beating state-ranked J.W. North, Upland and Centennial in the final three rounds of the Inland Division playoffs. Vista Murrieta self-reported an ineligible player prior to Southwestern League play -- a player who would quickly become eligible --leading to the forfeiture of all five nonleague victories. Many believe the Broncos deserved a state bowl bid but were passed up in favor of two-loss Santa Margarita, largely due to their forfeits. Vista Murrieta will be an early favorite to make the trip next season, as its best player, running back/strong safety Su’a Cravens, is set to return, as well as quarterback Nicholas Stevens and middle linebacker Bryce Smith, the Inland Division’s leading tackler.

2. Corona Centennial, 12-2 – Before the season, Centennial coach Matt Logan said the Huskies would need four or five games to find their footing. Try six quarters. The Huskies won 12 straight after their season-opening loss to St. Bonaventure, all but one by a wide margin. They quickly developed chemistry between a veteran offensive line and first-year senior starters Hayden Gavett at quarterback and Romello Goodman at running back and churned out yardage like past seasons. They came up one drive short against Vista Murrieta, however.

3. Upland, 12-1 – For most of the season, the Highlanders seemed like the front runner to unseat Centennial, but they ran into the same Vista Murrieta storm as the Huskies and saw their run end with a 39-18 semifinal loss. Still, they opened plenty of eyes with a 38-23 nonleaguue victory against L.A. private-school power Loyola and another one-sided victory against Baseline League foe Rancho Cucamonga.

4. Rancho Cucamonga, 11-2 – With 14 starters back from a team that lost in double overtime of the 2010 Inland Division semifinals, the Cougars came into this season ranked No. 2 in the ESPNLA Inland Empire preseason rankings. They weren’t as prepared as Upland and lost that clash, but got off the mat to beat fourth-seeded Redlands East Valley in the Inland Division quarterfinals and then put a scare into top-seeded Centennial in the semis before ultimately losing, 41-21.

5. Redlands East Valley, 11-1 – Give the Wildcats credit for turning the national spotlight on the I.E. in Week 5 with their 10-7 victory against nationally ranked Mission Viejo. They went on to finish the regular season undefeated but fell back into their habit of losing early in the playoffs. A nonleague victory against City Section-power Dorsey also stands bright on their resume.

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ESPNLA prep football Top 25

December, 12, 2011
12/12/11
12:10
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LA PrepESPN.com Illustration

Shiny trophies were handed out to sectional champions, led by state-bowl selections Westlake (Northern Division) and Santa Margarita (Pac-5 Division). Harbor City Narbonne claimed the City Section Division I title, moving up to the No. 4 spot in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25 rankings. Our list heading into the state bowl games:

1. Westlake (14-0)
The Warriors won their second Northern Division championship in three years behind Dashon Hunt's five touchdowns. Westlake is going bowling. Last week: Beat Oaks Christian, 49-42. Next: Open Division state championship game vs. Concord De La Salle at Home Depot Center, Saturday, 8 p.m.

2. Vista Murrieta (9-5)#*
Junior quarterback Nicholas Stephens scored the Inland Division championship-winning touchdown with 26 seconds remaining. They were undefeated on the field, but they didn't get the nod for the Division I state bowl. Last week: Beat Corona Centennial, 35-28.

3. Santa Margarita (12-2)
Coach Harry Welch won his ninth overall championship and first with the Eagles. Quarterback Johnny Stanton had 240 total yards. The Eagles are heading to state. Last week: Beat San Clemente, 27-13. Next: Division I state championship game vs. San Jose Bellarmine at Home Depot Center, Friday, 8 p.m.

4. Narbonne (11-3)*
Emotional leader Tray Boone usually talks the talk, but he backed it up Friday with six touchdown runs and 316 total yards to lead the Gauchos to the City Section Division I title. Last week: Beat Carson, 48-32.

5. Corona Centennial (12-2)*
Quarterback Hayden Gavett and running back Romello Goodman finally ran into the team that could keep up. Last week: Lost to Vista Murrieta, 35-28.

6. Oaks Christian (11-3)*
The Lions were closer to Westlake this time around, but it still wasn't enough in the Northern Division championship game. Last week: Lost to Westlake, 49-42.

7. San Clemente (12-2)*
The Tritons had to settle for a pair of first-half field goals, and it was the difference at Angel Stadium. The Tritons could have put the Eagles on their heels. Last week: Lost to Santa Margarita, 27-13.

8. Mission Viejo (10-3)*
The South Coast League champions have Max Redfield coming back next year. He's projected as one of the top safeties on the West Coast.

9. Upland (12-1)*
Quarterback Nate Romine returns next year for the Baseline League champs.

10. St. Bonaventure (10-3)*
The third-place Seraphs must replace departing seniors Shaun Wick and Marc Evans.

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Inland: Vista Murrieta 35, Corona Centennial 28

December, 10, 2011
12/10/11
1:00
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MURRIETA -- Coming into the football season, there was no doubt where the strength lied on the Vista Murrieta football team. They had some jewels on the defensive side of the ball, but were young and inexperienced on offense.

They sure learn in a hurry.

The Broncos won a shootout, 35-28, against high-scoring Corona Centennial in the Inland Division championship game Friday night at Vista Murrieta High, scoring the winning touchdown on a 30-yard run by junior quarterback Nicholas Stevens with 26 seconds remaining.

The offense had grown so confident, they were begging coach Coley Candaele to pass on setting up for a field goal while trailing by a point in the final minute and go for the touchdown.

”We were setting up for a field goal, there was no doubt,” Candaele said. “The offensive guys were wanting to take shots and I was being conservative and wanted to put it in our kicker’s hands. They were playing for the pass too, and we got them on the run.”

Stevens faked a handoff then weaved through the defense en route to the biggest touchdown in school history.

“I just started running for my life,” he said. “Our goal was to get in field goal range, and the line blocked the play perfectly and the hole opened up.”

Stevens also threw two touchdown passes for the Broncos (9-5), who will wait until Sunday to hear whether they’ve been accepted for a state bowl bid next week at Home Depot Center. Vista Murrieta went undefeated on the field, but had to forfeit five nonleague game for using an ineligible player who was later granted a hardship waiver to continue playing.

“If they don’t choose us, then it’s wrong, just pure wrong,” Candaele said.

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Preview: Centennial at Vista Murrieta

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
6:46
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The CIF-Southern Section Inland Division championship game is upon us, and it couldn’t arrive soon enough. In a much-anticipated rematch of last season’s title game, Vista Murrieta is scheduled to host defending champion Corona Centennial on Friday at 8 p.m. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of what to look for and which team likely owns the edge.

Quarterback

Centennial senior Hayden Gavett had some big shoes to fill this season but has performed beyond expectations. He enters the game with 2,051 passing yards and 19 touchdowns, along with 1,009 rushing yards and 16 scores. Vista Murrieta junior Nicholas Stevens is another first-year starter who took over for a graduated Pac-12 Conference recruit. Stevens has shown great progress during the postseason and enters with 1,558 passing yards and 12 touchdowns, plus an additional 798 yards and eight scores on the ground. He has just one turnover in the last eight games. Advantage: Centennial.

Running back

It has been a while since the Inland Empire has seen a running back go on a postseason tear like Romello Goodman of Centennial. He has rushed for 993 yards and 15 touchdowns during the playoffs, eclipsing the 300-yard barrier in all three victories. He enters the game with 2,581 rushing yards, which betters the 15-game total of teammate Barrington Collins last season. He's tied with Collins with 42 touchdowns. The Broncos spread the ball around much more on offense. Stevens is always a threat to run, while Aaron Piecukonis is usually called on to get the tough yards early on. The big-play artist, goal-line specialist and late-game closer is Su’a Cravens, who has 14 touchdowns in 72 carries this season. Advantage: Centennial.

Receiver

Issac Crandall and Chase Krivashei have been the go-to guys when Centennial feels like throwing the ball. Crandall, a transfer from Roosevelt, has 33 receptions for 580 yards and eight touchdowns. Krivashei has caught 37 balls for 596 yards and six scores. The best receiver for Vista Murrieta is Cravens, but he can’t play everywhere so his opportunities are usually limited. Darion Williams is another skilled two-way player who uses his athleticism to make plays when needed, and Cody Piecukonis demonstrated his big-play abilities in a 39-18 semifinal victory last week against second-seeded Upland. Advantage: Vista Murrieta.

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I.E.: Boys' basketball Top 10

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
6:37
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With the boys' basketball season a week under way, some teams have already proved they're a force to be reckoned with, while a few others have started a step slow. Here's a look at the teams and players to watch in the coming months, and where you can see them play.

1. J.W. North, 4-0

The Huskies return their top two scorers from last season’s 19-11 team. Aaron Peck, a 6-4 senior forward, was an all-Division 2A selection after averaging a team-high 17.5 points and nine rebounds. He forms a dangerous trio up front with 6-5 junior forwards Marcus Baugh (10.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Dorian Butler (7.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg). Rancho Verde transfer DeShon Taylor, a sophomore guard, more than shores up the back court.

2. Etiwanda, 3-1

The Eagles graduated their top five scorers from last season’s team that advanced to the Division 1AA semifinals but should regroup well behind their next superstar, sophomore guard Jordan McLaughlin. The 5-11 ball handler scored 20 points Saturday night in a 72-61 loss to LaVerne Lutheran in the Rose City Classic championship game in Pasadena. Etiwanda will also count on 6-4 junior forward Sheldon Blackwell and 6-3 senior guard Dominique Walker.

3. Murrieta Valley, 5-0

The Nighthawks graduated their top two scorers from a team that finished 24-4 last season but appear to have filled the gaps in a hurray, evident by their 58-54 victory last weekend against Rancho Verde in the final of the Big Daddy tournament at Citrus Hill High. Darius Butler, a 6-3 senior forward, and Reid Shackelford, a 5-11 senior guard, appear willing and able to step into scoring roles. Butler is averaging 21 points through the first five games after averaging 8.7 last season, and Shackelford has bumped his scoring average up from 3.6 last season to 18.8. Jackson Helms, a 6-7 senior forward, is also rounding into one of the region’s better big men.

4. Rancho Verde, 3-1

Jordan Grace, a 6-2 senior guard, is a returning Division I-AA selection. He’ll team up nicely with 6-foot senior guard Kendall Schmidt, who transferred from Woodcrest Christian after averaging 25 points a game last season. Sophomore guards Jalen Hall and Tre Nottingham and 6-3 junior forward Lance Jones give the Mustangs additional depth, while 6-6 newcomer Khalil Fuller, the brother of Vanderbilt guard Kyle Fuller, will push to join the rotation.

5. Colony, 3-1

The Titans return their two best players from last season’s team, which finished 20-10, including 11-1 in the Mt. Baldy League, and advanced to the Division 2AA quarterfinals. Miles Poullard, a 6-2 senior guard, and Everett Turner, a 6-foot junior guard, were all-Division 2AA selections last season. With no player taller than 6-4 on the roster, the Titans will need to maintain an up-tempo pace to be successful.

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Corona Centennial blazing a familiar path

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
6:00
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LONG BEACH -- The drive to The Grand hotel should be a familiar one for Corona Centennial football coach Matt Logan, yet he might need a GPS the next time he makes the 40-mile trek.

“I think we’ve taken a different way every time,” he said Monday at the Southern Section football luncheon, an annual get-together that recognizes the teams that qualified for this weekend’s championship games.

The Huskies have had a table at the event seven of the last 12 years. They arrive so regularly, they might as well save their nameplate for next December.

This season’s group will travel to Vista Murrieta on Friday night for the Inland Division championship game. It’s a rematch of last season’s final, won by Centennial, 45-21. The top-seeded Huskies are 6-0 in section championships, but remain leery of an opponent that’s loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.

“They’re a very good team,” Logan said of the Broncos. “They’ve got some great athletes mixed in with what they do already. It’ll be a challenge for us.”

So far, the biggest obstacle for the Huskies has been themselves. Led by first-year starters at quarterback and running back, the offense faced some early adversity and a pinch of self doubt, but responded by scoring 41 points or more in the last 11 games.

Looking back, the turning point seems crystal clear.

After blowing a six-point halftime lead in the season opener and scoring just seven points in the second half of a 29-27 loss to visiting St. Bonaventure, the Huskies trailed Mater Dei by two touchdowns midway through the third quarter the following week, again with just seven points on the scoreboard.

The coaching staff looked at one another and just shook their heads.

“We were kind of at our wit’s end,” Logan said. “As coaches, we were like, ‘What are we doing here? It looks like we haven’t been practicing, or doing anything.’ "

But the Huskies finally found their rhythm behind quarterback Hayden Gavett and running back Romello Goodman and pulled out a 28-20 victory. The Huskies haven’t come close to losing since.

“In my mind, that was a complete turning point for us,” Logan said. “We mounted that comeback and things kind of clicked from there.”

Getting the mental part of the game under control was the biggest hurdle.

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ESPNLA prep football Top 25

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
11:40
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LA PrepESPN.com Illustration

Top-ranked Westlake rolled through Thousand Oaks to clinch its spot in the Northern Division championship game. Four new teams enter the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25 rankings this week, led by Carson, which upset top-seeded San Pedro in the City Section Division I semifinals. The Colts return to the title game after losing to Crenshaw last year. Ocean League champion Santa Monica lost to league rival Culver City -- the surprise of the playoffs -- and fell out. Our rankings heading into the championship round:

1. Westlake (13-0)
Quarterback Justin Moore and tailback Dashon Hunt encountered no problems, leading the Warriors to their largest margin of victory since September. Last week: Beat Thousand Oaks, 62-0. Next: Northern Division championship vs. Oaks Christian, Friday.

2. Corona Centennial (12-1)
What the 5-foot-5 Romello Goodman lacks in size he makes up for in speed. The tailback rushed for 248 yards and a pair of touchdowns to send the Huskies to another title game. Last week: Beat Rancho Cucamonga, 41-21. Next: Inland Division championship vs. Vista Murrieta, Friday.

3. Vista Murrieta (8-5)#
All units contributed Friday, with the Broncos getting scores on offense, defense and special teams. The versatile Su'a Cravens, an offensive hero the previous week, had four sacks. Last week: Beat Upland, 39-19. Next: Inland Division championship vs. Corona Centennial, Friday.

4. Santa Margarita (11-2)
Some job second-year coach Harry Welch has done. Quarterback Johnny Stanton capped the game-winning 70-yard drive with a late one-yard touchdown run. Last week: Beat Mission Viejo, 21-20. Next: Pac-5 Division championship vs. San Clemente at Angel Stadium, Saturday.

5. Oaks Christian (11-2)
The Lions erased a 10-point deficit to punch their ticket to the final. Oaks Christian captured the Northern Division crown last year with a one-point win over Westlake. Last week: Beat St. Bonaventure, 27-24. Next: Northern Division championship vs. Westlake, Friday.

6. San Clemente (12-1)
Senior Christian Tober scored three touchdowns Friday -- each of at least 70 yards -- helping the Tritons reach their first final since 1979. Last week: Beat Tesoro, 51-16. Next: Pac-5 Division championship vs. Santa Margarita at Angel Stadium, Saturday.

7. Narbonne (10-3)
The Gauchos made easy work of a very good defense to secure a spot in the title game for the third time in four years. Quarterback Troy Williams is hungry. Last week: Beat Dorsey, 41-7. Next: City Section Division I championship vs. Carson at East L.A. College, Friday.

8. Mission Viejo (10-3)*
A tough way for the Diablos to go out. The defense had a go-ahead 85-yard touchdown on a recovered fumble but couldn't make a stop in the final minutes. Quarterback Alex Bridgford wasn't able to manufacture the game-winning drive. Last week: Lost to Santa Margarita, 21-20.

9. Upland (12-1)*
It took a while, but the previously unbeaten Highlanders finally met their match. They were within two points at the break but numerous mistakes turned costly in the second half. Receiver Kenny Lawler won't soon be forgotten, though. Last week: Lost to Vista Murrieta, 39-18.

10. St. Bonaventure (10-3)*
The Seraphs at one point led by 10 despite the absence of quarterback Marc Evans, who did not play because of a shoulder injury. They got the ball back in the waning seconds but time ran out on the final punt return. Last week: Lost to Oaks Christian, 27-24.

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I.E.: The Top 10

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
11:15
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The finish line is near for the 2011 high school football season. The cream has risen to the top heading into the Southern Section finals this weekend, and the Inland Empire will be well represented in the three most high-profile divisions. Here’s another look at the top teams in the region.

1. (1) Corona Centennial, 12-1 – After rushing for more than 300 yards in the first two rounds of the Inland Division playoffs, Romello Goodman was held to 248 in a 41-21 semifinal victory Friday night against Rancho Cucamonga at Los Osos High. Next: At Vista Murrieta, Friday.

2. (3) Vista Murrieta, 8-5 – The third-seeded Broncos wilted second-seeded Upland with a relentless pass rush and big plays on offense and special teams, adding up to a 39-18 victory Friday night in the other Inland Division semifinal at Vista Murrieta. Next: vs. Centennial, Friday.

3. (2) Upland, 12-1 – The Highlanders ran into an opponent that wouldn’t budge on defense and wasn’t easy to take down with a ball in their hands. Still, they had a season to remember.

4. (4) Rancho Cucamonga, 11-2 – The Cougars did all they could to stop Centennial but simply didn’t have enough bodies. They should have one of the region's more stout defenses next season, however.

5. (5) Redlands East Valley, 11-1 – If the Inland Division gets a state bowl berth over the Pac-5 next week, they can thank the Wildcats for their regular-season victory against Mission Viejo.

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ESPN LA prep football Top 25

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
11:25
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LA PrepESPN.com Illustration

Servite's stunning second-round loss opened the door for a new No. 1 in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25. The Friars, who spent the entire season at the top spot, were one of eight ranked teams to lose Friday. Our rankings heading into Week 3 of the playoffs:

1. Westlake (12-0)
The Marmonte League champions slide into the No. 1 spot following Servite's loss. The Warriors are more than worthy of the ranking, touting an average margin of victory of nearly 33 points. Last week: Beat Hart, 42-14. Next: semifinals vs. Thousand Oaks, Friday.

2. Corona Centennial (11-1)
Running back Romello Goodman was unstoppable Friday, setting a school record with eight rushing touchdowns and accumulating 335 yards in 24 carries (14-yard average). Last week: Beat Chaparral, 56-21. Next: semifinals at Rancho Cucamonga, Friday.

3. Mission Viejo (10-2)
The second-seeded Diablos are the only seeded team remaining in the Pac-5 Division playoffs. Tailback Buzzy Yokoyama, who had four rushing touchdowns Friday, has been key down the stretch. Last week: Beat Huntington Beach, 41-31. Next: semifinals vs. Santa Margarita, Friday.

4. Vista Murrieta (7-5)*
Is there any debate on who the area's top junior is? Right now that title belongs to the versatile Su'a Cravens, who added to his lore Friday with three touchdowns and 205 rushing yards in only 10 carries. Last week: Beat J.W. North, 58-14. Next: semifinals vs. Upland, Friday.

5. Upland (12-0)
Lost in the continued success of running back Donta Abron and receiver Kenny Lawler is quarterback Nate Romine's efficiency. The junior passed for 291 yards in only 15 attempts in Friday's blowout. Last week: Beat Charter Oak, 51-13. Next: semifinals at Vista Murrieta, Friday.

6. Santa Margarita (10-2)
Quarterback Johnny Stanton took to the ground to help his team advance Friday. The Eagles, the only remaining Trinity League team, can avenge last year's second-round loss to the Diablos. Last week: Beat Long Beach Poly, 49-16. Next: semifinals at Mission Viejo, Friday.

7. Oaks Christian (10-2)
After seven touchdown passes from quarterback Brandon Dawkins on Friday, it's safe to say the Lions offense has a star in the making behind center. Dawkins, only a sophomore, is playing beyond his years. Last week: Beat Highland, 55-21. Next: semifinals at St. Bonaventure, Friday.

8. St. Bonaventure (10-2)
The quick-striking Seraphs scored two touchdowns in a 10-second span Friday to earn a rematch with Marmonte League runner-up Oaks Christian. They lost to the Lions by 12 on Sept. 23. Last week: Beat Canyon Country Canyon, 38-17. Next: semifinals vs. Oaks Christian, Friday.

9. San Clemente (11-1)
Utah-bound quarterback Travis Wilson ran for three scores and had 125 yards passing on the road, and the Tritons get another look at a familiar South Coast League foe. S.C. beat Tesoro by 25 on Nov. 10. Last week: Beat St. John Bosco, 42-24. Next: semifinals at Tesoro, Friday.

10. Rancho Cucamonga (11-1)
A safety and a short touchdown on a sneak by quarterback Dimitri Morales was all the Cougars needed Friday because, for once, it was the defense making the big plays. Last week: Beat Redlands East Valley, 9-6. Next: vs. Corona Centennial, Friday.

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I.E.: The Top 10

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
10:47
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The top three teams put up 50-plus points in their Inland Division second-round victories, while Rancho Cucamonga found a way to win with just nine. Should make for some interesting semifinal action in the Inland Division.

1. (1) Corona Centennial, 11-1 – Romello Goodman accomplished something no other Centennial running back has, scoring eight touchdowns in a 56-21 victory Friday night against visiting Chaparral in an Inland Division second-round game. Goodman has rushed for more than 300 yards in each of the playoff victories. Next: vs. Rancho Cucamonga at Los Osos HS, Friday.

2. (2) Upland, 12-0 – Upland wide receiver Kenny Lawler continues his postseason parade to the end zone, snaring three touchdown passes in a 51-13 victory Friday night against Charter Oak in the Inland Division. Lawler, who has committed to Arizona State, has five of his eight touchdowns this season in the playoffs. Next: at Vista Murrieta, Friday.

3. (3) Vista Murrieta, 7-5 – Su’a Cravens continues to show that the offensive side of the ball might just be his best side, rushing for a career-high 205 yards in 10 carries and scoring on three long touchdown runs to lead Vista Murrieta to a 58-13 victory Friday night against J.W. North in an Inland Division game at Riverside College. Next: vs. Upland, Friday.

4. (5) Rancho Cucamonga, 11-1 – The Cougars demonstrated they know a thing or two about defense too, holding fourth-seeded Redlands East Valley to two field goals in a 9-6 victory Friday night in an Inland Division game at Citrus Valley High. Next: vs. Corona Centennial at Los Osos HS, Friday.

5. (4) Redlands East Valley, 11-1 – Offense has been a question mark for most of the season and the fourth-seeded Wildcats didn’t have an answer for Rancho Cucamonga, suffering their third straight early-round playoff exit after going unbeaten in Citrus Belt League play.

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I.E.: Inland Division second-round previews

November, 23, 2011
11/23/11
7:04
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INLAND DIVISION

Second round, Friday

Chaparral (7-4) at No. 1 Corona Centennial (10-1), 7:30 p.m.

How they got here: Centennial defeated visiting Redlands, 49-35; Chaparral knocked off visiting Los Osos, 38-14.

Matchup to watch: Centennial running back Romello Goodman (1,913 rushing yards, 32 TDs) vs. Arizona State-bound strong safety Curtis Dozier of Chaparral (5.5 tackles per game).

Fast fact: This will be the ninth meeting between the teams since 2006. Centennial owns a 6-2 record against the Pumas, 2-2 in the postseason.

Prediction: Centennial 35, Chaparral 24.

Rancho Cucamonga (10-1) vs. No. 4 Redlands East Valley (11-0) at Citrus Valley HS, 7 p.m.

How they got here: Redlands East Valley beat visiting Norco, 20-15; Rancho Cucamonga edged visiting Chino Hills, 39-38.

Matchup to watch: Rancho Cucamonga offensive line (averages 300 pounds) vs. Redlands East Valley defensive line (averages 275 pounds).

Fast fact: The fathers of Rancho Cucamonga coach Nick Baiz and Redlands East Valley coach Kurt Bruich are also former longtime high school coaches in the area. Dick Bruich, who coached at Fontana and Kaiser, and Bob Baiz, who was at Claremont, teamed up last summer to coach in an inaugural SoCal vs. Arizona all-star game.

Prediction: Rancho Cucamonga 24, Redlands 21.

Charter Oak (10-1) at No. 2 Upland (11-0), 7:30 p.m.

How they got here: Upland routed visiting Murrieta Valley, 59-21; Charter Oak rolled visiting Corona Santiago, 63-21.

Matchup to watch: Upland 6-foot-3 wide receiver/defensive back Kenny Lawler (23.2 yards-per-catch average, five TDs last two games, three interceptions) vs. Charter Oak’s 5-8 wide receiver/defensive back Aaren Vaughns (59 receptions, 1,061 yards, 10 TDs, four interceptions).

Fast fact: Charter Oak’s only loss this season came against Rancho Cucamonga, 21-13, in Week 4. Upland beat the Cougars three weeks later in Baseline League play, 31-17.

Prediction: Upland 38, Charter Oak 28.

No. 3 Aaren Vaughns (6-5) vs. J.W. North (10-1) at Riverside College, 7:30 p.m.

How they got here: Vista Murrieta defeated Damien, 38-13; J.W. North knocked off Yucaipa, 27-13.

Matchup to watch: Vista Murrieta junior middle linebacker Bryce Smith (Inland Division-leading 13.5 tackles per game) vs. J.W. North rushing attack (213 yards per game).

Fast fact: J.W. North senior quarterback Justin Gheorghe is the only member of the football team who was also on the school’s Division 1 championship baseball team last June.

Prediction: Vista Murrieta 24, J.W. North 17.

Chaparral hopes to reel in Centennial

November, 22, 2011
11/22/11
9:41
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Hayden GavettCourtesy of Joe WheatCentennial quarterback Hayden Gavett will be one of many players Chaparral will need to slow to have a chance.

Redlands may have provided a blueprint on how to score against Corona Centennial but other than Mother Nature, nobody has designed a way to stop its offense in recent years.

The latest coach to inherit that challenge is Ryan Tukua of Chaparral, whose Pumas are preparing to play the top-seeded Huskies in an Inland Division second-round game Friday night at Centennial.

While watching tape of the Huskies’ 49-35 victory last week against Redlands, he nearly blistered his thumb hitting the pause button.

“Centennial did not get stopped one time on offense,” Tukua said. “It seemed like they’d score within two minutes of getting the ball.”

Of course, the Pumas (7-4) have a few things going for them; a solid defense, a defensive coordinator, Stan Hunt, who recently coached at Centennial (10-1) and a history of knocking the Huskies off their perch.

The teams first met five years ago, in the same round and the same spot of the Inland Division bracket. Centennial, undefeated and the top-seeded team at the time, had no answer for Chaparral running back Talmadge Jackson, who rushed for 313 yards and four touchdowns in the 42-28 upset.

Centennial eliminated the Pumas from the playoffs the next two seasons but Chaparral earned some payback in 2009. After upsetting top-seeded Redlands East Valley in the second round (the same spot of the bracket as this season), the Pumas beat Centennial in an overtime thriller, 43-35. They completed their magnificent playoff run with a 13-7 victory against Southwestern League rival Vista Murrieta in the championship game.

That was the last time the Pumas had anything to celebrate against Centennial, however. The teams have met in nonleague play the last two seasons, with Centennial winning by a combined score of 94-26.

(Read full post)

I.E.: And the winner is ...

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
6:26
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As we take the time to exhale in between the first and second rounds of the Southern Section football playoffs, let’s recognize a few of the award winners from Friday night’s opening rounds.

Best ending: On the verge of becoming the biggest upset victim of the first round, Rancho Cucamonga turned in the most improbable finish. Trailing by five points against Chino Hills in the Inland Division opener with just 6.6 seconds on the clock and 38 yards from the end zone, Marcus Bratton leaped in the air and hauled in a desperation touchdown pass to lift the Cougars to a 39-38 victory. Rancho Cucamonga drove 70 yards in the final 26 seconds. The Cougars survive to meet fourth-seeded Redlands East Valley in the second round Friday at 7 p.m. at Citrus Valley High School in Redlands.

Best individual performance: On a night when Corona Centennial’s defense was knocked on its heels, running back Romello Goodman came to the rescue, rushing for a career-high 325 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-35 victory against visiting Redlands. The top-seeded Huskies were clinging to a seven-point lead entering the final quarter of the Inland Division first-round game, but Goodman gave them some breathing room with his fifth touchdown of the game. Centennial will host Chaparral in the second round, a team that upset the Huskies two years ago on its way to winning the Inland Division championship.

Most surprising performance: Moreno Valley wasn’t expected to put up much of a fight against Cajon. After all, the Cowboys were the San Andreas League co-champions and were ranked No. 2 in the Central Division as recently as Week 7. Someone obviously forgot to pass that information along to the Vikings. Moreno Valley unleashed a heavy dose of senior running back Imeria Talia and never gave Cajon a chance in the 43-16 victory. Talia finished with 270 yards rushing in 40 carries and scored two touchdowns. He also helped keep the ball out of the hands of Cajon’s playmakers, limiting their first-half time of possession to 4 minutes 47 seconds while the Vikings built a 28-8 lead. Moreno Valley will host fourth-seeded Colony at 7 p.m. in Friday's second round.

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ESPNLA prep football Top 25

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
1:20
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LA PrepESPN.com Illustration

Mission League champion Gardena Serra, the top seeded team in the Western Division bracket, fell to Culver City in a shocker and dropped out of the ESPN Los Angeles prep football Top 25. Sunset League runner-up Huntington Beach makes its first appearance in the rankings after upsetting Loyola on the road. Our rankings heading into Week 2 of the playoffs:

1. Servite (10-1)
Coming off a thrilling victory in the Trinity League finale, the top-seeded Friars scored effortlessly on their first drive, then returned a blocked punt on special teams to put the opponent in an inescapable hole. Last week: Beat Long Beach Wilson, 41-3. Next: second round at Tesoro, Friday.

2. Westlake (11-0)
Another dominant performance by the top-seeded Warriors, who scored all of their points in the first half of Friday's first-round game. Justin Moore had four touchdown passes. Last week: Beat Eastside, 59-12. Next: second round vs. Hart at College of the Canyons, Friday.

3. Corona Centennial (10-1)
After leading by only seven heading into the fourth quarter, the top-seeded Huskies distanced themselves with two quick touchdowns. Tailback Romello Goodman reached the end zone five times. Last week: Beat Redlands, 49-35. Next: second round vs. Chaparral, Friday.

4. Long Beach Poly (10-1)
The Jackrabbits avoided a repeat of last year's first-round exit, scoring touchdowns on each of their first six drives. This is a different bunch. Last week: Beat Newport Harbor, 49-14. Next: second round vs. Santa Margarita at Veterans Stadium, Friday.

5. Redlands East Valley (11-0)
Austin Decoud found Zach Brown for the go-ahead 19-yard touchdown pass and the defense came up with a much-needed turnover late to avoid the upset. Last week: Beat Norco, 20-15. Next: second round vs. Rancho Cucamonga at site TBD, Friday.

6. Mission Viejo (9-2)
Running back Buzzy Yokoyama paced the second-seeded Diablos with 170 rushing yards and three first-half touchdowns Friday. The South Coast League champs have won five straight. Last week: Beat Long Beach Cabrillo, 51-22. Next: second round at Huntington Beach, Friday.

7. Vista Murrieta (6-5)*
Su'a Cravens had two touchdowns on offense and four sacks on defense Friday, showing once more why he's considered to be one of the top junior prospects in the Southland. Last week: Beat Damien, 38-13. Next: second round vs. J.W. North at Riverside CC, Friday.

8. Upland (11-0)
How about this for offensive efficiency: The Scots scored on each of their first eight possessions, and scored all but seven of their points before halftime. Last week: Beat Murrieta Valley, 59-21. Next: second round vs. Charter Oak, Friday.

9. Oaks Christian (9-2)
The starters were out by halftime but the damage had been done. Sophomore quarterback Brandon Dawkins shined in his first playoff action, throwing for 233 yards and two touchdowns and running for another score. Last week: Beat Mira Costa, 43-10. Next: second round at Highland, Friday.

10. Santa Margarita (9-2)
The Eagles led by only three points after three quarters but three fourth-quarter touchdowns sealed the deal. Quarterback Johnny Stanton's 272 total yards led the way. Last week: Beat Bishop Amat, 45-21. Next: second round vs. Long Beach Poly at Veterans Stadium, Friday.

(Read full post)

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