1. Mission Viejo is a better team when Tre Madden is on offense. The linebacker is no longer just a wildcat quarterback, but could be the quarterback, period. The Diablos like junior Alex Bridgford – and he's a terrific talent – but he doesn't make Mission's offense as dangerous as it is when Madden lines up at QB. He was three-for-three passing with all completions going for more than 20 yards, he squirmed away from would-be tacklers in the backfield and he threw on the run. Madden is a stud. Of course, the best thing about Mission is that it got duly tested and performed in the clutch. The Diablos fell behind in the fourth quarter, 20-17, the first time this season they have trailed that late in the game. After that, Mission attempted only one pass – by Madden, good for 27 yards to Frank Randal – which set up Dallas Kessman's one-yard run to retake the lead.
2. Really impressive that Servite scored so many points against Crespi. Most critics of the Friars point to their middling offense, so a 40-16 victory was definitely eye-opening. The Servite defense came through again with another strong performance as the Friars opened up a 33-0 lead in the third quarter before giving up a touchdown. And special teams continue to produce, this time London Lewis scoring a touchdown after Cameron Farrell blocked a punt. But the offensive production was stellar. Crespi had given up as many points only once this season, a 53-47 shootout over Taft. Two of Crespi's other three losses were by three points – to Compton Dominguez in the first game under newly hired coach Jon Mack's reign, and to Bishop Amat. The other was a 28-17 loss to third-seeded Alemany. In addition to Malik Felton's emergence as a game-changing back (he had 190 yards and TD runs of 20, 49 and 65 yards) junior quarterback Cody Pittman rushed for 77 yards and passed for 108.
3. What a great playoff series for the city of La Habra. The third-seeded Highlanders (9-3), after their 48-13 victory over Cypress (9-2), look like the team to beat behind QB Cody Clements, who had four TD passes against the Centurions. In the semifinals, the Highlanders will face another Freeway League team from within the city, Sonora (10-2), which put together a 20-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter capped by QB Zach Ouderkerken's one-yard run in a 27-20 upset of second-seeded Laguna Hills (11-1); the semifinal will be at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday. And a private school in La Habra, Whittier Christian (11-1), advanced to the semifinal round in the Mid-Valley Division with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a 28-17 victory over fourth-seeded Covina (11-1). Whittier Christian will play Village Christian (8-4) on Friday at Glendale HS.
4. What can you say about Garden Grove, which is making another run at the Southern Division title game. The top-seeded Argonauts (11-1) won their quarterfinal against Woodbridge 65-43. Josh Webb rushed 21 times for 285 yards, had 37 yards receiving and 26 passing. He scored on runs of 71, 1, 54, and 1 yard, and outdueled Woodbridge's Jalen Craver, who scored on runs of 47, 75, 6, and 25 yards. Most nights, if a guy gains 163 yards and scores four touchdowns his team goes home happy; this time, Woodbridge (6-5-1) simply goes home for the winter. Grove plays Northwood (8-3-1) on Friday, and in the other half of the bracket, Beckman (7-5) beat third-seeded Loara, 59-42. If Craver thought he got the short stick, just imagine Loara QB Howard Gauta, who passed for 311 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 158 yards and five touchdowns in a losing effort for the Saxons (10-2). Beckman, which got 315 yards rushing from Jeff Kim, is headed to the semifinals for the first time and will play Corona del Mar (10-1-1) on Saturday.
5. Major props to El Toro for giving Tustin (11-1) all it could handle. The Chargers were beaten in the quarterfinals, 24-17, but led 17-16 going into the fourth quarter. No one outside of Lake Forest could have guessed that was coming. How close was El Toro coming to posting an upset? The Chargers threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter that hurt their chances. One of those interceptions was returned by Treshon Broughton to the El Toro 21-yard line, setting up a short game-winning drive for the Tillers as Diego Mendoza did the honors from five yards. They may not have won, but El Toro (6-6) gained a lot of credibility in defeat.