Los Angeles Preps: Norco

NorcoMartin Henderson/For ESPNLA.comNorco, ranked No. 1 in the nation by ESPN HS, won the CIF-SS Division 1 title Saturday.

IRVINE -- Every champion deserves a worthy rival, and Norco has Corona Santiago. The two powers from the Big VIII League have engaged in countless battles over the years, and have combined for six Southern Section championships since 1998.

The seventh championship belonged to Norco, which made plays, got key hits and clutch pitching to score a 6-4 victory Saturday to win the Division 1 championship at Barber Park.

The championship is Norco's third, to go with season-ending victories in 2003 and 2009, in which it beat Santiago. It also capped a season in which the Cougars will finish as the No. 1 team in the nation.

Santiago (23-10), which upset Garden Grove Pacifica -- while it was No. 2 in the nation at the time -- was trying to win its second championship in a row. It also won titles in 1998, 2004 and 2006.

Santiago appeared to be out of the game, but scored four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to pull to 6-4.

"They're a great opponent," said Norco coach Rick Robinson. "We had a 6-0 lead and I told them to play like it was 0-0.

"I was concerned the entire time."

The tying run was at the plate when the game ended, on Yvon Minogue's line drive back at pitcher Emily Lockman. The Nebraska recruit speared the ball and history.

"It's just really awesome to know I helped my team, I gave 100 percent and in the end we won."

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When the Southern Section released its softball playoff pairings on Monday, only one Orange County softball team was seeded No. 1. It was Mission Viejo, which earned the prime location atop the Division 2 playoffs. The Diablos will open the playoffs in the first round on Thursday with a game against West Covina, which won a wild-card game to get into the bracket.

(At the bottom of the blog is a look at all seeded teams in softball)

Yet most of the Orange County representation was in Division 1, where Garden Grove Pacifica (26-2) was seeded No. 2, Orange Lutheran (25-4) was No. 3, and Los Alamitos (22-6) was No. 4. The top-seeded team was Norco (26-2), which has a victory over Pacifica but a loss to OLu.

Orange County teams went 3-1 in wild-card games on Tuesday, including Fullerton Rosary's 2-1 victory over Fountain Valley in nine innings. That moves Rosary (18-11) into the first round against Pacifica (26-2), and we can't help but think that it will make the Mariners grimace a little; Rosary has a tendency to play David to other teams' Goliath. It has three victories in the last dozen years over a team ranked No. 1 in the nation. The last time it happened was 2010 when the Royals took out top-seeded Corona Santiago in the first round. Pacifica, by the way, was No. 1 nationally as late as a week ago (more about that later) but are currently No. 2 -- behind Norco in the ESPNHS rankings.

Led by junior third baseman and St. John's commit Kaitlin Fitzgerald (.475, 4 HR), whose 32 RBIs is one shy of the school record set by Katie Chifcian in 2005, Rosary has not been shut out this season, and it has scored at least two runs in 23 games. As for Pacifica, it has won 14 games by shutout, but is coming off a season-ending 1-0 loss to Cypress. The Mariners, who also flex plenty of offense (25 games in which they have scored at least two runs) are led by young pitchers, sophomore Kaylee Carlson (who had perfect game through 19 batters against Cypress) and freshman Kaley Winegarner (who had a no-hitter in her last outing).

Make no mistake, Pacifica didn't draw the second-worst team in the playoffs as a first-round opponent.

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There hasn't been anything dull about the 25th Michelle Carew Classic in Anaheim Hills. The final four teams are set, and they are not only explosive, but they have provided some major fireworks in the early rounds.

Orange Lutheran defeated Norco on the tournament's opening day. Norco was ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and in the nation by ESPNHS. The Lancers, who scored a 2-1 victory on Heather Hall's two-out bad-hop single in the bottom of the seventh inning, had been ranked No. 4 by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 15 in the nation but went into the tournament with a two-game losing streak.

Garden Grove Pacifica, ranked No. 2 in the state and 5 in the nation, reached the semifinals by slapping a mercy rule on perennial power Valencia, 9-1, behind Kaylee Carlson's pitching and two RBIs apiece from Rebecca Lee, Kelsey Choate, Kristina Akiona and Ruby Rivera.

Los Alamitos defeated Sacramento Sheldon, which is ranked No. 9 in the state. Los Al is ranked No. 20 in the state and scored a 3-0 victory behind Mattie Scheele's three-run homer and Halle Humphrey's three-hitter.

Anaheim Canyon is in the semifinals despite coming into the tournament with five losses.

The semifinals are set for Peralta Park. Los Alamitos (13-4) plays OLu (19-3) at 12:45 p.m., and Canyon (10-5) plays Pacifica (17-1) at 1 p.m. The title game is at 7:30 p.m.

Foothill girls hold off Norco in 2A

March, 1, 2012

ANAHEIM -- Molly Greubel was oozing with confidence during crunch time Thursday night.

The top-seeded Foothill girls’ basketball team was trying to hold off a late run by Norco in the Southern Section Division 2A championship game. Instead of burning off precious seconds in the closing minutes, Greubel sank a pair of pull-up jumpers early in the shot clock that clinched the 54-43 victory at the Anaheim Convention Center Arena.

“I was feeling confident about my shot,” said the UC Davis-bound guard. “They went into a box-and-one [defense] on me and I realized I really wasn’t getting any open looks, and I knew if we were going to win the fourth quarter I had to put up some numbers.”

Greubel’s biggest baskets of the game came on consecutive possessions late in the fourth.

Norco had cut a 20-point halftime deficit to 11 at the start of the final quarter and then whittled it to seven on a layup by Daleano Arguello with three minutes left. Greubel answered with a pull-up jumper. After the Cougars made one of two free throws on the other end with 2:43 remaining, Greubel sank a pull-up 3-pointer from the top of the key to extend the lead back to double digits.

“If they leave me open I’m pretty confident in my shot at that point,” she said. “I knew I wasn’t going to have that much opportunity if we got set up because they were on me pretty good.”

Greubel finished with 15 points before fouling out with 1:35 remaining. Foothill junior guard Hailey James scored a game-high 19, including 10 in the final quarter.

Norco, which finished sixth in the Big VIII League and was seeded 10th in the tournament before making its playoff run, made just 1 of 11 shots in the opening quarter while falling behind, 20-4.

“I’m not sure if it was Foothill we were afraid of, as much as it could have been the game itself,” said Norco coach Rick Thompson. “The game was just a little big for us in the first quarter.”

Big VIII, Mojave River, Mt. Baldy

January, 4, 2012

Where they stand: Each team played a league game in mid-December. They resume play tonight with the following schedule: J.W. North @ Corona Centennial; Corona Santiago @ Norco; Corona @ Riverside King; Roosevelt @ Riverside Poly.

Last year’s finish: Centennial (14-0); Roosevelt (12-2); Corona (8-6); J.W. North (7-7); Santiago (6-8); Poly (5-9); King (3-11); Norco (1-13).

Players to watch: Aaron Peck (J.W. North), 6-4, Sr., F; Dorian Butler (J.W. North), 6-5, Jr., F; Marcus Baugh (J.W. North), 6-5, Jr., F; Deshon Taylor (J.W. North), 6-0, So., G; Sam Finley (Centennial), 6-2, Jr., G; Sedrick Barefield (Centennial), 6-0, Fr., G; Dorion Barnett (Santiago), 6-3, Jr., F; Alex Blumenfeld (Santiago), 6-0, Sr., G; Marcos Hazelwood (Corona), 6-1, Sr., F; Jeremiah Abdelmeesh (Norco), 6-2, Sr., F; Kendall Brown (Roosevelt), 6-4, Sr., G; Jalen Young (Roosevelt), 6-5, Sr., G; Shawn Joseph (Roosevelt), 6-3, Sr., G; Noah Prouse (Poly), 6-6, Sr., F; Jeff Gonzalez (Poly), 6-6, Sr., F; Brandon Pippenger (King), 6-8, Sr., C; Nikko Turner (King), 5-8, Sr., G; Mark Wilson (King), 6-0, Sr., G.

Predicted order of finish: J.W. North, King, Poly, Centennial, Corona, Roosevelt, Santiago, Norco.


Where they stand: Already tightly bunched after a handful of MRL games in mid-December, league play resumes tonight with Oak Hills @ Hesperia and Apple Valley @ Sultana. Serrano plays Friday @ Hesperia.

Last year’s finish: Sultana (10-2); Oak Hills (9-3); Hesperia (5-7); Serrano (6-7); Apple Valley (1-11).

Players to watch Daaron Flagg (Sultana), 6-4, Sr., G; Robmar Porter (Sultana), 6-4, Sr., F; Brian Enriquez (Sultana), 6-2, So., G; Chrishtian Buttler (Sultana), 5-9, Sr., G, Denzel McCloney (Serrano), 6-0, Sr., G; Timmall Thomas (Serrano), 5-10, Jr., G; Daniel Davis (Oak Hills), 6-4, Sr., F; J.T. Roach (Apple Valley), 6-3, Jr., F.

Predicted order of finish: Sultana, Oak Hills, Serrano, Apple Valley, Hesperia.


Where they stand: Half the teams got a head start on league play before the holidays. They all play Friday night, with Don Lugo @ Colony, Chino @ Chaffey and Garey @ Montclair.

Last year’s finish: Colony (11-1); Montclair (10-2); Ontario (8-5); Don Lugo (7-5); Garey (4-8); Chino (1-11); Chaffey (1-11).

Players to watch: Miles Poullard (Colony), 6-2, Sr., G; Everett Turner (Colony), 6-0, Jr., G; Devyn Sampson (Montclair), 6-3, Sr., G; Bobby Talamantes (Montclair), 5-9, Sr., G; Jody Smith (Montclair), 6-1, Jr., G; Marciano Rogers (Ontario), 6-3, Sr., G; Devonte Turner (Ontario), 6-3, Sr., G; Eric Ortiz (Ontario), 6-1, Sr., G; Josh Thompson (Don Lugo), 6-4, Sr., G; Jon Garnica (Chino), 6-1, Sr., G.

Predicted order of finish: Colony, Montclair, Ontario, Don Lugo, Chino, Garey, Chaffey.

Up next: Baseline, Mountain Pass and Southwestern leagues.

I.E.: The final Top 10

December, 19, 2011
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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Inland: No. 5 Redlands East Valley 20, Norco 15

November, 18, 2011

REDLANDS -- No matter how difficult the challenge appeared heading into the Southern Section Inland Division first-round game Friday night, Norco wasn't about to go down easy.

Despite finishing fourth in the Big VIII League and getting blown out last week in the regular-season finale, the Cougars had not lost a first-round playoff game since 2002, holding a 20-6 record in the postseason over the previous eight years.

But the fourth-seeded Redlands East Valley football team also had something to prove and they showed their resiliency with a second-half comeback and late fumble recovery, which sealed a 20-15 victory against Norco at Redlands High.

The Wildcats (11-0) certainly did their part to keep the game close, losing three fumbles in the second half.

“If you can’t play mistake-free football, then it’s going to get ugly,” said Redlands East Valley coach Kurt Bruich. “Thank God we’re not turning our gear in.”

The Cougars (6-5) were able to capitalize on the first turnover by REV, scoring on a 13-yard run by junior running back Joseph Ajeigbe, who then converted the two-point conversion for a 15-14 lead with 7:46 remaining in the third quarter.

Facing its most precarious moment, a third and eight from its own 38-yard line, REV quarterback Austin Decoud found Jesse Riley for a 41-yard completion to the Norco 21.

“I knew we needed to get the first,” Decoud said. “I was getting ready to take a hit, but I knew I had to get the ball off, so I let it go and I knew he was going to be there.”

Two plays later, Decoud hit Zach Brown in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown pass and a 20-15 lead. Decoud could not convert the two-point run, but the Wildcats were back in front.

REV turned the ball over twice more in the second half but Norco was unable to convert. The Cougars started their final possession on their own 27-yard line with 3:17 remaining and crossed midfield just over a minute later, but Ajeigbe fumbled and REV linebacker Dylan Moi recovered on his own 42 with 1:56 remaining.

The Wildcats were glad to get the victory but were hardly celebrating their performance. In addition to the turnovers, they also lost starting right tackle Nelson Goins to a knee injury and starting running back Taylor Thompson was limited by a strained hamstring.

“What’s irritating to me is, when our kids have to step on the gas, they do, but tonight they didn’t want to keep going,” Bruich said.

Norco outside linebacker Scott Starr played his final high school game before he's set to continue his career next season at USC. He recovered one of the fourth-quarter fumbles and sacked Decoud but could only watch from the sideline as the Cougars committed four turnovers.

“It just came down to execution,” he said. “We all played our tails off tonight.”

Unfortunately, the Wildcats are the ones still wagging theirs.

Inland Division first-round previews

November, 17, 2011

First round, Friday

Redlands (4-6) at No. 1 Corona Centennial (9-1), 7:30 p.m.

How they got here: Centennial won the Big VIII League championship; Redlands finished third in the Citrus Belt League:

Matchup to watch: Redlands junior running back Craig Lee (142-1,353, 15 TDs) vs. Centennial linebacker Edem Nassar (8.5 tackles per game).

Fast fact: Centennial has won six Southern Section titles since 2000.

Prediction: Centennial 49, Redlands 21.

Los Osos (6-4) at Chaparral (6-4), 7:30 p.m.

How they got here: Chaparral finished runner-up in the Southwestern League; Los Osos finished third in the Baseline League.

Matchup to watch: Arizona State-bound offensive tackle Dylan LaFrenz of Los Osos (6-4, 280) vs. Chaparral defensive end Teddy Queen (6-3, 240).

Fast fact: The last time these teams met was in the second round of the 2007 playoffs, when Chaparral kicked a 27-yard field goal with a little more than a minute remaining, leading to an ugly shouting match between a few Los Osos coaches and fans.

Prediction: Chaparral 24, Los Osos 20.

Chino Hills (6-4) vs. Rancho Cucamonga (9-1) at Los Osos HS, 7 pm.

How they got here: Rancho Cucamonga finished second in the Baseline League; Chino Hills finished runner-up in the Sierra League.

Matchup to watch: Chino Hills junior receiver Jack Austin (45-726, 10 TDs) vs. Rancho Cucamonga secondary (five interceptions).

Fast fact: Rancho Cucamonga is 8-2 in the playoffs over the last three seasons.

Prediction: Rancho Cucamonga 31, Chino Hills 14.

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I.E.: The Top 10

November, 13, 2011
The regular season came to a close last weekend and the top teams retained their momentum heading into the Southern Section playoffs. Another undefeated team makes its debut in the top 10, but it’s one-loss Corona Centennial that remains the team to beat.

1. (1) Corona Centennial, 9-1 – Hayden Gavett passed for a career-high 356 yards, all in the first half, in a 58-3 victory Thursday against Riverside King. Believe it or not, he was out-shined by King kicker Garrett Swanson, who booted a 60-yard field goal to become the first I.E. kicker to hit from that distance. Next: vs. Redlands, Friday.

2. (2) Upland, 10-0 – The Highlanders began looking forward to the playoffs at halftime, as they led Alta Loma, 42-3, before finishing off with a 49-3 victory Thursday night. Ten different players carried the ball for Upland. Next: vs. Murrieta Valley, Friday.

3. (3) Vista Murrieta, 5-5 – The Broncos bucked off Murrieta Mesa in a 51-20 victory Thursday night, but now the defense has some question marks after allowing 20 or more points for the fifth time this season. Next: vs. Damien, Friday.

4. (4) Redlands East Valley, 10-0 – The Wildcats appear to be rolling on all cylinders after defeating Yucaipa, 48-0, in a matchup of undefeated teams Thursday night. REV scored all its points in the first half. Next: vs. Norco, Friday.

5. (5) Rancho Cucamonga, 9-1 – The Cougars scored 31 consecutive points after giving up the first touchdown Thursday night against Los Osos and went on to win, 38-14, to secure second place in the Baseline League. Next: vs. Chino Hills, Friday.

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CIF-SS playoffs: Inland Division

November, 13, 2011
CIF-SS playoffs:
Inland Division
No surprise which is the team to beat in this division. Since its season-opening loss to St. Bonaventure and a come-from-behind win against Mater Dei in Week 2, Corona Centennial has put up 45 points or more in its last eight victories, all of which were over by halftime. The Huskies will need to weed their way through a handful of undefeated and one-loss teams to win a second consecutive Inland Division title. Here’s a breakdown of the division:

The seeds: No. 1 Corona Centennial, No. 2 Vista Murrieta, No. 3 Upland, No. 4 Redlands East Valley.

Best first-round matchup: Norco (6-4) at Redlands East Valley (10-0) -- Based on postseason history, this game can go either way. Norco is 20-6 in the playoffs over the last eight seasons and never lost in the first round in that span. Redlands East Valley, meanwhile, has struggled to get deep into the postseason, evident by its first-round exit last season after winning the Citrus Belt League title.

Toughest road: Vista Murreta (5-5) -- The Southern Section didn’t punish Vista Murrieta in the seeding order because of its five nonleague forfeits for using an ineligible player, but the second-seeded Broncos will likely face the toughest second-round opponent of any of the top four seeds. J.W. North (9-1) is coming off a 45-15 victory against Norco in the Big VIII League finale and also owns a victory this season against Alemany, the Serra League champion.

Potential shocker: Murrieta Valley at Upland, first round -- It’s easy for a team to get caught looking ahead when they have their sights on a bigger prize. Murrieta Valley is no pushover, however, losing by just nine points to Vista Murrieta two weeks ago. The third-seeded Highlanders need to play as if they deserved the second seed and they should do fine.

Darkhorse: Rancho Cucamonga (9-1) -- The Cougars have been laying low this season. They didn’t post a big-time victory but did beat Sierra League champion Charter Oak in nonleague play. Rancho Cucamonga also has a number of players back from last season’s team that lost to Vista Murrieta in the double overtime of the Inland Division semifinals.

Final analysis: The seeding committee dropped the ball by seeding Upland behind Vista Murrieta. Perhaps they took into account that Vista Murrieta beat Crespi, Upland beat Loyola and Crespi then beat Loyola, but Vista Murrieta has had issues on offense all season and now its defense appears to be springing leaks, allowing 58 points in the last three games.

Championship prediction: Upland vs. Corona Centennial – A number of teams with shiny records stand in the way of Corona Centennial winning a second consecutive Inland Division title, but in reality only Upland has what it takes on both sides of the ball to stay with the Huskies. Redlands East Valley and Vista Murrieta don’t appear to have enough talent on offense to win a shootout with Centennial, and J.W. North has some holes on defense that the Huskies have already exploited in a 52-34 victory during Big VIII League play, a final score that was much closer than the competition. If the Huskies can continue to get solid play from quarterback Hayden Gavett and running back Romello Goodman, and avoid any soggy conditions that hampered them in the state championships last season, they should make it to the end. Corona Centennial 42, Upland 35.

Link to the Inland Division bracket on CalPreps.com

No. 24 J.W. North 45, Norco 14

November, 11, 2011

NORCO -- The route Justin Gheorghe takes to the end zone isn’t always pretty but it’s usually the most efficient.

The senior quarterback for J.W. North was at his best Friday night in a Big VIII League finale against Norco, throwing four touchdown passes and running for two more in a 45-14 victory at Norco High.

“Sometimes you want to choke him to death, and other times you just kind of shake your head in wonderment,” said J.W. North coach Mark Paredes. “I don’t think he was sharp tonight in our passing game, but he sure makes plays.”

Gheorghe now has 27 touchdown passes this season and has been intercepted just twice.

“The key has been making my reads,” said Gheorghe, a 6-foot senior left-hander who was a member of J.W. North's Division 1 championship baseball team last June.

Heading into the game, the Huskies (9-1, 6-1) had all but sewn up the league’s runner-up spot behind Corona Centennial, and Norco was destined to finish fourth and grab the final playoff berth into the Southern Section Inland Division playoffs beginning next week.

Norco (6-4, 4-3) played as if it had nothing to aim for, getting outscored, 31-0, in the first half.

“We came out lethargic because we already knew we had a spot in the playoffs,” said Norco running back Joseph Ajeigbe, who was held under 100 yards rushing for just the second time this season. “We didn’t come out with the intensity we should have. North came out better prepared. They’re a really good team.”

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I.E.: The Top 10

November, 6, 2011
The Inland Empire top 10 went unbeaten last week. In fact, nine teams won by at least 20 points and seven clinched at least a share of a league championship.

1. (1) Corona Centennial, 8-1 – The Huskies faced an injury-depleted Roosevelt team Friday night and didn’t show any mercy in the 45-24 victory, which all but sewed up another outright Big VIII League title. Next: at Riverside King, Thursday.

2. (2) Upland, 9-0 – The Highlanders found themselves tied late in the second quarter Friday against Los Osos, then stepped on the gas and scored five consecutive touchdowns in the 49-21 victory, clinching at least a share of the Baseline League title. Next: vs. Alta Loma, Thursday.

3. (3) Vista Murrieta, 4-5 – The Broncos also wrapped up at least a share of the Southwestern League title and a likely top four seeding for the Inland Division playoffs with a 23-14 victory against Murrieta Valley. Next: vs. Murrieta Mesa, Thursday.

4. (4) Redlands East Valley, 9-0 – The Wildcats finally put some distance between themselves and their opponent in a 49-0 victory Friday against Fontana. Now they need to prepare for another tough battle in their Citrus Belt League finale. Next: at Yucaipa, Thursday.

5. (5) Rancho Cucamonga, 8-1 – Dimitri Morales and Jermel Walker hooked up on two long touchdown passes Friday night in a Baseline League game against Glendora, and the Cougars needed every yard in the 34-13 victory. Next: at Los Osos, Thursday.

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I.E.: The Top 10

October, 30, 2011
There was no letting up for the top seven teams in last week’s rankings, but there was some turnover at the bottom. Two additional undefeated teams make their debut after winning key league games last week. Meanwhile, a Big VIII League team dropped out of the top 10 for the second consecutive week.

1. (1) Corona Centennial, 7-1 – For the third consecutive game, the Huskies punted the ball just once, and for the sixth straight game they scored at least 48 points in a 49-6 victory Friday at Corona. Next: vs. Roosevelt, Friday.

2. (2) Upland, 8-0 – Upland fullback/defensive lineman Christian Powell landed a scholarship offer from Washington last week, then went out Friday night and scored a touchdown on both offense and defense in a 49-3 victory against Glendora at Citrus College. Next: vs. Los Osos, Friday.

3. (3) Vista Murrieta, 3-5 – The Broncos forfeited five games last week for using an ineligible player but returned to winning games on the field in a 45-24 victory Friday against Great Oak. Su’a Cravens rushed for three touchdowns in the victory. Next: vs. Murrieta Valley, Friday.

4. (4) Redlands East Valley, 8-0 – The Wildcats had five more sacks in a 34-14 victory Friday against Eisenhower, raising their season total to 23. REV surged to a 27-0 halftime lead. Next: vs. Fontana at Citrus Valley HS, Friday.

5. (5) Rancho Cucamonga, 7-1 – The Cougars returned two kickoffs for touchdowns Friday in a 30-27 victory against Etiwanda, the second coming by Chris Hawkins with 3:30 remaining, providing Rancho Cucamonga its final three-point edge. Next: vs. Glendora at Los Osos HS, Friday.

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I.E.: The Top 10

October, 23, 2011
Two ranked teams dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten last weekend and another needed overtime to keep its perfect record intact. Nine unbeaten teams remain in all from the Inland, Central and Eastern divisions, including one top 10 newcomer.

1. (1) Corona Centennial, 6-1 – The Huskies passed their final true test of the regular season with flying colors Friday night, using the tandem of quarterback Hayden Gavett and running back Romello Goodman to dismantle Norco, 45-18. Next: at Corona, Friday.

2. (2) Upland, 7-0 – The Highlanders once again proved they might be the only Inland Division team capable of staying with Centennial come playoff time, delivering another solid all-around performance in a 31-17 victory Friday against visiting Rancho Cucamonga. Next: vs. Glendora at Citrus College, Friday.

3. (5) Vista Murrieta, 7-0 – The Broncos are another team that has the defense to compete with anyone in the Inland Division, they just need to find a bit more offense. They held Temecula Valley to 64 total yards Friday night in a 41-3 victory. Next: at Great Oak, Friday.

4. (3) Redlands East Valley, 7-0 – The Wildcats had to rally late against Redlands to avoid being part of the second-biggest upset in the Inland Empire this season. They scored a touchdown with five minutes remaining Friday to tie Redlands and then won in overtime, 21-14. Next: at Eisenhower, Friday.

5. (4) Rancho Cucamonga, 6-1 – The Cougars finally got a chance to play a top 25 opponent and they likely learned a few things in the 31-17 loss to Upland. Mainly, win the turnover battle and you have a much better chance to win the game. Next: vs. Etiwanda at Los Osos, HS, Friday.

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I.E.: Games of the Week

October, 19, 2011
It’s rivalry week in the Inland Empire. The Baseline, Big VIII and Citrus Belt leagues feature matchups involving teams that have spent the last decade hammering away at each other. While some of these rivalries have turned into one-sided affairs in recent years, it’s tough to predict which way they’ll turn once the teams step between the lines.


(Inland Empire top 10 rankings included)

No. 9 Rancho Cucamonga (6-0, 1-0) at No. 12 Upland (6-0, 1-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – This has been one of the more even rivalries over the years and another tight one is expected Friday night. Rancho Cucamonga has won four straight close games against the Highlanders, including a victory in the 2008 Central Division finals, but Upland is a slight favorite this time around. The Highlanders earned that distinction with an impressive win three weeks ago against visiting Loyola, while Rancho Cucamonga has spent the first six weeks steamrollering mostly mediocre opponents. The key matchup will be Upland’s offensive line and fullback Christian Powell against a defense led by linebacker Viliami Latu, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior. Offensively, the Cougars also need to be on the lookout for Powell, who leads the Inland Division with nine sacks.

Calpreps.com computerized projection: Upland 31, Rancho Cucamonga 24

ESPNLA: Rancho Cucamonga 28, Upland 24


Norco (4-2, 2-1) at No. 4 Corona Centennial (5-1, 3-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – For the second consecutive season this rivalry has lost some of its luster due to an early loss by Norco in Big VIII League play. The Cougars were upended by Corona Santiago two weeks ago, the second time this season they've allowed 49 or more points in a game. That’s not good news against an offense as unrelenting as Centennial’s, which has scored at least 48 points in four straight. Norco will need to find a way to keep the ball out of Centennial’s hands for as long as possible. Don’t be surprised if the Cougars go for it on fourth down at midfield, or try an onside kick the first time they have the opportunity.

Calpreps.com: Centennial 44, Norco 21

ESPNLA: Centennial 56, Norco 28

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