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Inland Empire: Southern Section playoff rundown for I.E. teams

11/14/2010

INLAND DIVISION

Seeded teams:

1. Corona Centennial; 2. Vista Murrieta; 3. Rancho Cucamonga; 4. Chino Hills

At-large selection:

None

Best first-round game:

Temecula Chaparral (4-6) at Upland (7-3) – Chaparral is the defending Inland Division champion, while Upland won the Central Division title last season. Chaparral was the preseason favorite to repeat, but a 1-5 start ending any discussion of that. Still, the Pumas tend to get better as the season rolls along.

Best potential second-round game:

Vista Murrieta (9-1) at Norco (8-2) – Both of these teams should survive the first round to create a semifinal-type second-round matchup. Norco’s upset loss to Eastvale Roosevelt on Oct. 8 ultimately dropped them into third place and created this nightmare matchup for Southwestern League champ Vista Murrieta.

Prediction:

Corona Centennial should walk through this division, especially with either Vista Murrieta or Norco getting knocked off in the second round. Corona Centennial 56, Norco 7.

CENTRAL DIVISION

Seeded teams:

1. Moreno Valley Rancho Verde; 2. Palm Springs; 3. Riverside Arlington; 4. La Quinta

At-large selection:

Coachella Valley (6-4) couldn’t beat the big three (Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta) in the Desert Valley League, but the Arabs were the only at-large eligible team with a winning record.

Best first-round game:

Palm Desert (6-4) at San Bernardino San Gorgonio (6-4) – San Gorgonio has won six straight after beginning the season with four consecutive losses to finish runner-up in the San Andreas League. Palm Desert was ranked as high as No. 3 in this division before getting blown out by Fontana Kaiser and then losing Desert Valley League showdowns against Palm Springs (21-9) and La Quinta (28-13).

Best potential second-round game:

Arlington (8-2) vs. San Bernardino Cajon (8-2) – Should both teams win their first-round games as expected, a coin flip will decide who gets home field and that could be the difference in this one. Cajon has won seven straight. Interestingly, Arlington was shut out by La Quinta in Week 3, but still received the higher seeding.

Prediction:

Rancho Verde (10-0) has benefitted from a fairly light schedule to get through the regular season undefeated, but the Mustangs have the talent and motivation to run through this division pretty easily. Rancho Verde 34, Palm Springs 20.

EASTERN DIVISION

Seeded teams:

1. Fontana Kaiser; 2. Phelan Serrano; 3. Romoland Heritage; 4. Elsinore.

At-large selection:

Victorville Silverado (5-4-1) received the nod over San Jacinto (7-3) for the lone at-large berth. San Jacinto had a better record, but Silverado played a stronger nonleague schedule. Among its victories was a 20-18 win over Fontana Summit on Oct. 1, and a 24-20 victory at Valencia West Ranch the week before. Silverado also lost to 9-1 teams Rancho Cucamonga (42-7) and Phelan Serrano (22-10).

San Jacinto, which will miss the postseason for the first time since 1997, opened the season with a three-point loss to undefeated Romoland Heritage, but losses to Hemet West Valley and Perris Citrus Hill in two of the final weeks of the regular season spelled doom for the Tigers.

Best first-round game:

Ridgecrest Burroughs (6-4) at Perris Citrus Hill (7-3) – Citrus Hill shared the Mountain Pass League title with Beaumont and has one of the division’s top running backs in junior Davien Payne, but Burroughs has a opportunistic defense that has accumulated 35 ½ sacks and 27 turnovers.

Best potential second-round game:

Summit (7-2-1) vs. Heritage (10-0) – At one time, Summit was the top-seeded team in the division, but then lost a shocker to at-large Silverado. Still, the SkyHawks have one of the Southland’s top athletes in Devon Blackmon and Heritage is makings its first postseason appearance in school history.

Prediction:

Kaiser (10-0) has only been tested once this season, a 19-7 victory against Summit in Week 9, but they will need to show up to beat a seasoned playoff team like Serrano (9-1), which advanced to the Eastern Division final last season before losing to Palm Springs, or a rematch against Summit. Kaiser 21, Summit 20.

EAST VALLEY DIVISION

Seeded teams:

1. Lancaster Paraclete; 2. San Bernardino Aquinas; 3. Chatsworth Sierra Canyon; 4. San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret’s

At-large selections:

Yucca Valley, Brentwood, North Hollywood Campbell Hall, Desert Hot Springs

Best first-round game:

Desert Hot Springs (7-3) at Paraclete (9-1) – Desert Hot Springs opened the season with a 28-21 victory over second-seeded Aquinas, but back-to-back losses to Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley dropped them into a wild-card slot. Paraclete has been steam-rolling opponents since losing its season opener to Phelan Serrano, the second-seeded team from the Eastern Division.

Best potential second-round game:

Twentynine Palms (7-3) vs. Sierra Canyon (9-1) – Another possible clash between the De Anza and Alpha leagues that should come down the wire. Sierra Canyon’s only blemish came against top-seeded Paraclete, 22-12, in Week 9. Twentynine Palms missed a chance to win a league title and possibly earn one of the top four seeds by losing Friday against visiting Big Bear, 21-7.

Prediction:

Both Paraclete and Aquinas enter the playoffs riding nine-game winning streaks, but the Alpha League definitely owns the strength-of-schedule advantage over the Ambassador League. Look for Sierra Canyon to knock off Aquinas in the semifinals and create a rematch with Paraclete. Paraclete 21, Sierra Canyon 14.