Los Angeles Preps: Sierra League

Mission Viejo keeps repeat hopes alive

May, 22, 2012
Anthony ShewBlair Angulo for ESPN.comAnthony Shew found his groove again in leading Mission Viejo over Damien

LA VERNE -- The pitcher with the funky delivery picked the right time to snap out of his funk.

Mission Viejo right-hander Anthony Shew had been knocked around in recent weeks, failing to fool opponents with his uncommon throwing motion. The senior seemed to recapture his deceptiveness in a complete-game effort Tuesday afternoon, leading the Diablos to a 9-1 victory over Damien in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 baseball playoffs.

Defending section champion Mission Viejo advanced to the quarterfinals, where it will meet second-seeded Pacifica of Garden Grove on Friday.

Shew had been tagged for 35 hits over his last four starts but gave up just five -- all singles -- on Tuesday. The lone run Damien mustered came in the first inning. Shew struck out six and closed the door by retiring the last seven batters in order.

"It's great to see him bounce back," said senior first baseman Mitch Holland, whose three-run double in the fourth broke the game open. "He's one of my best friends and I know how hard it is on him when he doesn't pitch well."

Holland continued his torrid hitting. He had a pair of three-run home runs in a first-round win last week and, on Tuesday, extended his hot streak.

"He's a big, strong kid. He's been a three-year varsity player and a team leader," Mission Viejo head coach Chris Ashbach said. "He's the nicest kid in the world, so I couldn't be happier to see this happening for him right now."

Holland's bases-clearing rocket to dead center field knocked out Damien starting pitcher Grant Hockin, a highly regarded sophomore who has already verbally committed to play at UCLA. Hockin had beaten Mission Viejo, 3-0, in a tournament game at Chino last month.

"I've been hot lately and looking for the fastball early," Holland said. "He left the ball out over the plate after working me in and out really hard. I hit it hard and luckily it dropped."

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France leads South Hills with arm and bat

May, 17, 2012
Ty FranceBlair Angulo/For ESPNLA.comTy France pitched a complete game and knoncked in three runs for South Hills on Thursday.

WEST COVINA -- An electric right arm. A compact swing. A keenness for high-stress situations.

Senior Ty France of South Hills put all of his skills on display Thursday afternoon, leading the Huskies to a 4-0 victory against visiting Upland in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 baseball playoffs. France, a San Diego State signee, struck out 11 in a complete-game effort and also drove in three runs.

By the way France looked, you'd never guess it was only his second start of the season.

"I didn't expect him to go seven innings and shut them out. It's just a great effort on his part," South Hills head coach Kevin Smith said. "He's a bulldog. I wish I had 15 of him."

France has been on varsity for four years, experiencing sudden success as a freshman on a South Hills squad that captured the section title. He's a known commodity in the San Gabriel Valley, a slick-fielding shortstop who doubles as his team's closer. Smith, though, wanted his best curveball thrower on the mound against an Upland lineup that scored 22 runs in the wild-card round earlier in the week.

"I love pitching," France said. "I love getting out there and controlling the game."

France did that and more, scattering six hits and walking only two, one of them intentional. He helped his own cause at the plate with a pair of two-out RBI singles, putting South Hills (18-7) up early. UCLA signee Daniel Robertson had half of Upland's hits in his final high school game.

"Getting those two early runs helped a lot," France said.

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Dynamic duo at South Hills

March, 28, 2012

WEST COVINA -- Ty France and C.J. Saylor jog out the corner gate, walk along the outfield fence and, together, retrieve the American flag that waves during their baseball games at South Hills High School. Having fulfilled their duty as team captains and now eying a celebratory snack, the dynamic duo briefly stops at the snack shop behind left field.

Suddenly they sprint back toward the dugout at the sound of Huskies head coach Kevin Smith's whistle, again in unison.

They've known each other for about a decade, their friendship beginning on little league diamonds and growing on travel ballclubs. They bat third and fourth in the South Hills lineup, forming a tandem feared by pitchers across the San Gabriel Valley. And they've signed on to play together next season at San Diego State.

"They were role players for a couple of years," Smith says. "Now they're big time."

Both stand at around 5 feet 10, but France is the flashier of the two. Hair flows out of his hat, his eye black is purposely smeared and the web of his infield glove is bold green. France is a natural third baseman, Smith says, but has unselfishly stepped in at shortstop and doubles as closer.

"When I get on base I feel like he's going to get me in every time," Saylor says. "When Ty's hitting behind me, I know he's going to get the job done."

Saylor is the louder of the two, a fiery catcher who demands attentiveness from the other eight players on the field. He sports a buzz cut and old-school stirrups.

"He takes charge," France says. "When we're in the dugout he's always on everyone, making sure they're in the game."

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No. 17 Damien 55, Ayala 50

January, 25, 2012
LA VERNE -- Pundits speak highly of the mighty Chris Reyes, a bouncy forward with a relentless motor who is headed to play at Saint Mary's next fall. The chatter is warranted and well deserved, given his ability to affect games on both ends of the floor. Yet most often forget to mention that the Damien Spartans aren't just a one-man troop.

Matt Dunn
Blair Angulo/ESPN.comDamien coach Matt Dunn instructs during his team's game against Chino Hills Ayala on Wednesday.
Damien, the top-ranked team in latest CIF-Southern Section Division 3AAA poll, showed its depth Wednesday night, erasing a double-digits halftime deficit and holding on for a 55-50 Sierra League victory over visiting Chino Hills Ayala. Defenders swarmed Reyes throughout, limiting him to just one field goal, but that didn't matter.

It has been a recurring storyline for the resilient Spartans, who sit atop the league standings. They've played 20 games and won 19 of them.

"I don't think we have a great team, I think we have great program," Damien coach Matt Dunn said. "Chris, obviously, is a spectacular player, but the other guys do the things that win games."

Reyes, averaging 18 points per game heading into the night, dealt with constant double- and triple-teams and was held scoreless in the first half as Damien (19-1) faced a 10-point deficit at the break. The Spartans stormed back, though, thanks to the hot right hand of wing Jared Dizon, who had 11 of his team-high 17 points in the second half. Dizon's dagger 3-pointer midway through the third quarter highlighted a frantic 19-4 run, and Damien never coughed up the lead.

The student jazz band could finally play its lively tunes.

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South: Boys' basketball roundup

January, 19, 2012
Compton (11-7) handed Long Beach Jordan (12-6) its first Moore League loss with a 72-63 overtime win Wednesday night. Victor Robbins overcame leg cramps to lead the Tarbabes with 19 points. Long Beach Poly (14-1) returned from a successful trip to Seattle and manhandled Long Beach Wilson to the tune of 79-33. Roschon Prince had 20 points.

In Western League action, Fairfax (12-6) improved to 4-1 in league with an 80-55 home win over LACES, while Westchester (11-4) blew out Venice, 63-32.

CIF-Southern Section Division 3AAA top-ranked Damien (17-1) took sole possession of first place in the Sierra League with a 63-55 victory against Chino Hills (12-7). Chris Reyes had 24 points, including 12 straight in a clutch fourth quarter. Sharpshooting wing Jared Dizon added 21.

In a battle for first place in the Hacienda League, Bonita (15-4) beat Walnut, 55-40.

Gardena Serra (17-2) remained atop the Del Rey League by defeating Bishop Amat, 52-21. The Cavaliers held the Lancers to just nine points in the first half. Elsewhere in league, Bishop Montgomery (16-3) earned a 72-48 win at Cathedral.

L.A. South: Boys' basketball Top 10

January, 15, 2012
The south Los Angeles County boys' basketball top 10 power rankings:

1. Long Beach Poly (12-1)
The Jackrabbits showed no rustiness following a three-week layoff, blowing out Lakewood, 74-30, behind 25 points from standout junior Roschon Prince. This week: vs. Rainer Beach (Seattle, Wash.) in King Holiday Hoop Fest at Univ. of Washington, Mon.; at Long Beach Wilson, Wed.; vs. Millikan, Fri.

2. Loyola (14-2)
The Cubs got back on track with three convincing Mission League wins against Chaminade, Harvard-Westlake and Notre Dame. This week: at St. Francis, Sat.

3. La Verne Lutheran (14-4)
Arizona-bound forward Grant Jerrett scored 30 points in an overtime win against Elizabeth (N.J.) St. Patrick at the Hoophall Classic in Springfield, Mass. This week: at Orange Lutheran in Tony Matson Memorial Classic, Mon.

4. Price (12-5)
Guard Chance Murray led the way with 22 points in a thrilling victory against Serra in Saturday's Cochran Classic at LACES. This week: vs. Palm Springs, Mon.; vs. Leuzinger at Gardena Serra, Sat.

5. Gardena Serra (15-2)
An up and down week for the Cavaliers, who got an important league win against Bishop Montgomery before losing to L.A. Price on a controversial last-second call. This week: vs. Santa Monica at L.A. Price, Mon.; at Bishop Amat, Wed.; vs. La Salle, Fri.; vs. San Diego Hoover, Sat.

6. St. John Bosco (13-2)
The Braves have started 3-0 in the Trinity League and now get a tough test against Orange Lutheran. The Hamilton brothers -- junior Isaac and sophomore Daniel -- have Bosco in great shape. This week: vs. Orange Lutheran, Wed.; at Allstate National Prep Classic in New Orleans, weekend.

7. Bishop Montgomery (14-3)
The Knights could never get over the hump against Serra and lost for the first time in nearly a month. This week: at Cathedral, Wed.

8. Compton (10-7)
Forward Victor Robbins might be the top unsigned senior in the Southland. He proved it Saturday with 25 points and 16 rebounds in a big win against Windward. This week: at Long Beach Jordan, Wed.

9. Windward (13-6)
A win against Alpha League foe Brentwood followed by a blowout loss to Compton made for mixed results last week. This week: Idle.

10. Damien (15-1)
The Spartans have won 11 straight since losing in the title game of the Concord De La Salle tournament. St. Mary's-bound big man Chris Reyes and Co. can gain a stranglehold of the Sierra League. This week: vs. Ventura at Los Osos, Mon.; vs. Chino Hills, Wed.; at Charter Oak, Fri.

Ten more, in alphabetic order: Brentwood (12-4), Dorsey (15-5), Downey (16-4), Leuzinger (12-4), Muir (16-1), Pacific Hills (15-3), Pasadena (12-5), Peninsula (12-5), Santa Monica (11-5), Westchester (10-4)

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Following him on Twitter.

L.V. Lutheran breezes past Chino Hills

January, 5, 2012
CHINO HILLS -- Two-time defending state champion La Verne Lutheran, like many across the Southland, still hasn't found its top form. Oftentimes it doesn't arrive until February, a few weeks before the start of playoffs.

Lutheran provided glimpses of what it might look like in a month in a 61-36 non-league victory against Chino Hills on Thursday night. Arizona-bound forward Grant Jerrett scored 22 points before taking a seat early in the fourth quarter. Guard Eric Cooper Jr. added 19.

"We've got a ways to go," Jerrett said. "We've still got to find our team camaraderie."

The Trojans (11-4) buckled down defensively in the second quarter, outscoring the Huskies 24-7 to pull away for good. Their largest lead was 27, built by contesting perimeter jump shots and forcing movement into the crowded paint.

Even the home fans couldn't help but applaud Jerrett's transition slam dunks.

"Our team has to live off winning the 50-50 loose ball challenges," Lutheran coach Eric Cooper Sr. said. "We've got to be aggressive enough to challenge other teams."

Deandre Page led Sierra League contender Chino Hills (10-4) with 10 points. Twin brother Deion Page had nine.

Lutheran has won four straight since losing its first two games in the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic tournament. Up next is a matchup against one-loss Carlsbad La Costa Canyon in the San Diego Lincoln Showcase on Saturday.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.

L.A. South: The Top 10

December, 4, 2011
The Narbonne Gauchos gain a stranglehold of the top spot after an eye-opening semifinal victory. Of course, a little help from rival Carson didn't hurt. The Colts return the rankings following their shocking upset of top-seeded and previously unbeaten San Pedro. Ocean League champion Santa Monica falls out after its lopsided loss to underdog Culver City. The south Los Angeles County top 10 rankings heading into the championship round:

1. (3) 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.

2. (2) Long Beach Poly (10-2)*
Order appears to have been restored for the back-to-back Moore League champions.

3. (5) St. John Bosco (8-4)*
The third-place team from the Trinity League made its first playoff appearance since 2006.

4. (6) Charter Oak (10-2)*
The Chargers won the Sierra League and have a dynamic talent in tailback Kurt Scoby for the next two years.

5. (NR) Carson (8-5)
The Colts leap back into the rankings following a rather surprising upset of top-seeded San Pedro. They were expected to make it back to the title game, but they took a difficult route to get there. Last week: Beat San Pedro, 24-19. Next: City Section Div. I championship vs. Narbonne at East L.A. College, Friday.

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Inland: Upland 51, Charter Oak 13

November, 25, 2011

UPLAND -- With his team uniting for the postgame huddle near midfield, Kenny Lawler looked up over his left shoulder, and uttered a rhetorical question.

"You guys see a 40 up on the scoreboard?" Lawler asked.

The answer: Yes, because Upland, No. 8 in the ESPN Los Angeles prep football rankings, blew past No. 17-ranked Charter Oak, 51-13, Friday night to advance to the Inland Division semifinals. The other answer: No, because Charter Oak -- which like Upland was averaging exactly 44 points heading into the game -- didn't hold up its end of the deal. The No. 3-seeded Highlanders will face No. 2-seeded Vista Murrieta, which handled Riverside J.W. North, 58-14.

"Charter Oak was putting points up on everybody," Upland coach Tim Salter said. "That got us excited."

Upland (12-0) got balanced production on offense, led by Lawler's 195 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Tailback Donta Abron Jr. rushed for 191 yards and four touchdowns in 32 carries and quarterback Nate Romine passed for 291 yards in only 15 attempts.

"We have a lot of talent across the board," Abron Jr. said. "Other teams don't know what we're going to throw at them."

The explosiveness was supposed to go both ways but, instead, a running clock was used at the start of the fourth quarter. Really, it was an unexpected one-sided affair. The Upland defense came up with a safety midway through the third quarter and, on the very next play from scrimmage, Romine threw it up to Lawler for a 48-yard touchdown and comfortable 30-6 lead.

Knockout punch delivered.

"They had a better football team than us," Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar said.

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L.A. South: The Top 10

November, 13, 2011
The south Los Angeles County top 10 rankings heading into the playoffs:

1. (1) Long Beach Poly (9-1)
No problem for the Poly defense against Cabrillo's Derek Stewart, the leading passer in the entire Pac-5 Division. Linebacker Matthew Rowe and safety David Price each returned interceptions for touchdowns. Last week: Beat Cabrillo, 43-6. Next: first round vs. Newport Harbor, Friday.

2. (2) Loyola (8-2)
The resilient Cubs erased a 15-point deficit, blocked an extra-point attempt in overtime, and Conrad Ukropina made his PAT to clinch the Serra League's second automatic playoff berth Friday. Last week: Beat Crespi, 36-35 (OT). Next: first round vs. Huntington Beach, Friday.

3. (3) St. John Bosco (7-3)
A breakout performance by the lesser-known Royce Moore (178 rushing yards and four touchdowns) helped the Braves grab the third and final Trinity League playoff berth Friday. Last week: Beat Orange Lutheran, 48-28. Next: first round at Alemany, Friday.

4. (4) Charter Oak (9-1)
Hobbling and in pain, senior quarterback Travis Santiago barely warmed up before Thursday's Sierra League title game. He wasn't mobile but still passed for 288 yards and two touchdowns. Last week: Beat Chino Hills, 38-7. Next: first round vs. Santiago, Friday.

5. (5) San Pedro (10-0)
Same old, same old for the Pirates on Friday as they blew out another opponent. On Saturday they received the top seeding for the CIF Los Angeles City Section Division I playoffs. They're the favorites. Last week: Beat Banning, 37-0. Next: City Section first round vs. Gardena, Friday.

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No. 20 Charter Oak 38, Chino Hills 7

November, 10, 2011

CHINO HILLS -- Charter Oak quarterback Travis Santiago put an end to concerns about his sprained ankle rather quickly Thursday night.

Hobbling and in pain, the senior barely warmed up before the game. When he walked onto the field for the first drive, he did so gingerly. But then, when Santiago hit Chris Gilchrist with a fade pass on the first play from scrimmage, the lingering doubts disappeared. Gilchrist stormed into the end zone untouched, and all was well with Santiago's psyche.

Santiago, usually a running threat, was not mobile but still excelled, passing for 288 yards and two touchdowns, and leading the Chargers to the Sierra League title with a 38-7 win against defending champion Chino Hills.

"I was a little bit stiff," said Santiago, who rolled his ankle by accidentally stepping on his helmet during Wednesday's walk-through practice. "That first play was exciting. I got the matchup that I wanted, threw it over the top and had my 6-foot-5 receiver do the rest."

Santiago took a seat early in the fourth quarter when No. 20 Charter Oak (9-1, 5-0) went up comfortably. He finished the regular season with 2,624 passing yards and 21 touchdown passes.

Sophomore sensation Kurt Scoby, who heading into Thursday was dealing with a left ankle sprain of his own, rushed for two second-half touchdowns and had 119 yards through the ground. His 40-yard scoring scamper with 10:22 remaining sealed it.

"We executed," Scoby said, "and were patient with the football."

Charter Oak’s high-octane attack struck quickly early in the second half. Santiago found Aaren Vaughns for a 14-yard touchdown and, minutes later, Scoby ran for a 36-yard score, giving the Chargers a 24-7 advantage. After trailing by only three at the break, Chino Hills (6-4, 4-1) found itself in too big of a hole.

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L.A. South: Five to see live

November, 3, 2011
Big league implications throughout the Southland this week. Here are Friday night's top five games in south Los Angeles County:

Troy Williams
Blair Angulo/For ESPNLA.comNarbonne quarterback Troy Williams (3) looks to lead the Gauchos to a victory over undefeated San Pedro on Friday.
No. 19 Narbonne at No. 20 San Pedro, 7 p.m. -- For quite a while now, Narbonne coach Manual Douglas has been eying the top seeding in the City Section Division 1 playoffs. The time has come for his Gauchos (6-2, 3-0) to prove they deserve it. The Marine League title goes to the winner. Narbonne's uptempo offense averages nearly 32 points, but San Pedro (8-0, 3-0) hasn't given up more than 20 in any game this season.

Damien at No. 23 Charter Oak, 7 p.m. -- Head over to Covina if you want some touchdowns. Or stay away if you like defensive stops. Over their last six games, the Damien Spartans (6-2, 2-1 Sierra) have given up an average 27 points. That's music to quarterback Travis Santiago's ears, for sure. Charter Oak (7-1, 3-0) has one of the most explosive attacks in the region, averaging 42 points.

Garfield vs. Roosevelt at East L.A. College, 7:30 p.m. -- The longtime rivals meet for the 77th time, and the game is expected to be played in front of another capacity crowd of 20,000. The East Los Angeles Classic is one of the area's most treasured traditions, dating to 1926 and spanning generations. It's really a toss-up this year: Garfield is 4-5 overall but 4-1 in the Eastern League; Roosevelt is 5-3 and 3-1.

La Puente at Duarte, 7 p.m. -- With a win, the unblemished La Puente Warriors (8-0, 5-0) can intensify the magnitude of next week's gigantic matchup against three-time defending Montview League champion Azusa. The Warriors are led by quarterback Ivan Vasquez and his 19-1 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio. Duarte (6-2, 4-1) is still mathematically in contention for the league title.

Downey at Dominguez, 7 p.m. -- The streaking Dominguez Dons (6-2, 3-0) have won six straight, finding a groove that went missing in blowout losses to Crespi and Redlands East Valley. A win against Downey should set up a San Gabriel Valley League championship game next week at Paramount, which is favored against Warren.

L.A. South: The Top 10

October, 30, 2011
The south Los Angeles County top 10 rankings heading into Week 9:

1. (1) Long Beach Poly (7-1)
The Jackrabbits earned their first shutout of the season, showing no signs of rust following a bye week. Nick Pope was impressive in place of quarterback the injured Chaiyse Hales (concussion). Last week: Beat Millikan, 54-0. Next: at Long Beach Wilson, Friday.

2. (2) Loyola (7-1)
The defense came up big, helping the Cubs earn a crucial Serra League win on the road. They benefited from the return of Chaz Anderson, a versatile athlete who had been down because of a knee injury. Last week: Beat Bishop Amat, 14-3. Next: at Alemany, Friday.

3. (3) St. John Bosco (6-2)
The Braves played Servite close, proving that they’re good and, perhaps most important, a serious threat if they reach the Pac-5 Division playoffs. Another tough test awaits. Last week: Lost to Servite, 35-27. Next: vs. Santa Margarita at Saddleback College, Friday.

4. (5) Charter Oak (7-1)
Naturally, it’s difficult not to look toward next week’s highly anticipated contest against defending Sierra League champion Chino Hills. The Chargers, though, have no cakewalk this week. Last week: Beat Claremont, 49-12. Next: vs. Damien, Friday.

5. (4) Bishop Amat (6-3)
The Lancers were doomed when quarterback Rio Ruiz left Friday’s game because of a knee injury. He’s as important a player as there is in the area and the offense couldn’t get it rolling without him. Last week: Lost to Loyola, 14-3. Next: vs. S.O. Notre Dame, Friday.

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L.A. South: Helmet stickers, Week 6

October, 17, 2011
Travis SantiagoCourtesy of Jeff SerpaCharter Oak quarterback Travis Santiago continued his stellar season with a big game vs. South Hills.

With league action underway across the Southland, we introduce our weekly helmet stickers, given to five football players from south Los Angeles County schools who had standout performances. The honorees for Week 6:

QB Travis Santiago (Charter Oak): The senior threw for 325 yards, ran for 54 more and had five total touchdowns in a 63-28 win against South Hills in the Sierra League opener.

RB Brandon Edmond (Mira Costa): He had 390 rushing yards in 27 carries and the Mustangs needed every last bit of it to open Bay League play with a come-from-behind victory.

QB Billy Livingston (Covina): What injured shoulder? Livingston completed 16 of 23 passes for 357 yards and four touchdowns, leading Covina to its sixth straight win in his return.

QB Kenny Potter (San Pedro): Threw four early touchdown passes in a blowout before sitting out the entire second half. The senior finished with 145 yards for the undefeated Pirates.

RB Desmond Reed, (Azusa): Reed sat out the first quarter for disciplinary reasons but still finished with 168 yards rushing and four touchdowns in Azusa's 45-10 win against Duarte.

L.A. South: Five games to see live

October, 12, 2011
League play kicks off with a bang. As part of our running feature, here are five of this week’s must-see games in south Los Angeles County:

[+] EnlargeChaiyse Hales
Blair Angulo/For ESPNLA.comPoly QB Chaiyse Hales hopes to repeat his performance of a year ago against Lakewood.
No. 19 Lakewood vs. No. 6 Long Beach Poly at Veterans Stadium, Friday, 7 p.m.: When the final whistle blew last year, the Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits gave coach Raul Lara the celebratory, icy Gatorade bath. He probably wouldn't mind a good soaking Friday night. The scoreboard keeper at the Vet might be busy. Poly (5-1, 2-0 Moore League) finally found its offensive rhythm last week, hanging 67 points on Jordan, and the Lakewood Lancers (5-1, 2-0) are averaging 45 points per game under first-year offensive coordinator Zach LaMonda, a former assistant coach at Servite. Jackrabbits senior quarterback Chaiyse Hales was the standout in last year's rivalry game, throwing for 189 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another score.

No. 22 Alemany at No. 7 Bishop Amat, Friday, 7 p.m.: Poor defensive play is Bishop Amat coach Steve Hagerty's biggest concern heading into this one -- and for good reason. The Lancers (5-1) have allowed the most points (111) among Serra League teams this year. These two met for the league title in last season's finale -- Alemany (4-1) claimed the championship with a 38-30 win -- so you know the Lancers will be plenty motivated. "It's going to be a fight," Lancers senior running back Jalen Moore said after last week's 38-35 win at Venice. "The league is going to come down to the end, but I feel like we should be able to take it all way." The game will stream live on FOXSportsWest.com as part of the website’s Prep Zone platform.

Charter Oak vs. South Hills at Covina District Field, Friday, 7 p.m.: For now, the Sierra League appears to be a four-team race and these two are a part of that group. The Charter Oak Chargers are the favorites (4-1) but Friday's road game could get tricky given that the South Hills Huskies (3-2) aren't strangers to tight games. Four of their five contests have been decided by four points or less. Chargers defensive coordinator Roger Lehigh would like to contain tailback Jamel Hart, who has hit triple-digit rushing yards in every game this season. It all adds up to an intriguing league opener.

Damien at Claremont, Friday, 7 p.m.: This is the other marquee Sierra League matchup, though it could have been a headliner any other week. The Damien Spartans (4-1) are fresh off a win against a Pac-5 Division opponent, JSerra, and their only loss this season was to Bishop Amat, which entered the week ranked No. 7 by ESPN Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Claremont Wolfpack (4-1) are looking to avenge last year's loss. Quarterback Gabe Schaper looks to rebound after throwing two costly interceptions last week.

West Covina at Bonita, Friday, 7 p.m.: Will spectators be in for another epic? These two met twice in 2010. West Covina thumped Bonita in the first game, basically securing the Hacienda League championship behind Chris Solomon's spectacular running. They saw each other again in the Southeast Division title game, which the West Covina Bulldogs (5-1) won on a thrilling last-minute drive. The Bonita Bearcats (2-3), coming off a bye week, will have redemption on their minds.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPN Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter.