Southwest final preview: La Habra vs. San Clemente


OCVarsity's preview and prediction for Friday's CIF-SS Southwest Division championship game.


La Habra (12-1) vs. San Clemente (11-2)

Where, when: Cerritos College, Friday, 7 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports West (delayed, 10 p.m.)

Online: Prep Zone (live streaming)

Fan info: Tickets, $12 for adults, $5 for students (with valid ID) and children ages 3-13; parking, $5.

La Habra analysis: After allowing 21 first-half points to Villa Park a week ago, La Habra’s defense posted zeroes in the third in fourth quarters while its offense racked up the go-ahead points. With Cameron Rivas and Madison Wheeler and others consistently making plays on the ball, a rejuvenated Highlanders defense is performing at a championship level, and will need to if it hopes to top San Clemente. Senior Eric Barriere is a pass-first quarterback, but he has rushed for 100-plus yards in back-to-back weeks. Running back CJ Taylor has been tremendous the second half of the season, as La Habra has scored at least 42 points in seven consecutive games.

San Clemente analysis: A trend to consider when talking about the Tritons: In their three postseason games against Freeway League opponents, San Clemente is averaging 32 rushing attempts per game. Why? Because the Tritons’ size up front in unparalleled in the division, and they’ll likely try to utilize it again this week. The Vlad Dzhabiyev-Brandon Reaves backfield is arguably the county’s top thunder-and-lightning combo, while quarterback Jack Sears is also a threat when he tucks the ball and takes off. Throw tight end Cole Fotheringham into the mix, and this offense is a nightmare to defend in the red zone, which is why San Clemente is averaging over 55 points a game in their last seven outings. If the running game comes close to reaching the 245-yard mark, which it has averaged these past few weeks, La Habra would be in some serious trouble.

Player to watch: Eric Barriere, La Habra. Since Barriere became the starter as a sophomore, Coach Frank Mazzotta has praised the quarterback for what he brings to the field. The dual-threat senior is playing the best football of his career during this postseason, accounting for 15 touchdowns (nine passing, six rushing) to zero interceptions.

Prediction: La Habra 38, San Clemente 35. Both offenses have too much firepower for this one to be a low-scoring affair. On paper, La Habra’s defense has a slight edge. The Highlanders come up with a timely stop late and capture title No. 7.

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