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Previews for all of the semifinal games
CIF-SS FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: SEMIFINALS
MATER DEI (10-2) VS. LONG BEACH POLY (11-1)
Where/when: Veterans Stadium, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports West
Outlook: These two teams met in last year’s Pac-5 championship game, which Poly won, 35-17. In this year’s playoffs, third-seeded Poly, champion of the Moore League, defeated Orange Lutheran in the first round and St. Bonaventure of Ventura in the second round. Mater Dei, the No. 2 team from the Trinity League, beat Oaks Christian of Westlake Village in the first round and second-seeded Mission Viejo in the second round. Poly’s John Smith had two touchdown receptions in the St. Bonaventure game, Jeremy Calhoun ran for two touchdowns and defensive end Rodney Shorter returned an interception for a touchdown. In Mater Dei’s win over Mission Viejo, Jonathan Lockett had two interceptions and Adrian Contreras contributed 60 of the team’s 162 rushing yards. Both teams’ defenses have been outstanding in the playoffs, so this one might come down to three elements: who wins the turnovers battle; special teams; and field position. Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said of the Jackrabbits: “They run their offense out of a multitude of formations, so we have to get aligned correctly and not give up the big play. For us on offense, we need to slam it at them with the run, mix in some passes here and there, control the clock and move the chains.” The winner plays the St. John Bosco-Alemany of Mission Hills winner in the division final Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. at Angel Stadium.
- STEVE FRYER
Newport Harbor (7-5) vs. Fullerton (10-2)
Where/when: Newport Harbor High, Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: Newport Harbor can air it out, too. Quarterback Cole Norris, coming off a 474-yard performance, has one of the best receiving duos in the county in Quest Truxton and Cory Stowell. The Sailors knocked off top-seeded La Habra last week and are in the midst of their deepest run since 2005. Fullerton is the lone non-Sunset League team remaining. The Freeway League’s third-place team continued its improbable run following a dominating defensive effort against Los Alamitos, led by linebacker Marquis Cerillo’s two fumble recoveries. Quarterback Scott Lloyd is a true dual threat and James Hubbard has to be accounted for on every play. Newport Harbor is a slight favorite but both teams have given reason to expect the unexpected.
Edison (9-3) vs. Huntington Beach (7-5)
Where/when: Orange Coast College, Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: Edison thumped Huntington Beach, 48-6, but that was seven weeks ago. The Oilers have found their offensive groove the past few weeks, with receiver Maurice Barber catching fire and tailback Travis Heer and quarterback Kai Ross getting it done on the run. Defensive end Liam Jimmons and safety Brayden McRae are two reasons why the defense has experienced a dramatic turnaround in recent weeks. No. 3 seed Edison is the defending champion and unofficial best team left in the division. Linebackers Ricardo Perez and Manase Time and defensive backs Kiante Goudeau and Marcus Epps lead a defense that's allowed 16 points or less in eight straight games. The Chargers haven’t needed much from their offense. They might need a bit more this week after dangerously heading into last week’s game with Villa Park in a scoreless tie.
- ADAM MAYA
Corona del Mar (12-0) vs. Westminster (8-4)
Where/when: Westminster High, Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The top-seeded Sea Kings, who are the Pacific Coast League champions, are trying to win their third consecutive Southern Division title. The fourth-seeded Lions, who shared the Golden West League title with Segerstrom, are in the semifinals for the first time since 1985. Westminster has never reached the finals. CdM's high-powered offense is led by QB Luke Napolitano (2,152 passing yards, 20 TDs), RB Cole Martin (1,438 rushing yards, 19 TDs) and receivers Cole Collins (878 receiving yards, eight TDs) and Bo St. Geme (562 receiving yards, five TDs). CdM's defensive line features Harrison Carter (nine sacks) and Parker Chase (9.5 sacks). Westminster is led by QB Daniel Thomsen (1,547 rushing yards, 22 TDs) and RB Humberto Maciel (1,364 yards, 16 TDs), and is averaging 269.5 rushing yards per game. Lions LB/TE Christian Tuito'eleau is a two-way player to keep an eye on.
Garden Grove (12-0) vs. Irvine (10-2)
Where/when: Irvine High, Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The second-seeded Argonauts, who won the Garden Grove League title, are trying to get back to the finals for the fourth time in five seasons. Garden Grove lost to Corona del Mar, 35-10, in last year's title game. The third-seeded Vaqueros are in the semifinals for the first time since winning the Division VI championship in 2000. The Argos offense is led by QB Angel Martinez (1,718 passing yards, 25 TDs), RB Sionne Masoe (1,172 rushing yards, 23 TDs) and receivers Alejandro Ceja (530 receiving yards, 9 TDs) and Austin Christian (615 yards, nine TDs). The defense features LB Bryan Quexel (99 tackles) and Christian, who has 10 interceptions. Irvine is primarily a running team that features RB Wesley Kim (858 rushing yards, five TDs) and Mikey Filia (525 rushing yards, seven TDs), but sophomore QB Justin Miller can make plays through the air to keep defenses off balance. Luke Cortes (438 receiving yards, four TDs) and Filia (530 receiving yards, eight TDs) are Miller's main targets.
- CARLOS ARIAS
EAST VALLEY DIVISION
Big Bear (10-2) vs. St. Margaret’s (11-1)
Where/when: St. Margaret’s, Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The Tartans must stay focused after the high of an emotional, last-second victory over Rim of the World of Lake Arrowhead last week. That game turned into a battle of who had the better run game and this week could be the same. St. Margaret’s running back Oscar Gomez Jr. ran for 186 yards last week and quarterback Josh Davis has scored three rushing touchdowns in two playoff games. Big Bear’s offense has ran for more than 3,500 yards on the season, led by running backs Blake Smith and Santana Diaz and quarterback Taylan Seaman. St. Margaret’s passing game struggled to find consistency in cold, damp weather last week but began to find a rhythm late in the fourth quarter when Davis bought himself more time and completed passes to Preston Ellis and Tristan Walters on the go-ahead drive. If the Tartans’ passing game clicks early, their more dynamic offense could push it past Big Bear and into its first CIF-SS final since 2009.
- MARK COOPER