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STEVEN GEORGES, CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
La Quinta's Michael Nadeau has been one of the leaders for the Aztecs, who are off to their best start since 1990. He has thrown for 1,245 yards and 16 touchdowns this season.

Fryer on football: La Quinta enjoying best season since 1990

STAFF WRITER

It has been quite a while since a late-October football game had league-championship implications for La Quinta.

Yet here are the Aztecs, 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the Garden Grove League. They are tied with Garden Grove for first place.

La Quinta plays Los Amigos on Thursday at Bolsa Grande High. Los Amigos, 2-1 in league, is in the thick of it, too, for the league title and a guaranteed playoff berth.

La Quinta is off to its best start since 1990. That season the Aztecs went 10-0 in the regular season and advanced to the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 second round. They won a CIF-SS football championship the year before.

The ’90 season also was the most recent time La Quinta won a league title. The Aztecs have not finished above. 500 this century and only once this century made the playoffs.

Aztecs coach Andy Diaz and his assistant coaches expected this season would be different.

“When the new playoff system came out,” Diaz said, “we talked about ‘let’s just get to the playoffs and we’ll have a chance.’”

La Quinta is in Division 13, the lowest division in CIF-Southern Section 11-man football, in the new system that sends teams to playoff divisions by recent years’ performance. Diaz scheduled only other Division 13 teams for nonleague games in which La Quinta went 4-1. In league, the Aztecs have defeated Santiago, Rancho Alamitos and Bolsa Grande.

Next year, the Aztecs will have eight returning starters on offense and nine on defense.

One of this year’s seniors is Peter Vu, a three-year starter at offensive tackle and linebacker. He is a team captain. The offensive leaders are non-seniors.

Sophomore quarterback Michael Nadeau has thrown for 1,245 yards and 16 touchdowns. Junior running back Dylan Do has rushed for 630 yards and averages 10 yards a carry. He also is the team’s leading receiver with 29 receptions for 567 yards and seven touchdowns.

Diaz, in his sixth year at La Quinta, said senior safety Nathan Medelin, also a top receiver, and 5-foot-10, 305-pound nose guard Cesar Santana anchor the defense. They are among the many Aztecs who have helped the program grow instead of transferring elsewhere as often happens in Orange County athletics.

“We’re no longer losing kids to other schools,” Diaz said. “Kids who come to La Quinta now are staying at La Quinta.”

THIS WEEK

In addition to Los Amigos-La Quinta, Thursday’s schedule includes St. John Bosco (6-2 overall, 2-1 in league) vs. JSerra (5-3, 1-2) at Saddleback College, in the Trinity League. That game originally was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. but now is a 7 p.m. game. Also Thursday, Canyon (3-5, 0-1) plays Foothill (5-3, 0-1) in a Crestview League game at Tustin High.

Friday’s schedule has Villa Park (7-1, 1-0) at Yorba Linda (7-1, 1-0) in the Crestview League; Segerstrom (8-0, 3-0) vs. Santa Ana (8-0, 3-0) in the Golden West League; Tesoro (4-4, 0-2) at San Juan Hills (6-3, 1-2) in the South Coast League; and Brethren Christian (7-1) vs. St. Margaret’s (7-1) in a nonleague game that will influence seedings in their playoff divisions.

In the Trinity League, Mater Dei (8-0, 3-0) plays Servite (4-4, 1-2) at Angel Stadium where Servite will be the home team, and Orange Lutheran (5-3, 2-1) plays Santa Margarita (4-4, 0-3) at Saddleback College.

BYE FOR NOW

It’s that time of year when teams in the Sea View and South Coast leagues, which together make up the Coast View Conference, have late-season bye weeks or fill the schedule with a nonleague game.

Laguna Hills (5-3 overall, 1-1 in the Sea View League) last week played Templeton in a nonleague game and won, 41-28, as Zac Crowe rushed for 223 yards and four touchdowns and Logan Montgomery had another fine all-around game with two touchdown receptions, an interception and a 42-yard punt return.

Capistrano Valley (8-1, 3-0 in Sea View) has a bye this week before concluding the regular season Nov. 4 with a league game against Dana Hills.

Mission Viejo (9-0, 3-0 in the South Coast) is off this week before playing at San Clemente on Nov. 4. Tesoro (4-4, 0-2 in South Coast) had its bye week last week. Tesoro plays at San Juan Hills (6-3, 0-2) in a South Coast game Friday.

That will be the final regular-season game for San Juan Hills which cannot qualify for one of the South Coast League’s two guaranteed playoff berths but will have the .500-or-better overall record required for at-large berth consideration in its CIF-Southern Section playoff division, Division 3. The Stallions will spend next week looking at other Division 3 at-large candidates to try to figure out if their season will continue in the playoffs.

As for not playing the final week of the season, and how that could dull a team going into the playoffs, Mission Viejo did not play in the final week of the 2015 regular season and went on to win CIF-SS and CIF State championships.

BELL GAME

Tickets for “The Battle for the Bell,” the annual Edison-Fountain Valley game, went on sale Monday at both schools ($8 for adults, $3 for children 12 and younger). There could be tickets available, which is Fountain Valley’s home game at Orange Coast College, through the middle of the week. Contact the participating schools for information.

NOTES

• Whittier Christian’s home game Friday includes a presentation of a $100,000 check to St. Jude’s Hospital. It is part of Whittier Christian’s participation in the nationwide “Touchdowns Against Cancer” program for which the school led the nation in fundraising. The Heralds (5-4 overall, 1-2 in the Olympic League) on Friday play a league game against Village Christian of Sun Valley (6-2, 1-1) at Whittier College.

• Buena Park senior linebacker Cedric Dashiell II had 15 tackles and 51/2 sacks in the Coyotes’ historic 27-13 win over La Habra on Friday. For the season, Dashiell, 6-1 and 228 pounds, has 17.5 sacks He also is a terrific basketball player.

• The final night of the regular season is Nov. 4. Playoff brackets will be released Nov. 6 and will be published at ocvarsity.com upon release. The playoffs begin with first-round games Nov. 11.

• Newport Harbor’s win Thursday improved the Sailors to 2-1 in the Sunset League with league games remaining against Marina and Los Alamitos. A third league team should lock up a playoff berth, but Newport Harbor coach Jeff Brinkley has seen so many multiple-team ties in the Sunset League’s final standings and the series of coin flips required to solve those ties that he’s wary of any win-and-you’re-in guarantees. “It’s the Sunset League, so there could be some kind of four-way tie again,” Brinkley said.

Contact the writer: sfryer@scng.com


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