Calhoun Countdown: Garden Grove loves postseason pressure


This week the spotlight shines on … Garden Grove.

Last year, Garden Grove recorded three shutouts on its way to the CIF-SS Southern Division title.

Things haven’t been as smooth this year for the Argonauts. Injuries have forced the team to move some players around and created a revolving door at quarterback, with six players having time under center, but they’re poised to make another run at the title.

CIF-SS football brackets

“I think we’re a different team,” Coach Ricardo Cepeda said. “We have a little bit more versatility than last year, but we’re more physical on offense.

“And we’re more battle-tested. This year, we got a lot of experience playing teams like Roosevelt … We’re in the right spot right now.”

Garden Grove is the top seed in the division and will open the playoffs against El Dorado on Friday.

Last year, the Argonauts were strong favorites to claim the Southern Division title. This year, Cepeda likes his chances, even if the early predictions by a certain OCVarsity writer have another team edging the Argonauts in the final.

“I think we have a nice shot,” Cepeda said. “It is going to be a tough road. It is going to take a great effort by our offensive line. We start three sophomores and it is going to take a heavy dose of (running back) Jordan (Antunez). When he’s on the field, I think he’s the best player in the division and he’s fresh. I think last year, he was tired at the end.

“My guys have chips on their shoulders … this will be interesting.”

Here is the rest of the Calhoun Countdown:

CIF Predictions: Here are my picks to win the divisions involving county teams:

Pac-5: St. John Bosco

West Valley: Mission Viejo

Southwest: La Habra

Southern: Canyon

East Valley: Grace Brethren

The Countdown Showdown of the Week: Tustin vs. Sonora. This is by far the best first-round matchup in the Southwest Division. It might be the best opening round game of the playoffs, involving county schools.

The key question: Can the Tillers slow down the Raiders? Only Aliso Niguel and Valencia scored more than 21 points against the Tillers. In victory or defeat, Sonora has scored at will, except for the La Habra game. Aside from that La Habra game, Sonora has been held under 30, just once.

Here comes Fimbres: Jordan Leonard (Brethren Christian) claimed the regular-season rushing title with 2,223 yards in 10 games. His primary competition as we head into the playoffs appears to be Jacob Fimbres (Sonora). Fimbres rushed for 307 yards in the regular season finale against Buena Park and he’s now sitting at 2,002 yards.

They’re both averaging 200-plus yards a game. Leonard at 222.3 and Fimbres at 200.2.

Who knows what Leonard will do in the East Valley playoffs? He might rush for 300 by halftime.

My vote in the O.C. top 10 looked like this: 1. Mission Viejo; 2. Mater Dei; 3. Tesoro; 4. Orange Lutheran; 5. JSerra; 6. Servite; 7. Santa Margarita; 8. La Habra; 9. San Juan Hills; 10. San Clemente.

Numbers don’t lie, or do they? Chase Garbers has had an impressive season for Corona del Mar. Did you see that he was perfect last week, completing 23 of 23 passes?

Well, if you look at his stat page at OCVarsity, it says that Garbers has 61 touchdowns! Wow! And you know what? I had to think twice if that number was correct or did he really throw for 37 touchdowns against Northwood? (BREAKING NEWS … It has been determined that Garbers has 28 touchdowns this season.)

The player to watch this week: Connor McBride, Woodbridge. McBride has been one of the best kept secrets in the county this season. All he does is continually put up big numbers, week in and week out. He rushed for 54 yards combined in his first two games. Since then, he’s been over 150 every game and has four games of at least 240. McBride and the Warriors face Laguna Hills in the first round.

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