El Modena's A.J. Esperanza and the Vanguards play host to Sunny Hills in a Division 8 playoff game.

Football playoffs: Previews for Thursday's games


OCVarsity's previews of the CIF-SS football playoff games on Thursday night.



Sunny Hills (6-4) vs. El Modena (9-1)

Where when: El Modena High, 7 p.m.

Outlook: El Modena, champion of the North Hills League, is the top-seeded team. The Vanguards’ loss was to Villa Park. Sunny Hills finished fourth in the Freeway League. The Lancers’ Alex Jung is seventh in Orange County rushing with 1,335 yards. El Modena’s Dillon Keefe has rushed for 1,069 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Laguna Hills (6-4) vs. Garden Grove (8-2)

Where, when: Garden Grove High, 7 p.m.

Outlook: Laguna Hills finished third in the Sea View League, behind Capistrano Valley and El Toro, with a 2-2 league record. The Hawks’ top player is Logan Montgomery, who does about everything as a running back and wide receiver on offense, and at defensive back and as a kick and punt returner. Garden Grove went 5-0 in the Garden Grove League to win the league championship. Argonauts senior quarterback Ruben Mendoza has thrown for 1,484 yards and 17 touchdowns. The winner of this game plays the winner of Yorba Linda-Kaiser of Fontana.

Temescal Canyon of Lake Elsinore (4-5-1) vs. Saddleback Valley Christian (7-3)

Where, when: Laguna Hills High, 7 p.m.

Outlook: Temescal Canyon finished third in the Sunbelt League. It averages 23 points while allowing 31 points a game. Saddleback Valley Christian went 5-0 in the San Joaquin League to win the league championship. The Warriors are averaging 42 points a game. SVC quarterback Cade Henjum has passed for 3,115 yards, third-most in O.C., and 38 touchdowns.



Los Amigos (6-4) vs. Rancho Mirage (8-2)

Where, when: Rancho Mirage, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Outlook: Both teams committed to the ground game this season. Los Amigos seniors Steven Hernandez and Edgar Galindo each ran for over 1,000 yards and combined for 31 rushing touchdowns. Hernandez is third in Orange County with 1,705 yards rushing. Second-seeded Rancho Mirage added in a bit more passing, but running backs Kyle Whitfield (916 yards) and Marques Prior (711 yards) also combined for 30 rushing touchdowns. Rancho Mirage averaged nearly 37 points per game and won its eight games by an average margin of 33.5 points.



Santa Ana (10-0) vs. Alhambra (5-5)

Where, when: Santa Ana Stadium, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Outlook: The top-seeded Saints enter the postseason on a roll, thanks in large part to the resurgence of running back Jorge Briseno, who finally looks comfortable carrying the load after an ACL tear ended what was a stellar junior campaign last fall. The senior is coming off 27- and 28-carry games in which he ran for a combined 458 yards and seven touchdowns behind an offensive line that prides itself on physicality. On defense, Santa Ana’s front-seven has been stingy against the run, allowing just one 100-yard rusher this entire season. Alhambra runs the ball nearly 75-percent of the time, and has had little success when forced to air it out, as quarterback Dominic Wilson is completing just 32 percent of his passes. Conversely, Santa Ana’s Damian Macias is coming off a performance in which he completed 10 of 11 passes for 182 yards and a score. That versatility should pay dividends for the Saints moving forward.


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