Calhoun Countdown to Week 2 of the playoffs


Now the fun really starts.

The first round of the CIF-SS playoffs are done and now the quarterfinals are here.

One victory and you’re headed to the semifinals. There are some interesting match-ups all over the county.

So, find your game, grab your money and a blanket (it is cold now) and get out to a game.

Here is the quarterfinals edition of the Calhoun Countdown:

10. The race for No. 1 is down to two

It is now a sprint to the finish line. Two competitors are in hot pursuit of the overall county rushing title. Jerry Saldivar (Los Amigos) has the overall lead with 2,122 yards. In third place is Austin DeFreitas (Woodbridge) with 1,937. The difference is just 185. That’s certainly a number that’s within reach for DeFreitas. He has had five games of 185 or more yards, and he’s even had a 300-yard game. This week, Saldivar and Los Amigos are up against the top-seeded Corona del Mar. That’s not going to be an easy task. DeFreitas and the Warriors will be host to Katella. Can DeFreitas take the lead?

Prediction: Saldivar will do just enough to protect his lead.

(Note: The winner of the county rushing title gets to hang out with Carlos Arias, so maybe this is a battle you really don’t want to win.)

9. Another race that hasn’t been decided yet

Drake Martinez has led the county in touchdowns since the preseason, or so it seems. Now as we head into the second week of the postseason, Martinez has a two-TD lead over Tustin’s Terence Martinez. Martinez has 30 and Martinez has 28. Saldivar and David Perkins (Segerstrom) are four back at 26 and Mission Viejo’s Alex Suchesk has 24. Can anybody make a serious move? But for their move to count, Northwood has to keep Martinez out of the end zone. Martinez has scored at least one touchdown in every game this year and 12 of the 13 last year.

Prediction: Martinez will have the TD lead after Friday. I’m just not sure if it will be Drake or Terence.

8. Journey to the end of the world

OK, maybe St. Margaret’s isn’t headed to the end of the world for this week's playoff game, but Rim of the World High sounds just as far. (Some of the playoff road trips in the East Valley Division sound like they take three days.) This week, the second-seeded Tartans are packing up and hitting the road to Rim of the World, which is actually in Lake Arrowhead. Also making the journey for the game is OCVarsity tennis guru and all-purpose guy Brian Whitehead. The Tartans opened the playoffs with a 28-0 victory over Aquinas. That was the fourth shutout this season for St. Margaret’s. In the last seven games, the Tartans have allowed just 26 points. The Fighting Scots finished second in the Mountain Valley League and opened the playoffs with a 35-3 victory over Twentynine Palms. The Fighting Scots are all about their ground attack. Running back Jacob Taylor is averaging 281 rushing yards a game! He’s rushed for 3,092 yards! That’s a ridiculous number … and he has scored 39 touchdowns. This could be a long night for the Tartans ... and Whitehead (he has the long drive and he has to make deadline).

Prediction: The Tartans make the long trip worth it by winning and advancing to the semifinals.

7. And here’s another long road trip

In the Northwest Division, Whittier Christian is hitting the road. Destination: Nordhoff! Where is Nordhoff? Nordhoff High is located at 1401 Maricopa Highway in Ojai. The Rangers are the second seed in the division. They’re averaging 39 points a game. Quarterback Tanner Workman has completed 62.7 percent of the passes with 25 touchdowns. The Heralds could put up some numbers too. In six of their eight victories, they have scored more than 35 points. In the 38-28 victory over Torrance last week, quarterback Ryan Esslinger rushed for 155 yards and passed for 198. Whittier Christian rushed for 279 yards. David Fischer rushed for 114 yards. Can the Heralds make their long trip a special one and advance to the semifinals?

Prediction: Nordhoff protects its home turf for the victory.

6. Poly's Jackrabbits should stay grounded

Long Beach Poly (aka the only Moore League team with a chance of winning in the Pac-5 playoffs) heads to Mission Viejo to take on the Diablos. The Jackrabbits aren’t known as a passing team, and that’s a good thing for them. Mission Viejo has intercepted 10 passes in the past two games. Hunter Remington has five of them. He has returned three for touchdowns. This week, the Diablos defense will focus on stopping the Poly ground game. Gerald Wicks went for 223 yards on 17 carries in the 33-17 victory over Bishop Amat. Manusamoa Luuga went for 175. In all, the Jackrabbits ground and pounded their way to 462 yards on the ground. The teams met last year in a nonleague game, and the Diabos won, 17-12, by holding the Jackrabbits to just 101 yards of total offense. In 2010, the Diablos smashed Poly, 37-7. Can the Jackrabbits stop the Diablo Defensive Dominance?

Prediction: Look for Mission Viejo to advance.

5. Santa Margarita back on track?

For the second time this season, Santa Margarita will be host to St. Bonaventure of Ventura. In the first encounter, way back in September, the Eagles pulled off the 35-27 victory. Ryan Wolpin rushed for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Johnny Stanton rushed for 100 yards and passed for 133. However, Stanton is no longer the Eagles' QB, having suffered an ACL injury. St. Bonaventure hasn’t lost since then. The Eagles have had to survive a series of key injuries since that first meeting. The Eagles opened the playoffs with a 38-13 victory over El Toro. Wolpin rushed for 216 yards and quarterback Kyle Sweet returned with a big performance. Sweet, who is Stanton’s replacement, completed 14 of 21 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 63 yards. Can Wolpin and Sweet lead the way to another victory over the Seraphs?

Prediction: Santa Margarita wins

4. New Monarch leader in charge

Before last Friday’s game against Lakewood, Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson said he wanted to see how new QB Chase Forrest was going to handle being the starter. I think he passed the test. Forrest, who threw a 40-yard touchdown on his first play, completed his first nine passes and finished 12 for 14 for 167 yards with four touchdowns. He also rushed for a score in the 71-10 smashing of Lakewood. Now, I expect things will get a little tougher this week as the Monarchs welcome Alemany to Santa Ana Stadium. The Warriors are 9-2 and are coming off of a 42-14 victory over Moorpark. Steven Mitchell went for nearly 300 yards in the victory. He had four receptions for 216 yards. This sounds like a job for Jonathan Lockett and the MD defense. I think the defense will be up for the challenge. The Monarchs intercepted four passes last week and made the night miserable for Lakewood and quarterback Chris Bell. Look for another strong performance by the defense and another one from Forrest.

Prediction: Mater Dei wins.

3. Showdown in the Southwest

La Habra and Foothill, two of the more interesting teams in the Southwest Division, are squaring off against each other Friday at Tustin High. Both of these teams are good enough to win the title. Foothill, which finished second in the Century League, opened the playoffs with a 17-7 victory over Laguna Hills last week. La Habra, the Freeway League champion, also survived a nail-biter, defeating Los Alamitos, 10-7, in the first-round. I have a feeling this game will be just as close, physical and low-scoring. Maybe it will come down to a field goal. La Habra’s Jackson Willard booted a game-winning, 25-yard field against Los Alamitos. Foothill’s Sean Pihl put the Knights' game away with a 27-yard field goal Friday. (In fact, this game will come down to a field goal. That’s my first prediction.) These teams appear to be similar, led by good quarterbacks, strong defenses and solid running games. Turnovers will be key. How many will La Habra make? How many will Foothill make?

Prediction: La Habra

2. Old-school slugfest

Remember when fights went 15 rounds? I’ll never forget those days. (I barely remember those days, but that’s why they created YouTube.) The Villa Park-Newport Harbor game Friday night is going to resemble one of those old-fashion battles. This is smashmouth football at its finest. Meki Tafuna leads the Villa Park attack. Tala Teaupa leads Newport Harbor. Both teams are physical on defense. The Spartans opened the playoffs with a 21-12 victory over Yorba Linda. The Sailors defeated Troy, 42-21. The Sailors have won five consecutive games and the Spartans have won their last eight games. But both teams aren’t just about their ground games. Both quarterbacks are more than capable of putting up big numbers. Newport Harbor’s Cole Norris has completed 61.4 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions. Dylan Osborne (Villa Park) has completed 60 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns. This game could go either way offensively, but I would prefer the smashmouth, grind-it-out way.

Prediction: Villa Park

1. My pick for the O.C. player to watch

Thomas Duarte, Mater Dei. As Rollinson said this past Friday night about Duarte, “he was everywhere” and he was right. Duarte had four catches for 90 yards and three touchdowns and he recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. Defensively, he had a couple of tackles, one pass break-up and a tackle for loss. Keep an eye on No. 18 Friday night against Alemany.

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