Unseeded Mater Dei (Santa Ana) is still alive in the playoffs, but if there's a team in the Pac-5 Division that's living the dream right now it has to be third-seeded Alemany (Mission Hills). In the school's first season in the Southern Section's marquee division, the program has been nothing short of impressive. It dismissed Newport Harbor in the first round, and then walloped a Lakewood squad that began the season like it was one of the teams to beat. Now it has been.
Taking a page out of the Servite playbook, Alemany's Deron Smith blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown on the game's first series. Although Lakewood tied the score on its ensuing possession, Alemany piled on for a 42-21 victory.
The Warriors (12-0) will play second-seeded Servite (Anaheim) (12-0) on Saturday at Cerritos College in what should be a very good semifinal. Servite got another big outing from Malik Felton (190 yards, touchdowns of 20, 49 and 65 yards) and also blocked a punt that was recovered by London Lewis in the end zone for a touchdown. It's the sixth game this season that Servite has scored on defense or special teams, and if the Friars do that again this week, the defending champions will probably stretch their winning streak to 24.
It won't be easy.
has made quite an impression on Servite Coach Troy Thomas.
"They're good, and the quarterback is a stud," said Thomas, who is Servite's defensive coordinator. "The quarterback is a pretty special guy, but they have guys he can throw to who are good athletes, and they're solid on defense, well-coached.
"Vernon Adams is a Cody Fajardo kind of guy."
Anyone who followed Servite last season knows what kind of statement that is: A running and passing threat, Fajardo led Servite to the Pac-5 championship and the State Division II Bowl Championship.
Click here to view MaxPreps' California football playoff brackets.
FROM THE PAC-5 DIVISION
Top-seeded Mission Viejo was seemingly invincible throughout the season the way it had smoked opponents, especially in the second half, but Santa Margarita wasn't at all intimidated in Misson's 31-28 victory. The Eagles – still grieving over the death two days earlier of longtime equipment manager Vince Pattee – were one possession from posting a significant upset and turned in the kind of emotional performance that honored Pattee's memory.
After falling behind 10-0 in the first quarter, Santa Margarita took a 20-17 lead early in the fourth quarter – the first time this season that Mission has trailed in the final quarter – but in the end wildcat formation quarterback Tre Madden was too much. He rushed eight times for 73 yards and completed all three of his passes for 76 – and almost every play was a big play. Dallas Kessman rushed for 145 yards and scored twice in the fourth quarter. But the difference maker against Santa Margarita was Madden; he makes that offense better even though he only plays quarterback part-time.
Video of Tre MaddenVideo of Dallas Kessman
Since the formation of the Trinity League in 2006, it was the first time in five games that Mission Viejo has beaten a Trinity League opponent; it lost three of those games in the playoffs. Now, after having beaten Santa Margarita, Mission faces another Trinity opponent in Mater Dei, which scored a 17-0 win over Tesoro. Victor Blackwell (dislocated shoulder) missed the first round game but played last week, and he can keep Mission's defense honest. This game might be closer than most expect. Or not.
Video of Victor Blackwell
For those trying to determine whether Mission Viejo or Corona Centennial – should both win out – will be the Open representative in the State Bowl Championship, you might want to be aware that Centennial defeated Mater Dei 44-13 on Sept. 17. Although scores aren't supposed to be taken into consideration (wink, wink) you can be sure that Mission Viejo (12-0) will be trying to make its points – a lot of them – against the Monarchs (8-4).
Mater Dei's defense, though, has been mostly solid: It has allowed more than 21 points only once this season – against Centennial. The game is Friday at Santa Ana Stadium.
FROM THE INLAND DIVISION
After spotting Upland a touchdown and trailing for the second time this season, Centennial (Corona) got a 59-yard scoring run from quarterback Michael Eubank, who had seven carries for 122 yards and completed 13 of 19 passes for 222 yards. On top of that, Barrinton Collins rushed for a career-high 305 yards and five touchdowns as the Huskies continued to look unbeatable with a 52-23 victory that was notable because the 29-point victory was their closest game of the season.
All four seeded teams are still alive, as Centennial (12-0) plays at fourth-seeded Chino Hills (10-2) on Friday; third-seeded Rancho Cucamonga (11-1) plays at Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) (11-1) on Saturday. Vista Murrieta might have had the most impressive performance of the weekend, leaving Norco with a 45-6 victory in a place that's difficult to play for opposing teams.
Rancho Cucamonga got a career-high 276 yards rushing and four touchdowns from Sateki Finau as the
Cougars overcame a 14-0 deficit to win, 51-36.
FROM THE NORTHERN DIVISION
It was a losing effort but it was a heck of an effort as Richard Mullaney of Thousand Oaks caught 19 passes for 303 yards in a 57-34 loss to Oaks Christian. The Oregon State-bound receiver finished the season with 120 receptions, one short of the 33-year-old state record but a new section record. Top-seeded Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) (10-2) plays at fourth-seeded Valencia (11-1) on Friday
Westlake (Westlake Village) (11-1) plays host to St. Bonaventure (Ventura) (11-1) in a rematch of a Marmonte League game four weeks ago. St. Bonny defeated the Warriors, 32-31, in double overtime. It ended an 22-game winning streak. Both teams rolled this week with three-touchdown victories.
It's not surprising that the Marmonte League tri-champions are in the semifinals. However, it shows the problem with this division: All the power is in one league which plays nine league games. Basically, the playoffs serve as the season-ending Marmonte League championship tournament. There's no real good way of comparing such highly regarded teams as Westlake, St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian with Centennial, Mission Viejo or Servite. The only things to go off of is that Oaks Christian was beaten by Alemany 20-17 on Sept. 3, and a week later St. Bonaventure beat Long Beach Poly, 32-7.
FROM THE WESTERN DIVISION
Serra (Gardena) advanced to the semifinals as expected, but got some disturbing news during its 40-7 victory over Camarillo. Superfan Alfred Burke, well known for his "Let's goooo Serra" yells, suffered a heart attack late in the third quarter and the game was delayed 40 minutes. He has reportedly attended Serra games since 1968, and the school's athlete of the year award is named after him. Principal Michael Wagner applied CPR until paramedics arrived. "He's an icon to this school," Wagner told the Torrance Daily Breeze. He has been transferred from Camarillo to Torrance Memorial and as of Tuesday was in stable condition.
Second-seeded Dominguez was upset on the road by Arroyo Grande, 17-7. It was only the fourth time this season that Dominguez had allowed 17 points or more, and it had won two of those games, against Notre Dame-Sherman Oaks and St. Francis-La Canada. It's the fourth game in which Dominguez scored fewer than 21 points – it failed to score more than 15 in its first three games of the season. Since then it looked like Dominguez's defense had a date with destiny and Gardena Serra but that wasn't the case after running into an Arroyo Grande defense that has now held six opponents to seven points or less.
Serra (12-0) plays host to Paso Robles (10-2) on Friday, and Arroyo Grande (10-2) plays host to Chaminade (West Hills) (11-1) on Saturday. It's only the third time in 23 seasons that Chaminade has reached the semifinals as Terrell Newby ran for four touchdowns against Atascadero. Ed Croson has done a terrific job as coach.
FROM THE CENTRAL DIVISION
Trailing 28-0, fourth-seeded La Quinta turned in the second-half performance of the year as it rallied for a 42-41 victory over Chino as Chyl Robinson rushed 39 times for 257 yards and three touchdowns. The Blackhawks had to convert a 2-point conversion with 51 seconds remaining, but that wasn't all: La Quinta recovered two onside kicks, and also blocked a PAT with 32 seconds remaining to complete its epic comeback.
Although the two seeded teams will play in one semifinal with No. 1 Rancho Verde (Moreno Valley) (12-0) playing at La Quinta (10-2), there are no seeded teams left in the other half of the bracket. Instead, San Andreas League teams Colton (9-3) and Cajon (San Bernardino) (10-2) will face off. Cajon won their earlier meeting, 29-20, though Colton played without running back Tyler Ervin, who gained a season-high 189 yards in a 35-14 victory over second-seeded Palm Springs.
FROM THE SOUTHWEST DIVISION
Things appear to be shaping up for a highly anticipated Tustin vs. La Habra championship game as both programs won. La Habra defeated Cypress – which had been ranked fourth in the division at the end of the regular season – by a 48-13 count. Tustin (11-1) had to scrap its way to a 24-17 victory over El Toro and will play host to fourth-seeded Villa Park (9-3) on Friday. The most impressive feat belonged to Sonora (La Habra) (10-2), which scored a 27-20 victory over second-seeded Laguna Hills, a team that went into the clash undefeated. La Habra won a Freeway League meeting against Sonora, 42-13, on Oct. 29.
FROM THE SOUTHEAST DIVISION
Chris Solomon scored four touchdowns, two of them on defense, to lead top-seeded West Covina past Santa Fe, 47-7. West Covina (11-1) plays Mayfair (Lakewood) (8-4) at Bellflower on Friday after Mayfair upset fourth-seeded Burroughs-Burbanks, 35-27. West Covina's Hacienda League rival, Bonita (La Verne) (11-1) plays in the other semifinal against La Serna (Whittier) (11-1), which scraped past Norwalk, 28-21.
FROM THE EASTERN DIVISION
Quarterback Bernard Porter scored from 8 yards with 22 seconds left to give Summit (Fontana) a 29-22 victory over Romoland Heritage. Summit will play at Serrano (Phelan) on Saturday, a day after top-seeded Kaiser (Fontana) (12-0) plays host to fourth-seeded Elsinore (Wildomar) (11-1).
FROM THE SOUTHERN DIVISION
Top-seeded Garden Grove won a shootout, 65-43, over Woodbridge-Irvine as Josh Webb rushed for 285 yards, passed for 26, and caught passes for 37 yards. That wasn't the only shootout: Beckman (Irvine) upset third-seeded Loara, 59-42, despite Howard Gauta passing for 311 yards and rushing for 158 and five touchdowns. Garden Grove (11-1) plays host to No. 4 Northwood (Irvine) (8-3-1) on Friday; At-large Beckman (7-5) plays host to second-seeded Corona del Mar (Newport Beach) (10-1-1) at Tustin on Saturday as two Pacific Coast League teams battle.
FROM THE CITY SECTION
Michael Bercovici had a big game against Dorsey as fifth-seeded Taft (Woodland Hills) advanced to the semifinals in the City by avenging a 37-24 loss on Sept. 9. In the rematch, Bercovici, an Arizona State commit, threw for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-18 victory over the fourth-seeded Dons.
In the handshake line after Venice defeated San Pedro, 35-10, a couple of players and a sideline assistant were pepper-sprayed by school police. San Pedro coach Mike Walsh told the Los Angeles Times that two of his players were sprayed. Venice coach Angelo Gasca, whose assistant got sprayed, said the incident started when a San Pedro player pushed a player from Venice. "It just takes one disgruntled person for something like this to escalate out of control ...," Gasca told The Times. "We have the utmost respect for Walsh's program and what happened is in no way a reflection of how he runs his team."
Seriously, pepper spray?
Taft (9-3) will play at top-seeded Carson (10-2) and third-seeded Venice (Los Angeles) (8-4) will play at second-seeded Crenshaw (Los Angeles) (10-2) on Friday. In the Division II games, Palisades (Pacific Palisades) (7-5) plays at Chatsworth (10-2) and Fairfax (Los Angeles) (8-3-1) plays Arleta (10-2) at Monroe High.
A CORRECTION ABOUT THE CURSE
In a note last week about Los Alamitos coach John Barnes and his record (47-18) since turning down the head coaching job at Servite, a comparison was made with Servite coach Troy Thomas during that same span. We undersold Servite's accomplishments, which is another way of saying the disparity in fortune between the two programs is even greater than previously listed. The following paragraph should have included these correct totals:
Over the same six-year span, Servite's on-field results (one nonleague loss became a forfeit victory and there was one forfeit victory in league) has yielded a 58-16 record under Thomas. Although he has a worse nonleague record (22-8, .733) than Barnes – owing to Servite's propensity for scheduling more difficult opponents than Los Alamitos – he makes up for it on the backside: Servite is 25-4 (.862) with six consecutive championships in league, and 11-4 (.733) in the playoffs.
With the victory over Crespi last week, Servite is 12-4 (.750) in the playoffs while Los Alamitos is 0-5. Adjusting for two forfeits, Servite is 60-15 over the past six seasons – and the Friars are still alive. Los Alamitos is 26-4 (.867) in nonleague games, 21-9 (.700) in league and 0-5 in the playoffs. Barnes is Orange County's winningest coach (288-93-10).
Martin Henderson is a reporter for Patch.com. He began covering Southland preps in 1993 for the Los Angeles Times, and has written for several papers including the Orange County Register and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. He offers up motorsports opinions at racescribe.wordpress.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.