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Preview: Valencia and Saugus collide

Rivals play tonight for a spot in Northern Division title game

Posted: November 28, 2013 10:55 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2013 10:55 p.m.

Valencia's high-powered offense will have its hands full with Saugus' defense tonight.

 

There’s a notion in sports that goes: It’s not always the best team that wins in the playoffs, it’s the hottest team.

Saugus, the fourth-place team from the Foothill League, is on a roll.

There’s one big obstacle in its way — the five-time defending Foothill League champion Valencia Vikings, a team that defeated Saugus 38-24 on Oct. 11 and hasn’t lost to the Centurions since Nov. 7, 2008. In fact, Valencia has outscored Saugus in the five meetings since that date 174-27.

These teams meet tonight at 7 p.m. at Canyon High (Saugus’ home for this game because Hart gets College of the Canyons) in the first all-Santa Clarita Valley CIF-Southern Section Northern Division semifinal since 2005 when

Canyon met Valencia in what was called the Division II semifinals.

However, Valencia (10-2) has its own obstacle — the semifinals themselves.

Starting with that Canyon loss, Valencia has been defeated in five semifinals.

With all of this — Valencia’s semifinals trouble, having already defeated the Centurions (7-5) and being the Foothill champion, the pressure is on the Vikings.

Especially when you add Saugus is seemingly playing with nothing to lose.

Vikings head coach Larry Muir said Valencia having the pressure on it is not the case, though.

“I don’t think there’s added pressure,” Muir said. “They know us well and we know them well. When you play a Palos Verdes, a Paso Robles (other Northern Division teams), it’s very unfamiliar. You maybe see them once a year on film. You don’t know the personality of the coach and other things.”

So throw the pressure back on the Centurions, who are just as familiar with the Vikings and do, in fact, have a lot to lose.

No matter what team you are, whether you’re expected to be here or not, losing is bitter.

But winning and losing is the end result and a reason Bornn said that Saugus got beat by Valencia last time.

His team was guilty of not focusing on the process.

“When you’re looking at the light at the end of the tunnel, you don’t see the tracks right in front of you, and if you don’t see the tracks right in front of you, you’re going to derail,” Bornn said.

Saugus has seen the tracks in its two upset victories in the postseason.

The Centurions beat No. 3 seeded Atascadero 34-27 on Nov. 15, then shut out Bay League No. 2 Mira Costa 13-0 last Friday.

Bornn got the feeling Atascadero took his Centurions lightly and a combination of the cold and Mira Costa playing its worst at the worst time helped produce a Saugus victory.

Plus those teams ran the ball without success against a run-stopping Cents defense.

But the continued success of senior running back Reid Rupe continues to be the story on offense.

In two playoff games, he has carried the ball 49 times for 326 yards.

That has allowed quarterback Chris Hamilton to be efficient in the passing game and a nightmare to defend with his running ability.

He has 47 carries for 176 yards in the playoffs.

Those are key guys to stop for Valencia.

For Saugus, the obvious is limiting the Vikings’ big-play receivers Nick Jones and Jay Jay Wilson.

Jones has 10 catches in the postseason for 283 yards and four scores.

His speed and size make him a difficult matchup for Saugus.

Same with Wilson, who has 10 catches for 140 yards in the playoffs.

If Valencia wants to slow things down, Wilson can be inserted into the running game as a punisher.

The Vikings might need a lot from an inconsistent running game because of the health and play of quarterback Jake Wallace.

Wallace should play after suffering a concussion last Friday in a 28-23 win over Arroyo Grande.

Viking quarterbacks have seven turnovers in the postseason.

However, Wallace has the capability of making big plays.

With all these keys on the offense and defense, special teams could go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.

Valencia blocked a Saugus punt near the Vikings’ own end zone in the Oct. 11 meeting.

Saugus blocked a Valencia punt that led to a Centurions safety.

Valencia missed two field-goal attempts inside 30 yards and three point-after touchdown kicks.

Seemingly with the leg of Valencia’s Cole Murphy, Valencia has that advantage.

But the last meeting between the two teams showed that wasn’t the case.

And the last meeting could have very easily gone either way.

Valencia led 19-16 midway through the third quarter.

Saugus remembers.

Valencia remembers.

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