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Northern exposure: CIF-SS Northern Division Playoff Preview

Most of last year’s participants are back as high school playoffs near kickoff

Posted: November 16, 2009 10:58 p.m.
Updated: November 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Canyon High wide receiver Shane Habberstad (10) tries to evade Thousand Oaks defenders on Sept. 25 at Canyon. Thousand Oaks will face Valencia in the first round of the CIF-SS Northern Division playoffs on Friday, while the Cowboys will travel to face Moorpark.

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The 2009 CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs have a familiar feel.

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason in 2008, 12 of them are back, including three of the four semifinalists.

The lone semifinalist to miss out is Saugus, which lost a coin-flip last Friday with Canyon and West Ranch for the final playoff spot from the Foothill League.

The Cowboys will take the Centurions’ place after winning the coin-flip. Elsewhere, the Channel League swapped Buena for 2008 playoff team Santa Barbara, the PAC-7 League switched Arroyo Grande for Paso Robles, and Hueneme — which finished 0-10 in 2008 — will replace Pacifica out of the Pacific View League.

Meanwhile, Valencia and Hart return to the playoffs from the Foothill League, and the league-champion Vikings do so as the No. 1 overall seed for the first time in school history.

Their half of the bracket includes Canyon, Pacific View League champion Adolfo Camarillo and Marmonte League runner-up Moorpark.

It also includes a first-round matchup with Thousand Oaks, which may have finished fourth in the Marmonte League but is arguably much better than its record indicates.

The other half of the bracket features Hart and St. Bonaventure, the two-time defending CIF State Division III champions who have won every postseason game the last two years by at least 14 points.

One of those wins was 42-28 victory over Hart in the 2007 CIF-SS Northern Division championship game. The Indians beat the Seraphs in 2006, St. Bonaventure’s last playoff loss, but a rematch will be a tall order this season with Marmonte League champion Westlake and PAC-7 League champion Righetti on the same side of the bracket.

Here’s a look at the 2009 CIF-SS Northern Division playoff teams, with the teams appearing in the same order as they do on the bracket.


Valencia

The Vikings (10-0) won the 2009 Foothill League title in dominant fashion and they roll into the playoffs ranked No. 15 overall in the state by Calpreps.com. The defense has been stout since allowing 36 points to Thousand Oaks in week one, and the prolific offense is led by junior quarterback Alex Bishop, who is flirting with Trent Edwards’ state record for completion percentage in a single season. Valencia made the semifinals last season and will host Thousand Oaks at 7 p.m. Friday.

Thousand Oaks

The Lancers are 5-5 but played well against most of their toughest opponents — including Valencia. Junior dual-threat quarterback Avondre Bollar has totaled 2,273 total yards and 33 touchdowns with just six interceptions, but Bollar left last Friday’s regular-season finale with an ankle injury and his status for this Friday is unknown. Thousand Oaks also has weapons in running back Rickey Minyard (740 yards, 6.6 yards per carry) and wide receiver Richard Mullaney (71 catches for 864 yards and nine touchdowns).

Buena

After finishing a pedestrian 4-6 in 2008, Buena went 8-2 and finished second in the Channel League. The Bulldogs went 2-2 against Northern Division playoff teams this season, including a victory over Canyon in early October. Quarterback Robert Munoz has thrown from 2,129 yards and 21 touchdowns against five interceptions, and four different receivers have more than 300 yards receiving. Running back Kendrick Mathis can also grind out yards on the ground. Buena will host Atascadero at 7 p.m. Friday.

Atascadero

Although they failed to four-peat as PAC-7 champions, the Greyhounds (7-3) still made the playoffs behind workhorse running back Sterling Bullard, who rushed for 1,018 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 127.3 yards per game. Atascadero’s passing game is suspect, however, and the defense has held only one opponent to less than 10 points.

Adolfo Camarillo

The 9-1 Scorpions have lost to Moorpark in the postseason four times this decade, and they could see Moorpark in the second round. But the prospects of a victory appear much brighter for Camarillo, which lost its first game to Newbury Park before ripping off nine straight wins, five of which were by 30 or more points. Camarillo’s spread offense operates under the command of quarterback Jeff Matthews, who has thrown for 2,725 yards and 32 touchdowns. Running back Ossie Toc has 921 yards rushing and 13 scores, and five wideouts have more than 200 yards receiving. The Scorpions will start by hosting Arroyo Grande at 7 p.m. Friday.

Arroyo Grande

Arroyo Grande wound up third in the PAC-7 after starting 7-1. But Arroyo Grande lost back-to-back games to Atascadero and Righetti. The offense has shown good balance with 1,380 passing yards from quarterback Matt McAustin and 1,419 combined rushing yards from Christian Crichton and Russell Perkins, the team’s two principle ball carriers. The Eagles went 1-3 against playoff teams and are led by ball-hawking linebacker Zach Zandt.

Moorpark

The Musketeers started 9-0 but were rocked by Westlake 38-14 last week in the game that decided the Marmonte League title. Still, Moorpark is rated 16th overall in the state by Calpreps.com and has a suffocating defense, which gave up only 12.2 points per game during the regular season. Tailback Austin Edmonson ran for 972 yards and 18 touchdowns without losing a fumble. Moorpark will look to make a return trip to the Northern Division finals and hosts Canyon at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Canyon

One of the toughest regular seasons in Canyon’s history was rewarded with a playoff berth last Friday. The Cowboys won their last two games over Golden Valley and Saugus, the latter forcing a three-way coin-flip for the Foothill League’s final playoff spot. Canyon (2-8) will look to attack Moorpark’s defense with skilled playmakers in quarterback Jonathan Jerozal, running back Trent Hernandez and wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky.

Westlake

No team in the Northern Division looks more dangerous than the third-seeded Warriors (10-0), who ran roughshod over the talented Marmonte League and won all but one of their games by 22 or more points. Westlake fell to Valencia in the second round of the playoffs last season, but most of the key contributors from that team have returned, led by quarterback Nick Isham (1,607 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, two interceptions) and running back Tavior Mowry (979 yards, 7.96 yards per carry, nine touchdowns). In the one tight game Westlake played, the defense held Newbury Park to six second-half points as the team rallied for a 31-27 victory. The Warriors are ranked seventh overall in the state according to Calpreps.com and will host Ventura at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Ventura

Ventura finished 5-5 and third in the Channel League, but the offense struggled to get going against the elite teams it faced during the regular season. The defense hasn’t done the Cougars any favors, with all five of their wins coming in shootouts. Defensive back Isaac Arichibeque leads the squad with 92 total tackles.

Hart

For the 21st time in 21 seasons under head coach Mike Herrington, the Indians qualified for the postseason. This year, they went 7-3 against a tough schedule and finished second in the Foothill League behind an improved defense and a pass-happy offense featuring quarterback C.J. Reyes and the talented receiving trio of Ty MacArthur, Blake Borland and Da’jon Hairston. Hart will host Hueneme at 7:30 p.m. Friday at College of the Canyons.

Hueneme

In the Northern Division’s most impressive turnaround, Hueneme went from winless to 7-3 and second place in the Pacific View League. The Vikings’ spread offense is fueled by quarterback Jonathan Barnfather, running back Trashaun Nixon and receiver Leonard Baker. A year after it failed to score more than 13 points in any single game, Hueneme eclipsed that mark eight times this season.

Righetti

The Warriors’ stout defense yielded just 10.7 points per game this fall and helped end Atascadero’s three-year run atop the PAC-7. Righetti (8-2) hasn’t lost since a 27-13 setback against Hart in mid-September and features the one-two punch of quarterback T.J. Jordan (1,267 total yards) and tailback Michael Hale (851 rushing yards) on offense. The Warriors will host Newbury Park at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Newbury Park

They may have finished third in the Marmonte League, but the Panthers (8-2) will be a tough out in the Northern Division playoffs. Quarterback Jake Geringer has thrown for 1,934 yards and 19 touchdowns this year with just three picks, while Notre Dame verbal Cameron Roberson has 938 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns and receiver Phillip Muscarella has 46 catches for 785 yards and 10 touchdowns. Eight players have more than 30 tackles on defense.

St. Bonaventure

A one-point loss to state power Bishop Amat midway through the regular season knocked the Seraphs (9-1) down a few spots in the Northern Division poll, but there’s no reason to think of them as anything but the favorites heading into the postseason. Ranked No. 23 overall in the state by Calpreps.com and seeded No. 2, St. Bonaventure played a brutal schedule that included victories over Long Beach Poly and Crespi of Encino and features a potent rushing attack led by tailback Devon Blackledge. The Seraphs have won eight section championships in 10 years and will open the postseason by hosting Oxnard at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Oxnard

Oxnard finished third in the Pacific View League but went just 1-3 against playoff teams this season, with all three losses coming over the final six games. Running back Alex Gavin has rushed for 1,195 yards and 11 touchdowns, but the Yellowjackets (7-3) coughed up the football 17 times and lost 12 of those fumbles. The defense limited the damage, however, by giving up just 15.3 points per game.

Some information from this story was gathered from the Maxpreps.com, the Ventura County Star and the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

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