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Path to CIF title revealed

CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoff brackets are released

Posted: November 16, 2008 9:55 p.m.
Updated: November 17, 2008 4:55 a.m.
 
The CIF-Southern Section released the brackets Sunday for the Northern Division football playoffs.

Now the second season starts and the Foothill League usually delivers.

Though this year's league season was unique.

This season, history was made as the Saugus Centurions rose above perennial powers Canyon, Hart and Valencia to take its first Foothill League crown.

The Vikings battled off key injuries early in the season and kept their league title hopes alive until the final weeks of the season.

Disaster was averted when Hart head coach Mike Herrington pulled his team together and made the playoffs for the twentieth time in his 20-year run with the Indians, only adding to the Indians' mystique.

Now the big question is, can the Foothill League continue its streak of sending a team to a championship game. It has done so every year this decade.

The postseason begins Friday.

Saugus vs. Righetti
Though Righetti only possesses a 6-4 record, the Warriors may prove to be deceptive.

Saugus head coach Jason Bornn has a lot of good things to say about his opponent, complimenting their running game and the play of running back Javon Davis, calling them "very aggressive" and "hard-hitting."

Davis has amassed 1,226 yards and 16 touchdowns this season for the Warriors.

The Centurions (7-3) will again turn to linebacker Mario Lara for leadership on defense.

"Mario is the unquestioned leader of our defense," said Bornn. "He's the quarterback of our defense and we will rely on him a lot."

Offensively, not much needs to be said. Saugus' consistent production speaks for itself, and it all stems from senior quarterback Desi Rodriguez.

"He's the leader of our high-octane offense," Bornn said. "We rely on Desi to get us in gear."

Rodriguez has done just that, to the turn of 1,352 yards passing with 12 touchdowns and only two interceptions while rushing for 1,314 and 17 scores.

Bornn noted that everything begins with Rodriguez. Through him they are able to get their receivers going and unleash running back Ryan Zirbel.

Zirbel comes into the game with 1,389 yards and 20 TDs.

A forward glance at the bracket produces a potential matchup with St. Bonaventure in the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division semifinals, the team that bounced Saugus from the playoffs a year ago at the same point in the bracket.

However, the Centurions remain focused.

"You cannot afford to look ahead," Bornn said. "We are treating this game as the championship."

The Centurions open up the first round at home at Cougar Stadium on Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Valencia vs. Ventura
The Vikings could have their hands full with the Channel League's No. 2 team, Ventura.

The Cougars finished second to the Northern Division's No. 1, St. Bonaventure, and lost to Oxnard and Moorpark.

However, Valencia (8-2) has the playmakers to get the job done.

Averaging 35.8 points per game, the Vikings' offense is loaded with playmakers as Dominick Solley, Zack Tartabull and Jordan Thompson prepare for a defense that gave up 20.9 points per game during the season.

Offensively, the Cougars (6-4) are less productive, failing to produce a thousand-yard rusher.

Running back Matt Melnar leads the team with 88.7 yards per game and five touchdowns.

As consistent as the offense has been this year, Valencia's defense comes into the game with four shutouts to their credit and a stingy 12 points-per-game allowed average.

On the surface, Ventura appears to be a team that relies on their defense, so if Valencia gets things going early, the Vikings may never look back.

The two teams will square off on Friday at Valencia High at 7:30 p.m.

Hart at Atascadero
It has been a confusing season for the Indians.

Starting out the year with a number of questions, things settled in nicely for Hart (5-5) by the end of the season.

Position battles, injuries and defensive re-tooling have transformed a struggling team to one that won its final two games of the season in order to make the playoffs.

Quarterback Spenser Souza will lead the team into a showdown at Atascadero (8-2), the first time the two teams have ever squared off, according to Herrington.

"We've exchanged film and they look tough," said Herrington, pointing out the Greyhounds' emphasis on the run.

Running back Nick Tenhaeff leads Atascadero with 1,395 yards and 19 touchdowns this year but has fumbled five times. It will take a standout performance by the Indians' defense on Friday.

"We've had problems stopping the run, but the last few games we've really come together," Herrington said.
Leading the way with 74 tackles, Hart's Michael Aguilar will need to continue his stellar play along with Ty MacArthur, Brandon Cox and the rest of the Indians' defense to ensure the offense has its chances.

The Greyhounds have only given up 15.4 ppg so Souza, running backs Jake Stephens and Demitri Diamond, and receiver Blake Borland will need to capitalize on their opportunities.

The game will also start at 7:30 p.m.

pputignano@the-signal.com


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