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Prep football preview: Contenders collide

Valencia vs. Canyon highlights this week’s matchups

Posted: October 19, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 19, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Valencia quarterback Sean Murphy prepares to throw during a game against West Ranch on Oct. 12 at Valencia High School.

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Here it is.

The first marquee Foothill League game of the year.

Canyon and Valencia — two teams considered Foothill title contenders — will play tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Canyon High School.

And there are a couple of similarities between both teams — both are undefeated in league play and both have explosive offenses.

“To be honest, I don’t know what to expect,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “I’m hoping our defense will slow them down a little bit. Certainly their offense is explosive and we have to cut down on the big play.”

At 50 points per game, the Cowboys (5-1-1 overall, 2-0 in the Foothill League) are the highest scoring team in the Northern Division.

And they have weapons galore.

Quarterback Cade Apsay has thrown for a league high 2,148 yards and 26 touchdowns and when wide receivers Drew Wolitarsky and Brenden Stach went down with injuries last week, sophomore Liam Cabrera stepped up with a six catch, 102-yard, three-touchdown performance.

On top of that, senior running back Daniel Castro carried the rushing load with 125 yards on 19 carries in a 41-14 win against Saugus.

He had to with speedy Dominic Pennucci still nursing a hamstring injury.

Canyon’s defense is taking pride in holding Golden Valley and Saugus to a combined 21 points after allowing 48 points or more three times this season.

But make no mistake about it, Golden Valley and Saugus don’t have the dynamic offenses that Valencia has.

The Vikings (4-3, 2-0) are scoring 35 points per game and have been steered by senior quarterback Sean Murphy, who has 1,935 yards and 21 passing touchdowns.

He has his own weapons in juniors Nick Jones (34 catches, 719 yards and nine touchdowns) and Malik Townsend (29 catches, 480 yards and six touchdowns).

Muir said he’s not aiming to run the ball more to eat up clock and keep the Canyon offense off the field.

If Canyon has the offensive advantage, it’s in the running game.

Valencia certainly has the defensive edge, having held four of the last five opponents under two touchdowns.

Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez said his young team understands the magnitude of the game, but regardless who the Cowboys are playing, this game is about improving the Cowboys more than beating the Vikings.

“Having a lot of youth on the team, we’re just trying to prepare them to be consistent and focus on themselves,” said Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez. “Valencia is Valencia. They’re fantastic. (But) it’s about us getting stronger.”

Hart vs. Saugus at College of the Canyons, tonight at 7:30 p.m.

It seemed like for at least a quarter last Friday against Canyon, Saugus was the Saugus of old.

Running the ball. Eating the clock. Keeping the other team’s offense waiting.

Yet the Centurions could only maintain that level of play for a short time, resulting in a 41-14 loss to the Cowboys.

It’s the team that Saugus displayed for a quarter that most concerns Hart head coach Mike Herrington.

“Their offense can move the ball — that’s what we’re worried about,” Herrington said. “The other thing is they’ve had our number.”

Saugus (2-5, 0-2) has won three of the last four meetings between the two teams.

But despite a respectable game by quarterback Chris Hamilton and running back Ried Rupe’s strong performance (12 carries for 63 yards) last week, these are two much different teams.

Hart (6-1, 2-0) has won six straight games by an average margin of victory of 38.3 points.

The Indians have held six opponents to 14 points or less and the offense has had a different player step up every game, while Herrington points to his highly touted offensive line’s play of late as a key component in the team’s success.

Since the Foothill League went to a six-team all Santa Clarita alignment in 2007, the Centurions have never started league play at 0-3.

Golden Valley vs. West Ranch at Valencia High at 7 p.m.

There’s a thought that this is the year for Golden Valley.

The year that it finally breaks through for its first-ever Foothill League win.

The thought is that if it comes, it will have to be in the next two weeks as the Grizzlies get West Ranch tonight and Saugus next Friday.

Don’t think that West Ranch (1-6, 0-2) hasn’t heard about that possible breakthrough.

The Wildcats have not gotten off to the start in league that they thought they would, having been beaten by Hart and Valencia by a combined score of 104-13.

“In any game, you’re more worried about yourself than the opponent. We’re looking more to improve on our own performance, but that’s universal (with football teams),” said West Ranch head coach Sean O’Brien. “With Golden Valley, the worry is they’re ripe to break out. We just ask you to wait. On that note, (running back) Leon Jacobs literally breaks out on things. It looks like a 21-man furball and he gets out of it.”

Jacobs is that major weapon for the Grizzlies (0-7, 0-2), as he has crossed the century mark in rushing yards the last three games.

So that puts a lot on the West Ranch defense, specifically interior linemen Jake Lambirth and Blaine Littleford.

O’Brien said that a win here could restore a lot of confidence the Wildcats lost in the first two games.

Imagine what it would do for the Grizzlies.

On Saturday

Saddleback Valley Christian vs. SCCS at Canyon High at 7 p.m.


The Cardinals have been just as impressive as the Foothill League’s top three of Valencia, Hart and Canyon.

In their last four victories, they’ve outscored teams 160-6.

They’ve been off since a 25-6 over Kilpatrick on Oct. 4.

Saddleback is 3-4 with two straight wins by a combined score of 115-14.

The Warriors are the only undefeated team in the San Joaquin League at 2-0.

SCCS is 5-2 overall and 2-1 in league.

Trinity at Faith Baptist in Canoga Park at 2 p.m.

Before one goes about giving a consistent Trinity team a victory against a 2-5 Faith Baptist team, here are a couple of things to chew on.

For years, Faith has been an 8-Man Division I power.

Last week, the Contenders knocked off then Division I No. 4 Lancaster Baptist 50-40.

So despite the overall record, Faith has some power.

Trinity last beat Milken 51-0 on Oct. 11 and is 5-2 overall and 1-0 in the Heritage League.

Faith is also 1-0 in league.

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