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CIF football playoffs: It’s playoff season

Foothill League trio begins the postseason and Trinity plays for a second wee

Posted: November 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 9, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Canyon's Myron McAfee (23) runs the ball last Friday.

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Canyon football, specifically its defense, passed a huge test in last Friday’s 17-14 victory over Hart in the Foothill League finale.

What it did was give the Cowboys the No. 2 spot from the Foothill League enabling the Cowboys to have a home game tonight at 7 p.m. in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs.

And whereas last week much of the onus was placed on the Cowboys defense to lead Canyon (7-2-1) to victory, the same can be said this week against the Pac-7’s third-place team San Luis Obispo (6-4).

And this is a much different challenge.

It was Hart’s dynamic offense last week. It’s San Luis Obispo’s unapologetic rushing game this week.

“It’s completely different,” said Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez. “It’s a lot more difficult because it’s a lot more assignment football. They run the double-wing, so it looks a little different. You have to just go out there and make plays.”

The Tigers average 271 yards per game on the ground to just 75 through the air.

But the main cog in their offense, running quarterback Garrett Giovannelli suffered an MCL injury in last Friday’s 28-24 loss to Arroyo Grande.

Yet, the Tigers still have three ball carriers who have over 400 yards rushing this year.

And that double wing could keep the potent Canyon offense off the field.

“You never know where the ball’s going,” Gutierrez said. “You never know if it’s going to the dive, or the pitch, or the option or a counter pass. They’re mixing it up a lot where your kids are almost frozen at a moment, so they have to find the football and then react. It’s not instinctual. You almost have to be safe in a lot of ways.”

So Canyon has to take advantage of its offensive plays.

One method that everyone knows about is throwing the ball to star wide receiver Drew Wolitarsky.

The senior is three receptions shy of Taft High graduate Steve Smith’s state career record of 271 and figures to set a new mark in this game.

Wolitarsky eclipsed Smith’s reception yardage record of 4,486 on Oct. 5 against Golden Valley and now has 4,982 yards.

Hart at Arroyo Grande at Arroyo Grande High at 7 p.m.

Hart football faced adversity last week.

Now it faces it again.

The Indians came into their game against Valencia Oct. 26 winners of seven straight.

Now they have lost two straight games and because of that, the preseason Foothill League title favorites have to travel north to play defending CIF-SS Western Division champion and first-year Northern Division team Arroyo Grande (8-2) in the first round of the playoffs.

“Against two good teams we were right there and had a chance to win and couldn’t pull it off,” said Hart head coach Mike Herrington. “So we take and try to learn from our mistakes and move on. And especially our young quarterback Brady White learned the last two weeks a lot and again we’re hoping not to make those same mistakes. And if we don’t make those same mistakes we’ll be successful.”

White has shown it all this year as a sophomore — poise, promise, youth and inexperience.

Yet the Indians (7-3) have been close in all three of their losses and have the firepower to turn it on at any given moment.

Their defense has been tested two weeks in a row by elite Northern Division quarterbacks in Valencia’s Sean Murphy and Canyon’s Cade Apsay.

They get another challenge in steady Matt Willkomm, who is extremely efficient with a 64 percent completion percentage, 16 touchdowns to just two interceptions and 498 rushing yards.

Yet Arroyo Grande has its holes, allowing over 300 rushing yards in its two losses and over 200 yards in seven games this season.

Herrington warns about the stats, though.

“We’re going to go in with the idea we’re going to take what they give us,” Herrington said. “They’ve given up a lot of yards rushing because that’s what everyone in their league does. Hardly any of those teams in that league throw a great deal so their stats are a little misleading probably because everyone runs the ball up there.”

Valencia vs. Paso Robles at Valencia High at 7 p.m.

All three playoff matchups for the Foothill League’s teams involve games against Pac-7 League teams.

Valencia, the No. 2 seed in the Northern Division playoffs, gets — like the other Foothill teams — a running team in 6-4 Paso Robles.

The Bearcats average 221 yards on the ground per game and are led by senior Colton Madrigal, whose 1,414 yards are tops in the Pac-7.

“They run a lot of different sets, a lot of different formations,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “They try and rattle you a bit and then try and get mismatches. They’re going to try and run the ball and run the clock out and keep the ball out of our hands.”

That would be wise for the Bearcats against a Valencia offense that scored no less than 31 points in any Foothill League game.

The driver of that offense has been quarterback Sean Murphy (2,851 yards, 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions). Slot receiver Malik Townsend has been the most dangerous player on offense with 44 catches for 785 yards and nine scores.

Muir warned that Paso Robles has been very good against the run, but the Vikings’ rushing attack has not made the offense go this season.

Valencia (7-3) has been very successful in the Foothill League with four straight titles, but the players and coaches all know that a CIF title has been out of reach.

In order to attain that or even get to a title game, Muir said the team needs to play well immediately.

“I think our kids did a great job of putting us in position as far as being a No. 2 seed. We have to take advantage of that now,” Muir said. “That means every week you have to play at a very high level if you have any aspirations of going to the semifinals or finals. You can’t struggle early. We have to play at a high level.”

Trinity Classical Academy at Cornerstone Christian in Wildomar at 7 p.m.

Film exchange didn’t go so well for Trinity this week.

Unfortunately for the Knights, head coach Mike Buchanan never received any footage of Cornerstone Christian in the mail. So the team is relying on other means for information — newspaper, websites and word of mouth — fir its CIF-SS Division II second-round game tonight.

“I’d day it’s definitely a heavier challenge (game) than last week,” Buchanan said. “But having no clue what they do ...”

Rest assured, the Knights do have some clue.

The Crusaders are the fourth team that a Santa Clarita Valley team faces today that specializes in the running attack.

Cornerstone is rushing for 210 yards per contest, led by senior Zack Brisson (886 yards and 17 touchdowns) and senior Joe Cody (680 yards and 10 touchdowns).

The Crusaders had their hands full last week in a 26-22 win over California Lutheran.

Meanwhile, Trinity cruised with a 71-6 win over Price in which the Knights went exclusively pass early on.

Dakota Prochnow and Chris Buchanan were a combined 14-of-20 for 200 yards and three touchdowns.

Signal staff writer Jon Stein contributed to this story

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