Here are the Orange County teams in the Southwest Division:
Edison (9-1) – The Chargers entered the season the division favorite and enter the postseason the same way. They recorded a school-record five shutouts while allowing just 4.7 points a game. That’s with three Pac-5 Division opponents on the preseason slate. Edison, a longtime county powerhouse, is starving for a CIF title and can smell blood after switching from the Pac-5 to the Southwest. The Chargers will host at-large entrant Esperanza.
Esperanza (6-4) – The Aztecs earned an at-large berth after finishing in a three-way tie for third place in the Century League. They are still looking for their first postseason victory since leaving the Pac-5 in 2008. They went just 1-4 against division opponents in the bracket this season, the victory coming against Sea View League champion Capistrano Valley. Esperanza will play at top-seeded Edison.
Valencia (7-3) – The Tigers rebounded big-time from last year’s 1-9 campaign, claiming second place in the Empire League. They face Sonora in the first round, a team they lost to on the road in early September. Valencia went 3-3 against opponents in the postseason. The Tigers defense allowed more than 20 points just twice all season.
Sonora (5-5) – The Raiders got off to a slow start this season before playing better on both sides of the ball in league play. Their first-round draw is a Valencia team that they allowed just three points to over the final three quarters in their September meeting. Sonora lost to Villa Park in the first round of the playoffs last season, just one year after reaching the division semis.
La Habra (7-3) – Some might have written La Habra off after a 1-3 start. The Freeway League champion Highlanders finished the regular season on a six-game winning streak, while allowing 13.6 points over that span. They’re averaging 30.3 points for the season. The Highlanders won four consecutive division titles (2007-10) before losing to El Toro in last year’s semifinals. They host Los Alamitos in the first round.
Los Alamitos (6-4) – The Griffins fell well short of contending for a Sunset League title but managed to earn an at-large berth. They’re back in the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. Don’t be surprised to see Los Alamitos make a run. That is, if it can first win at La Habra. The defense had been solid all season before sputtering a bit near the end of the season.
Foothill (8-2) – The Knights are coming off their best regular season in years. They flirted with a county top-10 ranking while giving both Tustin and Villa Park everything they could handle. Foothill finished second in the Century League after beating five of six opponents by at least 24 points. They flexed their defensive muscle throughout the season, allowing just 12.8 points a game. Foothill opens with a Thursday home game against Laguna Hills.
Laguna Hills (6-3) – The Sea View runner-up took the league’s second bid after edging Dana Hills in the regular-season finale. The Hawks went toe-to-toe with Capo Valley the prior week, losing 17-14. Their defense allowed more than 14 points just once all season. Since coming over from the Southern Division in 2010, Laguna Hills is 1-2 in the playoffs. It will play at Foothill on Thursday
Villa Park (9-1) – Coach Dusan Ancich has built Villa Park into a perennial contender. A year after going unbeaten in the regular season, the Spartans went 9-1, their lone loss coming to top-seeded Edison. The Spartans suffered a second-round defeat to Tustin in last year’s plyoffs. The Century League champs earned the division’s fourth seed and will host Yorba Linda in the first round.
Yorba Linda (8-2) – The Mustangs got off to a tremendous start against quality competition in nonleague play. Still, they needed a victory against Pacifica in the regular-season finale to clinch an impressive second consecutive playoff berth in the program’s three-year history. Yorba Linda will likely go as far as its defense takes it. The postseason begins with a tall task, traveling to third-seeded Villa Park.
Newport Harbor (6-4) – The Sailors finished the season a far different team than the one that began 0-2, or 2-4 for that matter. They took second place in the Sunset League by earning narrow victories against Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach and Los Alamitos, in overtime. The Sailors have not won a postseason game since 2007, though this is their first venture in the Southwest. They host Troy in the first round.
Troy (7-3) – The Warriors fell just two points short of the Freeway League title in Coach Kevin Hastin’s debut season. They closed out the regular season with four victories in a row. Troy is making its second consecutive postseason appearance but has not won a postseason game since 2006. They begin the playoffs on the road against Newport Harbor.
Capistrano Valley (8-2) – The Cougars finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Sea View League, and then won a series of coin flips to be the league’s top representative. Capistrano Valley improved five games over last year’s 3-7 regular season. The program hadn’t made the playoffs since 2005 and hadn’t won more than four games since 2007. Capistrano Valley scored at least 35 points five times. It will host Huntington Beach in the first round.
Huntington Beach (5-5) – Huntington Beach overcame a 1-3 start by winning four of its next five, highlighted by what many would consider an upset of Los Alamitos. They’re one year removed from a 9-3 season and have made the playoffs four times in the past five years. They open the postseason at Capistrano Valley.
Tustin (10-0) – The second-seeded Tillers begin their quest as defending division champs with a first-round game against El Dorado. Tustin had just one close call all season, a 35-28 victory against Foothill, all the way back in August. They won each of their other nine games by at least 27 points. Tustin has reached at least the semifinals of every postseason since 2008.
El Dorado (4-6) – The Golden Hawks have lost their past three games, but won the most important games thereafter: a series of coin-flip. That made them the Century League’s third representative, setting up a first-round date with Tustin. El Dorado went just 1-3 in nonleague play, albeit against a challenging schedule. It has not won a postseason game since 2009.
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