CIF-SS FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS: SOUTHWEST DIVISION
FOOTHILL (8-2) vs. LAGUNA HILLS (6-3)
Where, when: Tustin High, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: These two teams met in mid-September at Laguna Hills High, with the Century League runner-up shutting out the Sea View League tri-champion, 31-0. Foothill is ranked No. 9 in the county, coming off its best regular season since 2008. All eight Knights victories were by double digits, including seven by at least 24 points. Foothill reached the CIF-SS Southwest semifinals last year. Laguna Hills closed out its regular season with two playoff-like battles against Capistrano Valley and Dana Hills. The Hawks split those games, beating Dana Hills in their league finale to force coin flips that ultimately led to their playoff berth. Laguna Hills exited the playoffs in the first round last year.
NEWPORT HARBOR (6-4) vs. TROY (7-3)
Where, when: Newport Harbor High, Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: It’s been a season of streaks for Newport Harbor, which started 0-2 and later fell to 2-4 before winning its final four games. The No. 13 Sailors are making their fourth consecutive playoff appearance, but it’s their debut in the Southwest Division playoffs. They’ve been led by tailback Tala Teaupa and sophomore quarterback Cole Norris, who took over in September because of an injury to starter Zach Wade. Those two players led the Sailors to a 6-2 mark. No. 19 Troy threatened to end La Habra’s reign in the Freeway League but ultimately fell two points and one victory short. The Warriors have relied heavily on the legs of running backs Dallas Parent and Nate Fleming to earn their second consecutive playoff berth.
EDISON (9-1) vs. ESPERANZA (6-4)
Where, when: Orange Coast College, Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The No. 3 Chargers are the division favorite after going unbeaten in the Sunset League, thought to be the division’s toughest league. Edison has allowed an average of 4.7 points a game, recording a school-record five shutouts. The program has been a perennial county power, but is in search of its first CIF title under longtime coach Dave White. Esperanza, a former Sunset League rival, earned an at-large berth and its second consecutive playoff appearance by finishing tied for third in the Century League. The Aztecs had won three in a row before nearly knocking off league champion Villa Park in the regular-season finale. Esperanza won its last meeting with Edison, in 2008.
VILLA PARK (9-1) vs. YORBA LINDA (8-2)
Where, when: El Modena High, Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The No. 7 Spartans followed up last year’s unbeaten march through the regular season with a similarly solid 2012 campaign. Now they are looking to top last year’s second-round playoff exit. Villa Park earned the division’s No. 3 seed after winning all of their Century League games, their lone defeat coming to top-seeded Edison. No. 25 Yorba Linda beat four Century League opponents in nonleague play, including playoff-bound Esperanza and El Dorado. The Mustangs finished third in the Empire League, earning their second playoff berth in the program’s three-year history. Yorba Linda also reached the second round last year.
VALENCIA (7-3) vs. SONORA (5-5)
Where, when: Valencia High, Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: No. 24 Valencia dispelled the ghosts of 2011 by finishing second in the Empire League and returning to the playoffs. The Tigers’ defense was key in winning five league games by double digits. Quarterback Jesse Godoy is also the team’s leading rusher. Valencia is in search of its first playoff victory since 2007. Sonora beat Valencia, 13-10, at home in early September. That was the highest-profile victory for the Raiders, who finished third in the Freeway League. Tailback Matthew Villasenor is a 1,000-yard rusher. Sonora reached the division semifinals two years ago.
LA HABRA (7-3) vs. LOS ALAMITOS (6-4)
Where, when: La Habra, Friday, 7 p.m.
Outlook: The No. 18 Highlanders overcame a 1-3 start by going undefeated in the Freeway League for the sixth consecutive season. La Habra won four consecutive division titles before bowing out in the semis last year to El Toro. It’s the first time in recent memory the Highlanders are not considered one of the division favorites. No. 17 Los Alamitos earned an at-large berth after finishing fourth in the Sunset League. The Griffins, who missed the playoffs in 2011, lost three of their final four games. La Habra and Los Alamitos have met six times, with the Griffins winning all six meetings. The most recent meeting was in 2009.
TUSTIN (10-0) vs. EL DORADO (4-6)
Where, when: Tustin High, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: The No. 6 Tillers are the defending division champions and many are picking them to return to the title game. They won just one game by less than 27 points, all the way back in August against Foothill. Tustin boasts the county’s top rushing offense, averaging nearly 400 yards a game. The Empire League champs have reached the semis every year since 2008. El Dorado finished in a three-way tie for third in the Century League and prevailed in coin flips to earn its first playoff berth in two seasons. The Golden Hawks’ most notable victory came against at-large participant Esperanza.
CAPISTRANO VALLEY (8-2) vs. HUNTINGTON BEACH (5-5)
Where, when: Capistrano Valley High, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Outlook: Capistrano Valley was awarded the Sea View League’s top bid after winning a series of coin flips to break a three-way tie for first place. The No. 22 Cougars won their final three games, their second three-game winning streak of the season. They are making their second consecutive playoff appearance. This matchup features two good quarterbacks in the Cougars’ Mason Dossey and Huntington Beach’s Kai Ross. The Oilers closed out the regular season losing two of three, though the victory was a decisive one against Los Alamitos. No. 16 Huntington Beach, which reached the second round last year, comes in with a less-glamorous record thanks to a grueling nonleague slate.
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