Grizzlies football faces tough test

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Asked what challenges El Segundo High football presents, Golden Valley coach Dan Kelley didn’t hesitate.

“They’re 10-1,” he said.

Meaning: The Eagles present myriad challenges and have for almost every team they’ve faced.

No. 2-seeded El Segundo enters Friday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 7 quarterfinal at Canyon High averaging 34 points per game on offense and allowing just 10 points on average defensively.

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After finishing in a three-way tie atop the Ocean League, the Eagles beat Canyon of Anaheim in the first round, 17-10.

Now they face the Santa Clarita Valley’s feel-good story.

Before last year, the Grizzlies had never won a Foothill League game. Now they’ve won four — and a playoff game (14-10 over Ayala of Chino Hills last week).

To continue the Cinderella story, though, Golden Valley must stop the run.

“No. 4 (for El Segundo) is a slasher. He’s going to be one of the best backs we’ve seen this year,” Kelley said.

No. 4 is 5-foot-10, 190-pound Taz Tauaese, a senior who’s rushed for 1,049 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s averaging 8 yards per carry.

The Grizzlies rushing attack has averaged 181 yards rushing per game, headlined by KJ Maduike.

The senior has racked up 1,213 yards and 11 touchdowns. And if El Segundo stacks the box, quarterback Josh Valano and receiver Jalin Lewis can make big plays in the passing game.

However, West Ranch and Ayala have held Lewis to six catches for 54 yards over the last two games.

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Golden Valley wants to get him on track.

Defensively, linebacker Darius Anthony has led one of the Foothill League’s best units.

Anthony has 127 tackles, 10 for loss, on the year. Friday, he’ll be chasing senior Jake Palmer, a left-handed quarterback who runs well, according to Kelley.

The Eagles also use Kobee Malaki Lagarde at quarterback. He has completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,276 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions.

El Segundo’s defense has recorded 51 sacks on the year. Defensive end Dylan Radke has a team-high 11 of them.

Kelley, though, believes life in the Foothill League has prepared the Grizzlies for this kind of matchup.

“We take pride in that,” Kelley said.

If the Grizzlies win, they would be at home against the winner of San Gorgonio of San Bernardino (8-3) and Tustin (9-2).

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