This Friday, both Hart High and Saugus High will make their final impressions on Foothill League football in a 7:30 p.m. matchup at College of the Canyons.
“We need to show everyone out there who we really are,” said Centurion Gary Bojorquez. “This is a statement game for us so we’re doing everything we can to show everyone who we are.”
If Valencia wins their game against Canyon, it will claim the league title outright, and either the Indians (7-2 overall, 3-1 in league) or the Centurions (8-1, 3-1) will be in second place with a win.
That win will not only secure a higher finish in league and better positioning for a possible playoff berth, but also confidence.
“I think it’s a big, big advantage if you finish league with a win,” said Hart coach Mike Herrington. “The kids aren’t as down, they’re excited. So that’s our goal. We want to be able to come off with a win and enter the playoffs on a high note.”
Finishing second or third in league, however, doesn’t necessarily secure a playoff berth under the CIF-Southern Section’s power-ranking-based postseason system. Saugus’ position in Division 6 looks more secure if the Centurions can finish in second place.
A third-place finish looks less detrimental to Hart in Division 3.
Still, the Indians are hitting their stride at the right time, with an offense that is finally living up to its potential.
Da’Von Jones will be playing his third game at running back and had four carries for 132 yards in last Friday’s game against Golden Valley. His speed and footwork caught the eye of Herrington, who promptly assigned him to work with the running backs at practice.
“Any time you have a dual threat quarterback like Nick Moore as well as a running back who complements his skill set, it’s very difficult to defend,” said Saugus coach Jason Bornn. “You can’t just focus on one, because if you focus on one, the other one is going to hurt you.”
One of Saugus’ greatest assets has been its well-executing, slow-bleeding offense led by quarterback Nathan Eldridge (1,635 yards, 20 touchdowns).
“We have to be the same way. We have to be methodical,” Herrington said. “We’ve got to make sure we are disciplined, we react to the things that they do and we have to play solid defense.”
Part of that solid defense is AJ Stanley, whose two interceptions against Golden Valley last tied the program record for career interceptions with 14.
“We have to try to keep as balanced as we can with the pass and the run and try and take advantage of what defenses give us, which in their case is not much,” Bornn said.
Golden Valley (5-4, 1-3) vs. West Ranch (4-5, 1-3), at Valencia High, Friday 7:30 p.m.
Five years ago, when Chris Varner was head coach at Canyon, wins over Golden Valley were almost a sure thing.
“You pretty much secured this win back in September,” said Varner, now the coach at West Ranch. “That’s certainly not the case anymore. It wasn’t last year, either.”
Last season, the Grizzlies broke out of a decade of losing and carried that momentum into 2016. Embodying the same underdog spirit, West Ranch proved to be this season’s surprise, leaving last season’s 3-7 finish behind.
With the CIF-Southern Section’s new power-ranking-based playoff system, the Grizzlies and the Wildcats both remain alive for an at-large berth in Division 7 and Division 9, respectively.
Neither team can finish high enough in the Foothill League to secure one of its three “guaranteed” playoff spots, but a win Friday would increase both teams’ postseason odds.
“I told the kids, ‘You’re playing for your playoff lives,” said Golden Valley coach Dan Kelley.
In Division 7, according to The Signal’s unofficial analysis, roughly 16 of the division’s 23 teams remain in contention for a guaranteed playoff spot. A total of 17 teams, however, have a record equal to or worse than Golden Valley, presenting the Grizzlies as a strong at-large candidate.
West Ranch’s Division 9 has roughly 18 teams (out of 29) still in contention for a guaranteed spot. One more win would put the Wildcats at .500 on the year and in a much better position to make the playoffs.
The CIF will place all the .500 or better teams in a division’s 16-team bracket before taking any teams below .500.
In picking at-large teams, the CIF uses a six-part analysis:
(a) Head-to-head competition of teams under consideration
(b) Overall strength of the league from which the team is entered based on the end of season rankings
(c) Overall win-loss record
(d) Strength against common opponents
(e) Strength of schedule (using overall win-loss record of opponents)
(f) Freelance teams will be part of the pool for the filling of at-large berths
Valencia (7-2, 4-0) at Canyon (4-5, 0-4), Friday 7 p.m.
As with every Foothill League game this week, there is a lot at stake between Canyon and Valencia.
The Vikings, of course, can win the Foothill League title outright with a win. A loss would mean sharing their eighth straight crown with the winner of Hart vs. Saugus.
Canyon, for the reason mentioned above concerning West Ranch, needs to win in order to reach .500. Eighteen teams will finish at .500 or better in Division 6, even if those teams lose Friday, and the CIF will pick all of them ahead of the Cowboys if they don’t pull off one more win.
History, though, doesn’t bode well for Canyon. The Vikings have beaten the Cowboys nine straight times.