Saugus ready for playoff battle against undefeated Villa Park

Saugus' senior quarterback Cole Gallagher completes a pass to senior wide receiver James Sumpter in the season opener at College of the Canyons. Cory Rubin/The Signal

The Saugus football team is coming off its most thrilling win of the season this past Friday – a dramatic last-second 38-35 victory at home against last season’s Division 6 champions Bishop Diego.

Of course, the fact that it was a playoff game raised the intensity to a new level, but the way the game was won on a 43-yard field goal by kicker Colton Dolder as time expired, stirred up all kinds of feelings for the Centurions.

It also brought the already tight-knit Cents even closer together.

“The win last week was definitely emotional,” said senior wideout James Sumpter. “We have really seen how we as a team can come together and win ball games. We are a close group of guys and I definitely believe how close we are as a team will ultimately help us tomorrow night.”

Saugus (8-3) must come together once again tonight as it will have its hands full taking on undefeated Villa Park in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs.

Villa Park (11-0) is coming off a 34-12 win against Yucaipa in its opening playoff game.

The Spartans dominated the Crestview League this year, much like they’ve done for the past decade. They’ve won their league for nine straight years and haven’t lost a league game since 2013.

Defense has been the Spartans’ strongest asset this season, as they’ve allowed only 83 points in 10 games this year (one win was by forfeit), an average of 8.3 points per game.

While Sumpter acknowledged that Villa Park’s defense can present problems, he believes the running game, led by Reid Huseman, will help open up the passing game for quarterback Cole Gallagher to find his multitude of receivers.

“I definitely believe Reid (Huseman) will be able to run all night. His ability to break down defenses physically can help us in the passing game,” he said. “We have so many weapons on our offense I don’t think they can stop everyone. Also, Cole (Gallagher) has been very good at getting the ball to all of our receivers all season.”

On offense, Villa Park is led by junior running back Anthony Hakai who has rushed for 843 yards and 14 touchdowns on 176 carries.
Senior quarterback Paul Piferi has thrown for 2,607 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions.

If Saugus can win the turnover battle and continue to use its balanced attack, Sumpter believes his team will have a great shot at keeping the playoff run alive.

“We have to work for each other and just limit our mistakes. If we do that I think we will have another opportunity to play next week,” he said.

The game kicks off at 7 p.m. at College of the Canyons.

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