By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
CIF football brackets were released Sunday morning showing four local 11-man teams their divisions and competition.
Four Foothill League teams will be hosting CIF openers this weekend with some times to be determined. Only reigning the CIF Division 5 champion Vikings will be on the road.
West Ranch drew into Division 3 and will be the only Foothill League team without a chance to rematch with a league opponent.
West Ranch to host St. Pius/ St. Mathias in D3
The Wildcats (10-0) will continue their undefeated quest with a home playoff matchup with the Warriors (8-1). The Del Rey League champs and West Ranch have some common opponents and similar scores.
St. Pius is led by gunslinger Dieter Barr. The quarterback has over 1,000 yards through the air this season with just two picks in seven games.
The Warriors, like the Cats, feature a loaded backfield with a handful of talented players running the rock. The lead back is DJ Powell, who totaled up 279 yards on just 40 carries to go along with eight TDs. Powell has the lowest yards-per-run average in the four-man backfield with 7.0.
Barr’s favorite target through the air is senior Jordan Shaw. The wideout leads the team with 470 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
The St. Pius defense has made a name for itself this year. The group will be tested by the high-flying Wildcat offense but have to feel good entering the matchup allowing just over nine points a night. Senior D’Angelo Davis finished his final regular season with 13 sacks and has been the biggest game wrecker for the Warriors,
West Ranch’s line has done a great job keeping quarterback Ryan Staub off the ground. Sean Scott and Max Johnson usually don’t need to hold pass rushers long with how fast the Wildcats move.
The hosting West Ranch has answers for all of these impressive stats. The Wildcat defense also gives up less than 10 yards a game with a ridiculous 31 team sacks.
Staub finished his season with 2,406 passing yards and 32 TDs. Staub does a solid job spreading the ball around to different targets but receiver Chaz Hilst leads the team with 56 receptions, 848 yards and 12 TDs.
West Ranch and St. Pius St. Mathias kick off Friday at 7 p.m. at Valencia.
Saugus opens up against Millikan in D4
The Centurions (8-2) will have a big first-round challenge in Millikan (5-5) on Friday. Don’t let their record fool you, the Rams mean business.
Millikan’s record looks subpar due to four forfeits this season as a result of playing an ineligible player earlier this season. The Rams are a fast-paced offense and love to throw the ball. Quarterback Myles Jackson has over 3,000 yards and 41 TDs through the air this year in his junior season.
Jackson’s top receiver is Jordan Anderson, who has racked up 41 receptions for 902 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Rams have two big pass rushing threats in Ethaniah Steffany and Craig Gordon, who both have seven sacks each.
Saugus will hope to be a little healthier to take this Division 4 opening round game. Captain Jacob Viger exited his regular season finale with a leg injury while the majority of Centurion running backs have gone down.
Defensive end Dario Sandoval filled the role and ran the ball well when his team needed him most. The 6-foot, 3-inch back will be a tough tackle on any carries on offense.
Saugus hosts Millikan Friday at 7 p.m. at COC.
Valencia travels to Newport Harbor in D4 opener
The Vikings (5-5) will be the one local team traveling out of the valley for their CIF opener. Valencia will match up with the Newport Harbor Sailors (6-4) and look to continue their four-game CIF win streak.
The Sailors are led by quarterback Colton Joseph, who finished his final regular season with 2,306 passing yards and 26 TDs. The senior also has wheels with 304 yards rushing and four scores.
Joseph’s favorite target is wide receiver Kashton Henjum. The Newport receiver has totaled over 1,000 yards in the air this year on 58 catches. Henjum leads a big one-two punch with junior wideout Josiah Lamarque. The junior has totaled 47 receptions for 624 yards. The Sailor receivers have a combined 14 TDs.
Valencia has been in every game since week two but has struggled to finish the game with a win. Four of the team’s five losses were in one score games.
The Vikings’ played some tough teams in their preseason and now competition will only get stiffer. However, the team has to like their chances as they’ve shown they can play with just about anyone.
They returned CIF champions at several key positions and have a veteran team ready to defend their title.
Valencia heads to Newport Beach to play the Sailors, Friday at 7 p.m.
Hart takes on Claremont in D7
The Indians (4-6) lucked out on the coin flip this year and will host the Claremont Wolfpack (7-2) in Hart’s first playoff game in three years.
Hart’s defense came alive during Foothill League play. After losing to Golden Valley, the Indians allowed just 14.5 points a game. The Hart offense has also improved steadily. The line is playing better, allowing running back Donovan Dunn room to run as well as giving quarterback Tim Larkins time to pass.
Claremont is a run-heavy team led by running back Caden Campuzano. The senior back has totaled up 735 rushing yards, 12 TDs and has three games over 100 yards on the ground.
Campuzano is also the team’s leading receiver with 411 yards and six scores through the air.
Hart’s defense will be tasked with slowing down the senior in what could be his final high school game.
The Wolfpack has allowed just 13.11 points a game this year and went undefeated in the San Antonio League.
Hart is locking down the exact details but will likely host Claremont Friday at 7 p.m. at Canyon.
Golden Valley draws Summit in D7
For the third time in four seasons, Golden Valley’s fate came via coin flip but for the second year in a row the Grizzlies are in.
Golden Valley (6-4) will also enter the Division 7 playoffs for the second straight year, this time with an opening round matchup with the Summit SkyHawks (5-5).
Summit had a chance to take a Sunkist League championship but a fight late in their ninth regular season game sent the team a forfeit.
The SkyHawks can throw the ball but will aim to get their star, running back Bryan Calderon, going early.
Calderon would’ve likely gone well over 1,000 yards on the season if not for the forfeit. The senior totaled 980 yards and 11 TDs on the ground in nine games. Running back Isayah Hall is also a big threat on the ground with a 10.5 yards-per-run average but Golden Valley has fared well against the run game as of late.
Summit’s Alaska Taufa will be a force to reckon with on the line. Taufa, a senior, has totaled seven sacks in as many games.
Golden Valley was turned away early last year but with a ton of returners having that CIF experience, they have a good shot at reaching the second round.
Quarterback Chris Melkonian has turned out to be a talented dual-threat player at the helm. Wide receiver Ajani Smith is a usual open target for Melkonian. Lastly, running back Julian Rios has shown great speed and elusiveness this year.
The Grizzlies are also trying to lock down game details but they’ll likely host Summit Thursday or Saturday at 7 p.m. at Canyon.