CIF Division 7 championship preview 

Golden Valley wide receiver Ajani Smith (4) runs for a gain as he evades Saugus defenders Austin Treahy (3) and Andrew Alfaro (23) at Canyon High School on Friday, 102822. Dan Watson/The Signal

Golden Valley football (9-4) is on a tear in the CIF Division 7 bracket. The Grizzlies’ fantastic play has landed them in the CIF championship game for a shot at the program’s first title. 

The defense has handled balanced offenses with strong run games throughout the playoff run. The title game will be no different with the visiting Laguna Hills Hawks (12-1) coming to town on Saturday. 

The Hawks are led by senior 2,000-yard running back Troy Leigber. The senior has been unbelievable for Laguna Hills, racking up 2,133 yards and 37 touchdowns on 8.9 yards a carry this season. 

Leigber also leads the Hawks’ receivers with 339 yards and five TD receptions on top of leading the defense with four interceptions. 

The Grizzlies won’t count out the pass, though. Laguna quarterback Kade Austin has done a solid job at the helm of the offense. Austin has registered 1,108 passing yards and 14 total touchdowns this year. 

The Grizzly line will work to fight off a pair of fierce Laguna Hills pass rushers. Travis Randolph and Angelo Rubio have shown little issues breaking into opposing backfields all season. The two have a combined 19 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss.  

Laguna Hills’ play on both sides of the ball has helped the team reach over 40 points a game in the postseason. Golden Valley’s offense has done its fair share of scoring as well, averaging over 34 points a game in the playoffs. 

The Grizzlies have done a great job playing four good quarters of football this postseason. The offense has been dynamic led by quarterback Chris Melkonian, who has emerged as a big-time dual-threat gunslinger. Melkonian’s leading target Ajani Smith has been on a tear on both sides of the ball this season. Smith has six touchdowns on offense while also ball hawking on defense. 

Running backs Julian Rios and Isaiah Orozco have also done a solid job leading the Grizzlies on the ground. 

Linebacker Malachi Beacham has been the team’s anchor in the middle of the defense. The senior linebacker will look to play his heart out one more time for a shot at a CIF championship. 

Golden Valley Grizzlies linebacker Malachi Beacham (1) tackles Mayfair Monsoons quarterback Evan Tomich (2) in the first quarter of the CIF Southern Section semifinal game at Ron Yary Stadium in Bellflower, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. Chris Torres/The Signal

For Golden Valley, it starts with stopping Leigber, and Beacham will likely be glued to the big running back all game long. The Grizzly offense could run quick plays to keep the Hawks’ pass rush from wrecking the game. 

The Division 7 crown is up for grabs on Saturday as two talented football teams duke it out for a shot at a championship. The Grizzlies host the Hawks Saturday at Canyon at 7 p.m. 

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