The 2023 postseason will begin Friday with four local teams extending their seasons.
The Foothill League champion Valencia Vikings enter the Division 2 playoffs, while West Ranch and Hart will both battle in the Division 6 bracket.
Castaic and Canyon were snubbed from the playoffs after 6-4 seasons. The Cowboys doubled their win total from last season, while Castaic surprised the league with its massive improvements.
The Heritage League champion Santa Clarita Christian Cardinals also enter the postseason, in the eight-man Division 1.
Here’s everything you need to know for the opening round of playoffs this Friday:
Valencia opens up on the road at Servite
The Vikings will begin their Division 2 playoff journey on the road against the Servite Friars.
Servite (5-5) will host the Foothill League champion Valencia (9-1, 6-0), after finishing fifth in the Trinity League.
The game will be no cake-walk as the Friars are a battle-tested group, competing in the strongest league in California, and arguably the country.
Servite quarterback Leo Hannan leads the team with 1,809 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. Hannan has three main options in Devan Parker, Adian O’Callaghan and Quinn Rosenkranz.
The Friar defense has accumulated 13 takeaways and 15 sacks this season.
The Vikings’ defense has been lights-out all year. Valencia has allowed 12.4 points per game and held four opponents under 10 points in 2023.
Valencia concluded its championship regular season with 68 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks, 20 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries.
The Viking offense has responded, scoring accordingly. Quarterback Jackson Askins threw for 1,781 yards, with a near 70% completion rate, along with 254 rushing yards and 22 offensive touchdowns.
Sophomore Brian Bonner has shined all year, even after taking the lead running back role after the injury to senior Aidan Hicks. Bonner rushed for 486 yards on 6.7 yards per carry while also flashing his catching skills with 284 receiving yards, and seven total TDs.
Valencia heads to Servite High School in Anaheim to take on the Friars on Friday at 7 p.m.
West Ranch heads to La Habra
The Freeway League champion La Habra Highlanders (6-4) will play host to the West Ranch Wildcats (7-3) in Division 6.
La Habra is led by dual-threat quarterback Kenneth Saucedo. The junior signal caller has thrown for 896 yards and rushed for 558 yards. Saucedo most notably looks for senior receiver Bryce Whitley, who has reeled in 37 catches for 727 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Richard Estrada leads the Highlanders with five interceptions this season.
La Habra will aim to stuff the middle in hopes of slowing down workhorse running back Luke DePerno. The junior back racked up 1,148 yards and 20 touchdowns in nine games this season.
Wildcats quarterback Liam McDaniel has thrown for just under 1,800 yards with 15 TDs and 16 interceptions this season. McDaniel has thrived with numerous receivers in the spread offense but seniors Jack Samuelson and Zach Wyre have done the heavy lifting.
Senior Dakoda Darby has been a tough assignment on the line this season, as the defensive end has tallied 10.5 sacks and forced two fumbles in 2023. Junior Kyler Garrity has shown similar dominance in the secondary with five interceptions this season.
West Ranch opens up the postseason at La Habra High School on Friday at 7 p.m.
Hart hosts Crean Lutheran
The Indians will be the only local team playing at home this weekend, as Hart is set to host the Crean Lutheran Saints in the Division 6 bracket.
Crean is led by senior quarterback Jeremiah Finaly, who finished his final varsity regular season with 1,564 passing yards and 18 TDs with just five interceptions. Running back Justin Dominguez has given the offense balance and rushed for 785 yards, on 6.5 yards per carry, with eight touchdowns.
Junior Carter Jones leads the Saints defense with a staggering 125 tackles, nine of which were for a loss. Anthony Jones has five of the 15.5 Crean Lutheran sacks this season. Ben Byszewski leads Crean with six interceptions.
Crean Lutheran will hope to slow down Tim Larkins and Shawn Irwin. The two were the Foothill League’s passing and receiving leaders this year, as Larkins threw for 2,802 yards with 21 touchdowns, while Irwin caught 85 passes for 1,453 yards and 10 TDs.
Byszewski will likely be blanketing or in the proximity of Irwin all night. Hart defensive linemen Vincent Tiscareno and Nata Nata have combined for 11 sacks this year, and will look to contain Dominguez and chase Finaly all night.
Hart welcomes Crean Lutheran to College of the Canyons on Friday at 7 p.m.
SCCS draws top-seeded Chadwick
The Heritage League champs will enter the eight-man Division 1 playoffs up against the undefeated Chadwick Dolphins (8-0).
Chadwick boasts a strong passing game with quarterback Thomas Rosso at the helm. Rosso passed for nearly 1,500 yards in just eight games this season with 26 TDs to only five picks.
Rosso’s top target Max Polin will a be tough assignment for SCCS. The 6-foot, 4-inch receiver has totaled 39 catches for 487 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. Dolphins receiver Joshua Goodman will also be a threat after his 490-yard, nine-touchdown season.
Dual threat quarterback Cayden Rappleye finished his junior regular season with nearly 1,800 yards of offense and 31 total touchdowns. Rappleye will likely be named Heritage League MVP and will look to lead the Cardinals through the Division 1 bracket.
Junior receiver Eli Duhm missed some time this season but still led the Cards with 29 receptions for 543 receiving yards and 11 TDs.
Duhm also led the defense with six interceptions while Noah Butler leads the effort up front with 7.5 sacks.
The Cardinals head to Chadwick High School to take on the Dolphins on Friday at 7 p.m.