The high school football regular season is over and for five area teams, the CIF Southern Section playoffs is a reality.
Four teams out of the Channel League including, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Dos Pueblos, and Santa Ynez all received playoff berths and each team has been matched up with a formidable opponent.
For any of the Channel League teams to survive and advance against their respective opening round opponents, they will have to play their best game of the season.
Bishop Diego (4-6 overall, 1-3 Camino League) also qualified for the playoffs for the 9th consecutive season. The Cardinals received an at-large berth in Division 4 after taking their lumps in one of the most competitive leagues in Southern California.
Santa Barbara at Culver City
The Golden Tornado will make its return when Santa Barbara High (6-4 overall, 3-2 Channel League) opens the CIF-SS Division 7 playoffs. The “Golden Tornado” nickname that the Santa Barbara High football team takes on in the CIF playoffs has been yearning for success, as the Dons haven’t captured a playoff victory since 1989.
On paper, Culver City (8-2 overall, 4-1 Ocean League) is on par with the Dons’ two toughest opponents this season Lompoc and Pacifica. Santa Barbara lost those game by scores of 28-11 and 34-13 respectively. The Centaurs boast an explosive offense that averages 47.6 points per game.
Culver City quarterback Zevi Eckhaus has passed for 1917 yards with 26 touchdown passes and 5 interceptions, despite missing two games and sitting out the second half of a few others. Eckhaus has a myriad of effective weapons, including receivers Kevin McGuire (33 catches, 633 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Chris Miller (24 catches, 631 yards, 10 touchdowns).
The Dons will counter with sophomore quarterback Deacon Hill and an up-and-down cast of receivers led by Dakota Hill, who has managed to get open against everyone Santa Barbara has played this season.
Santa Barbara allowed 17.8 points per game during the regular season and over performed when the offense didn’t turn the ball over. Head Coach J.T. Stone will have to open up the passing game with Deacon Hill and hope to avoid turnovers to have a chance at pulling the upset.
Lompoc vs. Capistrano Valley
Lompoc (8-2, 5-0) ran roughshod through the Channel League with a powerful offensive line and an elite athlete in the backfield in Leondre Coleman, but Capistrano Valley is a completely different animal. The Cougars (7-3 overall, 1-3 South Coast League) lost a nail biter to Mission Viejo, 31-24, when the Diablos were ranked among the top 25 teams nationally according to multiple publications at the time.
Capistrano Valley quarterback Nathan Manning is among the leaders in the state in passing yards with 2,728 and touchdowns with 41. Lompoc has not faced a passer nearly as prolific as Manning this season and the matchup is reminiscent of recent playoff losses against Corona Del Mar and El Toro. Orange County teams with explosive passing attacks that shredded stout Lompoc defenses.
However, the Braves have an elite offense of their own, with two runners who are closing in on 1,000 yards rushing in Coleman and quarterback Cameron Iribarren. One key factor is that Lompoc will enjoy a considerable home-field advantage at Huyck Stadium as Capistrano Valley will be making a three-hour bus ride to the game. The Braves has been on the other side of long bus rides the past two years and will be eager to capitalize.
Dos Pueblos at Lawndale
Lawndale is the champion of the Ocean League by virtue of a 34-27 victory over Culver City. The Cardinals are led by running back Jordan Wilmore, who has verbally committed to USC and is one of the prized recruits in the Trojans 2019 class. Wilmore can take it the distance on any play, but the Chargers have faced other talented running backs this season and will look to impose their physical brand of football.
The Chargers rely on their prolific rushing attack led by running back Eric Lopez and quarterback David Leon. Dos Pueblos has shown the ability to control the ball on offense and will need to play keep-away against Lawndale. Avoiding penalties will be a key to keeping the game close.
Bishop Diego at Saugus
Bishop Diego defeated Saugus last season in the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division six playoffs. Now the teams meet again, but this time it’s in Division 4. The Centurions will undoubtedly be out for revenge, and they are a much better team than they were last season. The Cardinals, on the other hand, have never quite found their stride this season as they’ve battled injuries and inexperience.
With a big game, Adrian Soracco could reach 1,000 yards on the season, and he has been the heart and soul of the Bishop Diego offense. Saugus has a balanced offense led by quarterback Chris Gallagher, who has tossed 20 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
The two teams have a common opponent in Golden Valley, which Bishop Diego defeated 28-14 and Saugus defeated 35-13. This is a game that Bishop Diego can win if they can get healthy and put it all together. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet all season.
Santa Ynez at Northview
The Pirates received an at-large berth into the playoffs after getting snubbed the past three seasons despite compiling a 22-8 overall record. Their prize is a matchup with top-seeded Northview (10-0 overall, 5-0 Valle Vista League).
The Vikings have an explosive offense that features quarterback James Jimenez, who racked up 33 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. Northview hasn’t been truly tested by an opponent all season, as its closest game was a 28-10 victory over San Marino in week 1.
Santa Ynez has two standout weapons on offense in running back Cash Transeth (851 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns) and receiver Jasper Kadlec (25 catches 530 yards and 10 touchdowns). The Pirates will need to keep it close and see if the Northview can execute in crunch time.