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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYOFF PREVIEWS: Trio of area football teams face tough challenges on the road to begin postseason

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

For the first time in over two decades, and probably ever, the Artesia, Cerritos, Norwalk areas will have four football teams participating in the CIF-Southern Section divisional playoffs, which begin tonight. However, the path to a championship will be tough as two of the teams play high seeded teams and three teams will have to travel at least an hour to begin their journeys. On top of that, if two of the four come away with wins, they will certainly play the top-seeded teams in their respective divisions next Friday.

DIVISION 12

#14 Artesia High (4-6, second place in the 605 League) @ #3 Moreno Valley High (9-1, Mountain Valley League champions)

After advancing to the Division 12 championship game last season, Artesia had a rocky 2019 campaign without its top two offensive playmakers, who graduated. Still, the Pioneers secured an automatic berth after blasting Pioneer High 61-21 last Friday in a battle for second place in the 605 League.

Artesia, which has already played two teams that also went 9-1 this past season, has been paced by senior quarterback Tyler Kemp and sophomore running back Tyler Miller for the most part with contributing roles coming from junior running backs Kyeyou Lenoir and Corey McKinley and senior wide receiver Kelly Thornton.

Moreno Valley is riding an eight-game winning streak and its lone loss was to Norte Vista High, 17-6. There was a five-game stretch from Aug. 20-Sept. 18 in which the Vikings outscored their opponents 227-15. The top leaders for Moreno Valley are quarterback Dyvon Brown, who has passed for 1,196 yards and eight touchdowns and running backs Elijah Kelsey (129 carries, 1,378 yards, 21 touchdowns) and Jaylin Henderson (70 carries, 684 yards, 11 touchdowns). As a team, Moreno Valley has pounded out 2,837 yards. Leroy Louis is Brown’s top target and has caught 26 passes for 566 yards and scored seven touchdowns while on defense, Henry Seiuli has 10 sacks.

If Artesia comes away with a victory, it will host either Adelanto High or Ontario High next Friday in the quarterfinals.

#8 John Glenn High (6-4, 605 League champions) @ #9 Nordhoff High (6-3, Citrus Coast League champions)

Even though Glenn won the 605 League for the program’s first league title in 30 years, it drew a tough road game to the Ojai-based school  Glenn has won four straight games and like Artesia, has played a tough non-league slate. The Eagles have shown they can be an offensive juggernaut at times, increasing their scoring totals over the past five games from 16 points against Hawthorne High to 50 points against Cerritos High last Friday in a 16-point victory. Senior running backs Robert Coates and Edwin Udengwu pace the Glenn offensive attack as well as junior quarterback Matthew Huxtable and senior wide receivers Bobby Sanchez and Tyrelle Watson.

The Rangers have scored over 30 points six times this season, over 40 points three times and have reached the 50-point mark twice. In its three losses, Nordhoff was outscored 156-46. Quarterback Leeram Stoneman has passed for 1,733 yards and 19 touchdowns while running back Korey Stevens leads the Rangers with 1,217 yards and nine touchdowns. Four receivers have caught at least 13 passes for at least 247 yards. On defense, 10 players have combined for 16 sacks and Jake Palmer has eight interceptions.

Should Glenn come back from the long road trip victorious, it will host the winner of the El Monte High/Ocean View High contest in the quarterfinals. Glenn lost to top-seeded El Monte 78-38 back on Aug. 30.

DIVISION 8

#15 Gahr High (3-7, fifth place in the San Gabriel Valley League) @ #2 Santa Barbara High (8-2, Channel League champions)

No one saw Gahr advancing to the playoffs, especially with a young team loaded with non-varsity experience entering the season and a poor record. But 16 spots needed to be filled in the Division 8 bracket and the Gladiators are one of five at-large teams who will be on the road for a first round game. Temescal Canyon High is also at 3-7 while Canyon High entered the Division 8 playoffs at 2-8.

The Gladiators limp into the playoffs not offensively sound, having scored over 20 points twice and being shutout four times, while on defense, Gahr has yielded over 35 points six times. Leading the way for the Gladiators will be junior quarterback Rashaad Willis and junior running back Johnny Robinson IV. This will be Gahr’s third trip to the playoffs in the past four seasons and fifth time since 2007.

Santa Barbara is on a five-game winning streak in which the Dons have outscored their opponents 183-55. During their two losses, the Dons mustered 13 points while giving up 69 points. In contrast, Gahr has been blanked by a combined score of 109-0 in the past two games and has allowed 337 points this season.

If Gahr pulls off the upset, it will host either Palm Desert High or Temescal Canyon High in the quarterfinals.

DIVISION 11

#9 Pasadena High (6-3, tied for third place in the Pacific League) @ #8 Valley Christian High (7-3, Olympic League champions)

Valley Christian enters the postseason on a five-game winning streak, but three of those victories have been by a combined six points. The Defenders defeated Village Christian High 55-32 last Friday to win the Olympic League outright. 

V.C. is paced by senior quarterback Brayden Garner, who also leads the team in rushing and accounted for six touchdowns last Friday against Village Christian.

Pasadena lost to Muir High 33-0 last Friday after the Bulldogs had won three straight games in which they outscored their foes 126-31. Pasadena began the season with three consecutive victories. Quarterback Dante Coronel has passed for 1,509 yards and 19 touchdowns while running back Au’Dante Bailey has gained 965 yards on the ground. The Pasadena defense had recorded 15 sacks and a dozen interceptions.

If the Defenders win, they will host top-seeded Beaumont High or travel to Linfield Christian in the quarterfinals.

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