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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION PLAYOFF FOOTBALL PREVIEWS – Opportunities are plenty for area teams to make deep runs as football playoffs resume


November 3, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter


The CIF-Southern Section football playoffs are back and of the 216 teams throughout the 14 divisions, there’s more optimism that their team will bring home a championship. Unlike previous seasons, the CIF-SS, through the aid of Calpreps.com, used a different technique when putting teams in their respective divisions, based off power rankings. Of the area’s seven schools that field a football program, five advanced to the playoffs. Here’s a look at their first round games tonight.


Golden Valley High (4-5) vs. La Mirada High (6-4) @ Excelsior Stadium-The Matadores last played on Oct. 22 when they defeated Bellflower High 33-12 because Firebaugh High had to cancel last Friday’s contest. Still, that should not affect the second place representatives out of the Suburban League who played a tough non-league schedule in preparation for the playoffs. La Mirada lost by three points to El Toro High, then went on a three-game winning streak before three straight losses. The first two of those three losses were to Foothill High and Mater Dei High in which the Mats scored one touchdown each. Junior quarterback Nehuel Garcia has passed for 1,277 yards and 12 touchdowns with his top targets being junior wide receiver Xavier Hicks (37 receptions, 525 yards, four touchdowns) and senior wide receiver Aiden Nasser (26 receptions, 324 yards, one touchdown). On the ground, senior running back Edward Lafferre is the top guy, rushing 95 times for 553 yards and five touchdowns. La Mirada in the playoffs for a state record 41st straight season, not including the shortened 2021 spring season

Golden Valley finished in third place out of the Foothill League and shutout Canyon High 42-0 last Friday to snap a three-game losing streak. The Grizzlies are a balanced team as quarterback Jaxson Miner has passed for 1,148 yards and 11 touchdowns but has been picked off nine times. Jared Giles is the main force in the backfield, gaining 1,035 on 167 carries with 11 touchdowns. The rest of the team has combined for 75 yards rushing.

If La Mirada wins, it will either host Pasadena High or travel to Thousand Oaks High for a quarterfinal tilt on Nov. 12. Pasadena is the top-ranked team in the division.


Valley Christian High (7-2) @ Ramona High (9-1)-The hottest team in the area on the field has been the Defenders, who enter the playoffs on a seven-game winning streak. V.C. had originally defeated Santa Rosa Academy 45-0 on Aug. 26, but later had to forfeit that contest.

First-year head coach Kevin McCarthy said he had a feeling his team would be plopped into the division the CIF-SS put the Defenders in based on their record and performance and added that they are happy to be in the playoffs with a chance to continue playing football.

The Defenders, who ended the regular season beating Gahr High 34-14 after both of their original opponents, Maranatha High for V.C. and Paramount High for Gahr, had to cancel at the last minute. Still, the Defenders are a high-scoring machine and have scored over 30 points seven times, over 40 points three times and over 60 points twice. They get it done on the ground with senior running back John Nelson, junior running backs Nick Bozanic and Major Brown and freshman running back Josiah Apisala along with the trio of senior quarterbacks-Colin Abrahams, Rocco Caldarella and Logan Lemonnier who are just as dangerous running the ball as they are passing.

V.C. will be put to the test by the second place representatives out of the River Valley League whose lone loss came on Oct. 15 against Notre Vista High, a 26-10 outcome, which ended a seven-game winning streak. The Rams can also score in high bunches, having recorded at least 42 points in eight of their victories while allowing no more than two touchdowns each in five games. The offensive leaders for Ramona are quarterback Nathan Johnson (1,523 yards, 15 touchdowns), running back Beau Bruins (183 carries, 1,794 yards, 31 touchdowns) and wide receiver Zachary Shinar (26 receptions, 326 yards, three touchdowns). Two other receivers have caught over 20 passes from Johnson.

“Ramona is an excellent football team, and this is going to be a great opportunity for us to see what we are made of,” McCarthy said. “Our concerns are that their offense is very good.”

If V.C. comes out on top, it would travel to Serrano High or host fourth ranked Temescal Canyon High on Nov. 12 in the quarterfinals.


Woodbridge High (3-7) @ #2 Norwalk High (6-4)-As dominant as Norwalk’s double wing offense can be at times, there are some teams that are even more dominant in a regular offense. Just see El Rancho High, La Mirada, Mayfair High and San Marino High. The Lancers fell to those four teams by a combined score of 151-46. But in the six victories, Norwalk punished their foes to the tune of a combined score of 306-41 with a pair of shutouts. Norwalk hasn’t played since a 48-7 loss to Mayfair on Oct. 22, a game in which senior running back David Herrera sat out due to an injured shoulder. He leads the team in rushing yards and touchdowns with 1,312 and 19 respectively while senior running back Jonathan Goodloe has racked up 1,311 yards and found the endzone 14 times. Junior quarterback Caden Barnhill has completed on six passes in 10 attempts for 209 yards and three touchdowns with Herrera the recipient of four of those passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

Norwalk should have an easy time with the second place representatives out of the Pacific Valley League as the Warriors have won two of their last three games following a five-game losing skid. The highest point total for Woodbridge came last week in a 30-7 road win at University High. The Warriors have also allowed at least 35 points in five of their seven setbacks.

Provided there is not a major upset, the Lancers would travel to Rancho Alamitos High or Rosemead High in a Nov. 12 quarterfinal contest.


Arlington High (2-8) @ Cerritos High (5-5)-Although Cerritos won the 605 League in the spring during a shortened season, the real question was could the Dons duplicate the same success in the fall under a full 10-game schedule? The answer is yes as head coach Brad Carter is sending the Dons to the playoffs for the first time since 2001, snapping the longest playoff drought by an area team. Gahr High and John Glenn High, who did not advance this season, last reached the playoffs in 2019.

“I’m very excited, as you can imagine,” Carter said of hosting a playoff game. “I feel like it’s March Madness, just waiting to see where you’re going to fit in. We like where we’re seeded and we feel like it’s going to be a great, competitive division and we’re excited to be going.”

Cerritos has been plagued with injuries all season, and when one person went down, another stepped up to fill in. The Dons used 14 different ball carriers to total 1,200 yards with senior running back Connor Defrain leading the way with 358 yards on 51 carries and eight touchdowns. Junior running back Quincy Monreal, who didn’t play in last week’s 26-13 win at Artesia High and is still sidelined, is next with 274 yards on 95 rushes and three scores while senior quarterback David Sagun, who had 788 yards through the air in the regular season and threw eight touchdowns, rushed for another 225 yards and three touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Mateo Martinez caught 20 passes for 148 yards while senior wide receiver Grant Fueston collected 16 receptions for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“Offensively, in league, we were kind of clicking,” Carter said. “Passing, running; that was exciting to see. We weren’t as efficient as we probably would have liked versus Artesia. But give them credit; they have some strong players. I would say scoring and moving the ball; getting those plays in and out, are probably our strengths.”

Carter added that one of his team’s weak spots is missing a few key pieces on defense and trying to figure out who the best 11 defensive players are going to be.

Arlington High, which tied for third place in the River Valley League, struggled the entire season and didn’t collect its first victory until the eighth game. The Lions, who scored 67 points in their two victories, fell to Patriot High 17-14 last week. Outside of scoring 57 points the previous week against La Sierra, the Lions have scored more than 20 points two other times.

“They struggled early just like we did, but honestly, I look at it as they won two of their last three and they achieved that automatic spot,” Carter said. “So, they were doing something right at the end of the season. They want to run the ball…and they want to control the clock.”

If Cerritos is victorious, a road trip to either Bassett High or Heritage Christian High on Nov. 12 is what lies ahead.


Artesia High (2-7) @ Rialto High (4-6)-For a team that was shutout in three of the first four games of the season and scored just one touchdown in the other, Artesia head coach Don Olmstead said he is just happy to be in the playoffs, regardless of what division it is. The only two victories for the Pioneers came in 605 League action and over the final five weeks, have scored 86 points while allowing 155 points. This division should be a toss-up for the 16 teams involved as there are only three squads that have winning records-Garey High (7-3), Verbum Dei High (6-3) and Hamilton High (5-4-1). Another 11 teams all have four wins with the California Military Institute checking in with three wins.

“We as coaches can’t really be caught up with what division are we in or why are we in a lower division,” Olmstead said. “It’s out of our control. We’re happy to be in and it’s kind of appropriate from the season that we’ve had that we’re in a lower division. But I think it’s a division that we’re competitive in.”

The heart and soul of Artesia’s young and inexperienced (by playing aspects) team are senior quarterback K’Len Williams and senior running back Erin Moses. If they can do what they have been doing on the ground and limit mistakes, then the Pioneers have a shot of a victory.

Rialto finished in second place out of the Skyline League and began season with a four-game losing streak. However, the Knights ended the regular season winning four of their last six games. They have allowed over 40 points in all six losses and have scored over 30 points in three of the four wins.

“When it comes to Rialto, they’re in a similar ballpark as us,” Olmstead said. “They have a couple of guys who are pretty good and then everybody else is just decent. I think it’s a game we can be competitive in, and I think if we limit the mistakes, then we have a chance to win the game.”