One school must deal with a curse, while the other three county playoff teams face tough draws as the postseason for CIF Southern Section 11-man football begins tonight.
Channel League champion Santa Barbara, seeded No. 2 in Division 8, is taking nothing for granted when it takes on Gahr at 7 p.m. in San Marcos High’s Warkentin Family Stadium.
The Golden Tornado — Santa Barbara’s nickname in the football playoffs — has been a mere puff in the postseason, having lost all 10 of its CIF games in the last 30 years.
“The pressure is on, obviously, because this is the first round,” SBHS coach J.T. Stone said. “The pressure isn’t from anybody else but from ourselves — it’s our own pressure and expectations — and what we think we can do as a football team.”
Bishop Diego and Lompoc received horrendous draws in Division 5 despite having been ranked for much of the year. The Cardinals must travel to top-seeded Culver City, which trounced Santa Barbara 55-7 in last year’s first round before winning the Division 7 championship. Lompoc has been pitted against third-seeded Glendora in an opener that will be played at Citrus College.
“I was a little bit surprised because I thought our very challenging schedule would come into play,” Cardinals’ coach Tom Crawford said. “It’s difficult for me to figure out how the CIF goes about its seeding, what algorithm they might be using, but it is what it is.
“Getting matched against these guys poses a difficult challenge given their undefeated season and how highly regarded they are.”
Here are tonight’s 7 o’clock matchups, plus Cate’s 1:30 p.m. home opener on Saturday against Calvary Chapel in the eight-man Division 1 playoffs:
DIVISION 8: GAHR (3-7) VS. SANTA BARBARA (8-2) — The Gladiators are one of five at-large teams to make the division’s 16-school bracket, having finished fifth in the six-team San Gabriel Valley League.
“I told our kids, ‘Yeah, they’re a 3-7 football team, but they’ve played some great football teams — their league is strong,” Stone said.
Gregg Marshall, who is in his 17th season as Gahr’s coach, has rebuilt an inexperienced team around junior Rashaad Willis, an athletic, 6-foot-1 quarterback who also plays basketball for the Gladiators.
“They’re a fairly balanced team and they have a lot of athletes,” Stone said. “They like to blitz a lot, and they like to man-press, cover-one (play man-to-man pass coverage).
“We’re fine with that. We’re ready for that.”
Junior quarterback Deacon Hill leads Santa Barbara County in passing (2,098 yards and 22 touchdowns), although Dos Pueblos intercepted three of his throws while holding him to just 139 yards in Friday’s regular-season finale. Santa Barbara has developed an effective rushing attack, however, with Hill, Ty Montgomery, and Justin Perez combining for 220 yards and four touchdowns last week.
Santa Barbara has also allowed an average of just 15.9 points per game with a defense anchored at noseguard by junior Noach Wood. Linebackers Johnny Valencia and Charlie Figueroa have also “laid down a really good foundation for us,” Stone said.
“It’s really cool to see these kids grow and turn into players that they’ve become,” he added. “Those linebackers are a real core of our defense.”
DIVISION 5: BISHOP DIEGO (5-5) AT CULVER CITY (10-0) — The Centaurs are No. 31 in this week’s MaxPreps state computer power rankings. The Cardinals are No. 270, although they were battle-tested in a Camino League that includes No. 19 Grace Brethren and No. 43 Camarillo.
“Although we didn’t compete as well as I would’ve liked against those two schools, it is a positive that we can say to our guys that they’ve already faced this level of competition and these type of athletes,” Crawford said.
Bishop beat Moorpark and Thousand Oaks in its last two games to finish third in the Camino. Senior Adrian Soracco, a starter on the Cardinals’ state-championship team of 2017, has come on strong to get his senior season rushing total iup to 1,008 yards in 176 carries.
“They’re likely to play man coverage in the secondary and pack the box to try to stop the run,” Crawford said. “We’ve got to keep them off-balance a little bit and possess the ball.
“We can’t have the unforced turnover and give them extra possessions because they’re so productive offensively.”
Culver City’s Zevi Eckhaus has passed for an astounding 99 touchdowns the last two seasons, throwing for 3,487 yards last year as a sophomore and 3,516 so far in 2019. He’s completed 74.1 percent of his attempts (200-of-270) this year.
“Given how much they throw the ball, it really says something about how accurate he is, and about the core of athletes around him,” Crawford said. “He has a strong arm and is able to deliver the ball deep, but he’s also able to deliver short balls with touch.”
The Centaurs are averaging 51.4 points per game. Defense has been a strong suit for Bishop, however, with the Cardinals allowing just 17.9 points per game.
DIVISION 5: LOMPOC (7-3) VS. GLENDORA (9-1) — The Braves found their footing after a 27-21 loss to Santa Barbara, averaging 55.5 points in their last two games.
The emergence of sophomore running back Sheldon Canley has sparked Lompoc’s resurgence. He rushed for 400 yards and eight touchdowns the last two weeks and now has 773 yards on 71 carries (10.9 per attempt) with 14 TDs for the season.
Cavin Ross has also had a productive freshman season at quarterback, completing 63 percent of his passes (127 for 202) for 1,661 yards and 21 touchdowns. Wyoming-bound Ryan Morgan has been his prime receiver (36 catches for 662 yards and six TDs).
The Tartans, ranked No. 52 in the state by MaxPreps, counter with a defense that allows an average of just 10.7 points.
Glendora also has a balanced offense with 6-2 senior quarterback Jacob Gonzalez (1,639 yards, 23 TDs passing) and 6-foot senior running back Xzavier Ford (1,329 yards and 16 TDs rushing). Ford has received scholarship offers from the likes of Fresno State and Nevada.
Leading Lompoc’s defense are senior linebackers Jed Rantz (68 tackles, 5.5 sacks) and Leondre Coleman (54 tackles, 5.0 sacks).
DIVISION 6: DOS PUEBLOS (3-7) AT CRESPI (6-4) — The Celtics enter the playoffs with the momentum of a 70-7 victory over Salesian in their regular-season finale.
They have a deep team with plenty of playmakers. Senior Blake Adams and junior Sloan Senofsky are both dual threats at quarterback, combining for 1,665 yards and 11 TDs passing as well as 818 yards and 13 TDs rushing.
“They play a spread, RPO (run-pass option) offense and let their athletes do things in space,” DP coach Doug Caines said. “We’re going to have to contain a lot of weapons, inside and out.”
The Chargers have received strong play at linebacker from the likes of junior Daniel Santacruz (88 tackles, five sacks), and seniors Johan Navarro (59 tackles) and Alex Castanon (57 tackles).
DP’s playmakers are running back Udy Loza, who rushed for over 100 yards in two of his last three games, and Conner Lee, who has scored a team-high nine touchdowns (five rushing, two receiving, one kickoff return, and one interception return).
The key for the Chargers will be to limit their turnovers: They have thrown 20 interceptions this season.
“Crespi plays a four-man front and they like to get after it,” Caines observed. “We need to play as a team. We can’t beat them one-on-one or even five-on-five, but there will be 11 of us, and if we execute and have a clean effort, I believe we can be successful.”
EIGHT-MAN DIVISION 1: CALVARY CHAPEL (6-3) AT CATE (5-3) — The Rams are ranked No. 4 in the division but will probably be without their dynamic sophomore quarterback, Will Bouma, who sat out last week’s 48-32 loss to Thacher with an injury.
Cate led the Toads 26-8 at halftime but was out-scored 40-6 in the second half.
The Rams’ offense will revolve around the running abilities of William Deardorff and Khadim Pouye.
The Calvary Chapel Grizzlies are led by dual-threat quarterback Emanuel Gammage, a 6-2 senior who had amassed 1,471 yards total offense with 20 TDs.