To the surprise of nobody in the Santa Clarita Valley, the Valencia Vikings football team has earned the number one overall seed in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division playoff bracket released earlier Sunday.
The Vikings, coming off the most impressive regular season in school history in which they never lost a game and were never challenged in league play, draw a first round rematch with Thousand Oaks. Valencia went on the road to play the Lancers in the first week of the year, and defeated them 39-36. The game was the only one the Vikings didn’t win by at least two touchdowns. The 36 points were the most Valencia gave up all year, but don’t let that worry you Viking fans. This Thousand Oaks team is not the same as last year’s, when running back John Lister ran wild over Saugus in the first round of the playoffs and nearly upset the 2008 Foothill League Champions before the Centurions scored late and won 35-28. Valencia should have no problems with the Lancers this time, and running back Steven Manfro should continue to see open spaces against a porous Thousand Oaks defense.
In a bit of a shock, the Hart Indians received a home game in the first round, but it’s not an easy one. The 7th seeded Indians will host Hueneme, the second place team from the Pacific View League. Hueneme was abysmal last year, going 0-10 and scoring double digit points just twice. But the Vikings turned it around this year. After defeating West Ranch 10-8 in the season opener, Hueneme scored 61 against Santa Clara on their way to a 7-3 record. Although they did give up an astounding 69 points to Pacific View League Champion Camarillo, Hueneme rebounded to score 51 in their win over Channel Islands last week. Hart has been on a rollercoaster all year, but quarterback C.J. Reyes is playing as well as he’s ever played right now, and Hart rolled through the Foothill League, with the exception of the Valencia game. Hart also played a difficult non-league schedule, loosing to league champions Westlake and El Camino, who combined have one loss. There is no doubt in my mind; this will be the best game in the first round of the playoffs. But hang on Indian fans, this one could, and probably should be a track meet.
The Canyon Cowboys had perhaps the worst season in school history heading into week 9. And then, with the help of Golden Valley, the team found a rhythm. The Cowboys played inspired last Friday and grinded out a victory against a quarterback-less Saugus team. And then Canyon got their biggest victory of the year, a coin flip win over West Ranch and the Centurions. And just like that, a team that had not won a game this year just two weeks ago is now in the playoffs. Canyon was awarded the 13th seed, if that’s what you want to call it. The Cowboys have the unfortunate duty of being the rebound team for Moorpark. The Musketeers lost their first game of the year last Friday, in what turned into a league championship game with undefeated Westlake. Moorpark was given the 4th seed, which seems appropriate. What’s going to seem inappropriate? Probably the final score of the game this Friday. Canyon has some good young talent, but the key word is YOUNG. Starting a sophomore quarterback who should be a freshman (Jonathan Jerozal, who entered Canyon a year ahead of time), and a freshman wide receiver (Drew Wolitarsky, who led the team in yards, touchdowns, and big plays) is a recipe for disaster against a Moorpark team ranked number one in the Northern Division most of the year, and ranked top five in the greater Los Angeles area for the last few weeks. It’s great that Chris Varner finally got the Cowboys back in the playoffs, but baring a miracle of ungodly proportions, the trip is going to be short and bittersweet.
Other first round games include the second seed, Westlake taking on Ventura in a game that lacks any appeal. The same can be said about 3rd ranked St. Bonaventure taking on Oxnard in round one. The most interesting match up sits in the bottom half of the bracket though, where Newbury Park, who was ranked fifth in the last Northern Division poll, but finished third in the Marmonte League behind Westlake and Moorpark, will have to travel the three hour plus drive up north to take on PAC-7 Champion Righetti. The CIF clearly sent a message to the PAC-7 here, and that message is you guys don’t play anyone good. But Righetti has a chance to send a message right back if they can pull the stunner and beat a solid Newbury Park squad. This game also sets up the most interesting potential second round game, as Newbury Park could play St. Bonaventure in round two. If both teams win, the game would be at Newbury Park, and would give Boni a taste of what the Marmonte League is going to be like next season, when both the Seraphs and Oaks Christian move into that league.
On the Valencia side of the bracket, the other two first round games see a strong Buena team host Atascadero. The winner of that game will take on Valencia in round two. Camarillo, the Pacific View Champions will host Arroyo Grande, in another game that should be over early. The most intriguing potential match up in the entire playoffs is the possible semi-final rematch between Valencia and Moorpark. Last season, the Vikings hosted Moorpark in a game that was never really close. Moorpark’s size and speed on offense and defense shut down the Vikings. But this is a different Valencia team. The Vikings are bigger and faster on defense, and Alex Bishop has been a machine at quarterback, throwing just three interceptions and completing nearly 80 percent of his attempts. Bishop and Manfro are leap years better than last year’s combo of Dominick Solley and Jordan Thompson. The final score of last year’s game was 30-8, but even that seems too close. Moorpark was just too good last year. But even though Valencia will have to take it one game at a time, you know, somewhere in the back of head coach Larry Muir’s mind, he wants a rematch. And that game would be a war.
For a complete bracket, click here. (click “Northern” at bottom of xls document)