Ten teams went into the first round, seven remain. A division’s only at-large team upsets the #1 seed, a third-place in league team defeats a league champion, all four Sunbelt teams win, filling a spot in every quarterfinal game of the Central Division bracket, two Southwestern League teams advance, one team gets eliminated in the second round.
SBL#1 Patriots defeat Aztecs, 42-28
The Heritage Patriots (9-1, 5-0) Sunbelt League Champion defeated the visiting Palm Desert Aztecs (3-7, 2-3) Desert Valley League At-Large and survived a first-round scare 42-28.
The dual-threat Aztecs came out hard and fast, demonstrating their athleticism by covering 80 yards in 30 seconds and scoring the first touchdown of the game.
Running back Braden Bateman (12 carries, 98 yards) scored on a 45-yard run. Seven minutes later, following a lost fumble by Limahai Hifo, QB Joe Castelli (16-of-24 for 164 yards, 3 TD’s) found Garin Mesarch in the end zone with a two-yard pass to cap their second drive of the opening period and secure a 13-0 lead over the Central Division’s #2-seed.
The Patriots finally responded with a one-yard rushing touchdown from Sione Takitaki (18 carries, 92 yards, 3 TDs) to complete the first of their long punishing drives. Seven minutes, 12 plays and 86 yards later, QB Mat Bradshaw (6-of-8, 86 yards) completed another drive by hitting Evan Rodriguez for a six-yard score. Logan Netter’s PAT gave Heritage the edge 14-13. With less than a minute left, Bradshaw threw long for Marvin Hifo for his only catch and a 39-yard score to give Heritage a halftime lead of 21-13 and 21 unanswered points in the quarter.
In the third quarter, Palm Desert came within one point, 21-20, on a 5-yard pass to Kyle Kabeary (who also kicked the PAT). Patriots’ star running back Jamal Morrow, who has been nursing a knee injury for the past three games, did not enter the game until late in the second quarter but made his presence felt with a 42-yard TD scamper in the final minute of the third quarter. Despite limited playing time, Morrow ended with 249 yards rushing on 20 carries.
Two minutes later, with 10:33 left in the game, the Aztecs’ Castelli found Kabeary (11 catches, 93 yards) again for a nine-yard TD pass and Castelli’s third passing TD of the game. The two-point conversion pass to Jack Drinkwater tied the game at 28. The Patriots’ ground game showed plenty of muscle and stamina as they put together a time-consuming eight-play, 72-yard drive with Takitaki diving in from the one. The Patriots’ defense forced a three-and-out and the ground-pounding offense took over for another five-minute drive. Takitaki again scored, leaving only 33 seconds on the clock and sealing the win.
Heritage racked up 539 total yards, 454 on the ground on 54 carries. Isiah Morrow contributed 120 yards on 15 carries.
Qtr Final Playoff Game:
The 11-1 Patriots travel to face the Arlington Lions (7-4, 4-2) Inland Valley League #3 who upset the Mt. Baldy League Champion Chino 29-7. The Lions took advantage of six Chino turnovers as running back Ruben Kelly ran for 201 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Arlington is a running team averaging over 230 yards/game on the ground and only 50 passing. Kelly is a 1400-yard rusher with 13 of his team’s 19 rushing TDs. Daniel Castro (81 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 interception), Devone Stokes (75 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries), and Lavell Thomas (62 tackles, 7 interceptions) lead their defense. Castro is also their leading receiver.
If Heritage can contain Kelly in the running game, this should be a solid win for the Patriots and their ground and pound offense. The semi-final match up will feature the winner of the Kaiser vs. Temescal Canyon game.
SBL #2 Tigers stomp out
The Elsinore Tigers (7-3, 4-1) Sunbelt League runner-up stomped out the visiting Colton Yellowjackets (3-7), Sunkist League #3, 55-7 to advance to the second round of CIF-SS.
Tigers’ running back duo Shane Pico (12 carries, 185 yards, 1 TD) and Allan Stubbs (15 carries, 158 yards, 2 TDs) carried most of the team’s 425-yard rushing load while sophomore Chris Harris caught two passes for 62 of the team’s 104 yards passing and scored on both passes from QB Tommy Wilson (6-of-9, 104 yds, 3 TDs).
The running game’s success is credited to linemen Austin Purdy, AJ Flores, Hunter Eckman, Rico Stubbs, Eduardo Hernandez and tight end Anthony Silva.
Stubbs scored on a two-yard run on the opening drive two minutes into the game. Colton’s star running back Jordan Ah’honi (158 yards on 20 carries) ripped off a 58-yard run for a first-and-goal inside the 10. The Tigers’ goal line stand stuffed Ah’honi’s final attempt at the