Although Thanksgiving traditions are fresh on everybody’s minds, so is the semifinal round of the CIF Southern Section football playoffs for four local head coaches, their staff and the players on their teams. Fifteen teams from the area began the quest to call themselves CIF Champions just three weeks ago, six made it the quarterfinals this past weekend and now only Murrieta Mesa, Rancho Verde, Heritage and Paloma Valley find themselves just one game away from the championships.
Unfortunately it’s the end of the road for teams like Murrieta Valley and Rancho Christian, who both are no strangers to CIF Championships games. Murrieta Valley (9-3) lost last year to San Clemente in the Division 2 Finals and could not get past Corona Centennial during Division 1 quarterfinal action this year, falling to the perennial powerhouse 77-34.
Four-star wide receiver Marquis Spiker, before leaving the game with an injury, hauled in two TD receptions in the game, setting the new all-time career TD reception record at 72 in the state of California. Spiker broke the record last week on 55-yard score from quarterback Hank Bachmeier in the first quarter of their 59-56 round 1 win to lock down the state record, breaking Earvin Johnson’s record set in 2000 at Los Angeles Cathedral. Rancho Christian, who won it all last year in Division 13, including two State Bowl wins, fell this year in the quarterfinals to South El Monte, 42-35.
Glendora (8-4) – 20
Murrieta Mesa (9-3) – 54
The year of the Ram continues as Murrieta Mesa’s quest to finish their best season in school history as CIF champs gets closer and closer to coming to fruition. The Rams defeated Glendora, 54-20, in the CIF-SS Division 4 Quarterfinals, this time behind the dangerous combination of QB Jeff Miller and WR Gio Sanders. Miller threw for seven touchdowns and 478 yards, while Sanders hauled in five TDs for 308 yards, lifting Murrieta Mesa into the semifinals.
Miller hooked up with Sanders early for touchdowns of 28, 71, and 73 yards as the Rams jumped out to a 28-0 first half lead. Glendora made it a close game in the third quarter, scoring on a 26-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bryce Woolridge to Parker Harveles, and then got even closer after they recovered their very next onside kick attempt. Tartan RB Luke Wells scored from 2-yards out three plays later to cut the Rams’ lead to 28-13, but Murrieta Mesa responded when Miller found Sanders again, this time on a 48-yard pass. Glendora cut the lead to 35-20 on Eric Franco’s 5-yard touchdown run, but Miller hit Sanders yet again on a 46-yard touchdown. To finish off the Tartans Miller would throw touchdowns to Daemahni Williams late in the third quarter and Cayden Chambers early in the fourth quarter to secure the victory.
Sanders ended the night with 384 all-purpose yards and also had two interceptions on defense. Woolridge led Glendora, completing 21 of 44 passes for 234 yards, while rushing for 94 yards on 19 carries. Franco added 88 yards on the ground and receiver Dylan Hill caught 9 passes for 111 yards.
Heritage (11-1) – 41
Calabasas (10-2) – 7
Heritage High School was supposed to have their hands full as they went up against Calabasas and QB, Jaden Casey, who threw for more than 3,000 yards this season, but the odds seemed to be forever in the Patriots favor. The start of the game seems like a blur now, but with Casey going 5 for 5 for 60 yards on the Coyotes’ opening drive, the Patriots knew they had to adjust quickly if they had any hope of voiding out the passing game. Defensively with five interceptions, the Patriots did just that. Heritage was led by Trey Goodlow (2 interceptions) and Sherod White (2 interceptions) as they quieted the passing game indeed. White also brought down the house offensively with his 25 carries, 128 yards, and three touchdowns, paving the way for a 41-7 victory over Calabasas in their Division 2 quarterfinal match-up.
Yucaipa (10-2) – 21
Paloma Valley (10-2) – 56
The Paloma Valley Wildcats are back in their first semifinal since 2013 after defeating Yucaipa 56-21 in the Southern Section Division 5 Quarterfinals. Senior quarterback Chance Nolan threw for 384 yards and three touchdowns as junior wide receiver Mason Carvalho caught eight balls for 124 yards and a touchdown. Senior Damian Torres led the ground attack with touchdown runs of 12, 1, 16 and 3 yards in the victory. The Wildcats scored 35 consecutive points to take control as Yucaipa (10-2) fell in the quarterfinal round for the third consecutive year.
The Semifinal round is up next for the teams moving on and the schedule is as follows:
Semifinal round of the CIF-SS football playoffs
(All games 7:30 p.m. unless noted)
Division 2 (Nov. 24)
Heritage (11-1) at Valencia (11-1)
Division 3 (Nov. 24)
Charter Oak (12-0) at Rancho Verde (10-2)
Division 4 (Nov. 24)
Murrieta Mesa (9-3) at Cajon (11-1)
Division 5 (Nov. 24)
Paloma Valley (10-2) at Paraclete (11-1)
**All stats, schedules and scores are supplied by local high school athletic directors, MaxPreps, CIF-SS and contributing writers/photographers; David Canales, Andrez Imaging, Ed Faith, Rob Davis Photography , Cody Bressler, Paul Bandong, Alicia Salcedo, Annette Saenz, Time Stood Still Photography and countless fans of the games via social media.