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Utah ‘finale’ paces West Primer

In what may be a de facto state title game the lone HSFB100-ranked teams from Utah will square off Friday.

No. 43 Bingham (South Jordan, UT) will be in search of its third consecutive trip to the state final — after winning the previous two. It is also riding a 37 game in-state winning streak. In a season that most perceived the Utah juggernaut to be more vulnerable, No. 49 Lone Peak (Highland, UT) may be the last legitimate threat to end the Miners streak this season.

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In comparing the four cross-over games that the teams have played, Lone Peak has an edge – winning the games by 45 more total points than Bingham. It may also have an edge on the offensive side of the ball, scoring six more points per game.

Quarterback Talmage Gunther has had a quality season, passing for 1,917 yards, 29 touchdowns, and rushing for 745 yards with eight more scores. Senior receivers Jon Christensen and Tyson Doman have combined for more than half of the production in the receiving game.

Junior three-star running back Jackson McChesney, a BYU commit, is a dual threat out of the backfield with over 800 all-purpose yards and 11 total touchdowns. Fullback Tyler Kap gives the Knights another option in the ground game. The tough-running senior is just over 700 yards with nine scores.

The defense for Bingham — which is giving up only nine points per game — will be a tough matchup for the Knights.
The group up front has shown it is tough to run on, which could force Lone Peak into getting away from its balanced offensive attack. If that is the case, the Miner’s defense is coming off of a nine-sack performance from last week led by four-star defensive tackle Jay Tufele and three-star defensive end Langi Tuifua. Knights head coach Mike Mower spoke about the defensive matchup that lays ahead.

“Usually you can watch a team and notice things they don’t do all that well, or things you can exploit. With Bingham though, there really isn’t anything,” Mower told the Deseret News. “That’s a very complete team in every way, with the best defense we’ve seen so far this year.”

The defense for Lone Peak will be just as influential in the outcome. If it can slow down what has been an inconsistent Bingham offense for most of the season, it will its best chance to win.

The team could be without one of its most productive players in junior safety Seth Corry, who left last week’s game with a knee injury.

Corry leads the team with 73 tackles and has been a key member of a talented pass defense. Fortunately for the Knights, Doman stepped in at safety and returned an interception for a touchdown in his absence. Nate Bennett is another vital player in the secondary with three interceptions, tied for the team-lead with linebacker Britton Bettridge. The pass rush has been impressive as well, led by Terrence Levy and Preston Lewis. The defensive line duo has combined for 14 of the teams 29 sacks on the season.

Bingham will likely get its run game going early and often in an effort to keep the pressure of first-year senior starter Matthew Degn at quarterback. Degn assumed the full time role around mid-season and will be starting the biggest game of his high school career. Jahvontay Smith and Brady Atkin will see the majority of the work on the ground. Receivers Schylar Shoemaker and Brayden Cosper have been two of the top pass-catchers on the team all season.

If the offense cannot get going it could spell trouble for the Miners. Its defense has shown it can win ball games by itself, but the balanced attack from Lone Peak should be able to score points more often than most of Bingham’s opponents.

Until another Utah foe can knock off the two-time defending state champ, it will enter the game as the favorite to win but an upset possibility certainly exists. Depending on the outcome of the game and how closely it is played, Utah could see two teams ranked in the final HSFB100 for the first time since 2008.

No. 28 Hamilton (Chandler, AZ) vs Centennial (Peoria, AZ)

As predicted by Centennial coaches after falling short to Hamilton back on Sept. 24, the Coyotes will see Hamilton once again.

The Coyote’s nearly erased a 21-point deficit in the second half, but ultimately lost, 34-27. After the setback Centennial coaches let their players know: we will see them again.

This week, Centennial will do just that in the Arizona Division 1 quarterfinals. It is no stranger to deep postseason runs as it breezed through the Division 2 state playoffs last season, before bumping up to Division 1 this year. It has proved it belongs in the top classification as it has lost three games on the season by a total of only nine points.

The strength of the offense resides on the offensive line. Marshal Nathe and Steven Baily are both three-star recruits and Tanner Hawthorne is rated a two-star. It has led a balanced rushing attack in which three different players have scored 11 touchdowns- Quentin Gomez, John Rincon and quarterback Isaac Steele. Steele has also thrown for 1,438 yards and has completed nine touchdowns passes to six different targets.

On defense, it is also the play of the line that may be its biggest strength. Defensive end Chris Jules has recorded a team-high 17 sacks on the season. On the opposite end, Andrew Nichols has come up with eight sacks. Two-star linebacker Bozton Sanders leads the team with 81 tackles and two interceptions. The pass rush will need to be at its best as it will be aiming to slow down one of the most talented quarterbacks in Arizona.

Two-star quarterback Travis Lockhart is coming off of one his best games of the season, throwing for 385 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-10 win over Perry (Gilbert, AZ). The senior is up to 2,670 yards and 27 touchdowns on the year. He will be working with a talented group of receivers in Kaleb Pitts, Chance Brewington, and two-star Kyeler Burke. The trio has combined for 18 touchdown catches led by Pitts with 10. Senior Rashad Williams and sophomore Jawhar Jordan are the team’s leading rushers but Austin Lowe is tops on the team with eight rushing touchdowns.
Burke also leads the team with four interceptions as a two-way player in the secondary. Jaelon Parson is right behind him with three interceptions. Anchoring the defensive line is four-star Wisconsin commit Garrett Rand. The unit as a whole is surrendering an average of 18 points per game.

The determining factor of the match up will likely be the line-play of Centennial on each side of the ball. If it can keep a consistent ground-game moving forward for its offense and disrupt the balanced attack of Hamilton on defense, it can advance to the next round of the playoffs.

Conversely, already playing in a close game with the Coyotes, anticipate proven coach Steve Belles of Hamilton to make the necessary adjustments in the game plan to advance to the state semifinals next week.

No. 42 Serra (Gardena, CA) vs Westlake (Westlake Village, CA)

Coming off of a 17-point upset defeat, the No. 42-ranked Cavaliers aren’t exactly roaring into the playoffs as anticipated. What could have been a one-loss regular season and an outright undefeated Mission League title quickly turned into a two-loss share and a better first round opponent in the Pac5 playoffs.

How Serra rebounds remains to be seen.

Westlake will attempt to strike while the iron is hot, yet, it is not entering the playoffs with much momentum either. The Warriors enter after two consecutive losses, surrendering a total of 83 points combined in those games.
Senior quarterback Grant Bunker has put up strong numbers but has thrown two interceptions in each of the last three games. That will be a key area to keep an eye on as he will be up against one of the most talented secondaries he will see this season. He has thrown for 2,287 yards and 21 touchdowns on the year. Four-star UCLA commit Theo Howard is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the southern section and serves as Bunker’s main target. He is up to 49 receptions for 815 yards and eight touchdowns but missed last week’s game with a concussion. If he is not able to play, it would be a big loss for the Warriors.

Shane Ho and Vincent Corso have each caught over 35 passes, both are over 500 yards and have combined for 10 touchdowns as second and third options. Senior running back Chase Jasmin is rated a three-star recruit and is committed to San Diego State. He has rushed for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season. In Howard’s absence last week, Jasmin carried the ball a season-high 28 times. He could be in a for a similar work load if the four-star receiver is unable to go. The third place team out of the Marmonte League will need to get its offense going and hope to outlast Serra in a shootout.

Despite the sub-par showing in its last two games, the defense for Westlake has allowed 23 points per game. Junior linebacker Cameron Trimble leads the team with 99 tackles. Fellow linebacker Brandon Shook has recorded 90 tackles and a team-leading 13 sacks. Safety Ryan Osborne has two of the team’s six interceptions. It will look to contain one of the most electric quarterbacks it has faced.

Senior three-star Khalil Tate has thrown for over 1,600 yards and with his next two yards on the ground will be over 1,600 yards rushing. The Arizona-bound quarterback has thrown 13 touchdowns and has rushed for 23 more. His main targets will be Isaiah Diego-Williams and Brandon Burton. Diego-Williams has 60 receptions for 787 yards and Burton leads the team with six touchdown catches.

Burton doubles as a four-star safety on defense. Along with freshman Max Williams, who leads the team with three interceptions, and four-star cornerback CJ Pollard, the trio will be tasked with slowing down the Bunker-to-Howard connection, if Howard is cleared. Sophomore linebacker Merlin Roberson leads the team with 72 tackles followed by three-star linebacker Blake Walls with 63. Five-star recruit Oluwole Betiku is one of the best defensive ends around and has recorded 15 sacks on the season.

Talent-wise this matchup should not be close but most of the Serra losses in recent years have been to teams that are not nearly as talented.

Still, the Cavaliers should come out as motivated and focused as ever in order to take care of business in the opening round of the PAC 5 playoffs. If it can get past Westlake, it will likely have a HSFB100 matchup with Mater Dei (Santa Ana, CA) in the next round.

St. Bonaventure (Ventura, CA) vs Orange Lutheran (CA)

Once thought of by many to be a challenger in the Pac5 playoffs, Orange Lutheran now finds itself limping into the postseason.

After back to back losses and a ‘luck of the draw’ coin flip to break a three-way tie for third place in the Trinity League, it will continue its season.

The Lancers could have controlled its own destiny with a win last week but blew a 10-point lead in the final quarter and fell to JSerra (San Juan Capistrano, CA), 45-40. Nonetheless, luck was on its side and the third place team will have a chance to showcase the depth of the Trinity League.

St. Bonaventure enters as the second-place finisher out of the Marmonte League. It is a solid team with three losses to three quality opponents but far from the level of its state champion teams in 2007 and 2008. After knocking off Westlake 31-28 in week nine, it did what it had to do last week in order to clinch second place in league- defeating Moorpark (CA), 48-21.

Quarterback Darius Vines threw for 115 yards and two touchdown passes but it was the ground attack for the Seraphs that dominated the game. Vines rushed for 106 yards and another score while Chris Santoyo rushed for 147 yards on 13 carries and added two more touchdowns. Moy Pedroza and sophomore Chuck Wick also scored rushing touchdowns. Senior receiver David Lopez caught two touchdown catches of 69 and 25 yards from Vines. The offense is averaging 38 points per game, while the defense is allowing 27. The passing game will likely need to be a factor this week in order for St. Bonaventure to sustain success on offense.

Orange Lutheran will rely on the arm and legs of quarterback LJ Northington.

The Harvard-bound senior threw for 165 yards, rushed for 132 yards and had two touchdowns in last week’s losing effort. A trio of juniors form a talented supporting cast for Northington. Dominik Austin is the leading rusher on the team and two-way athletes Austin Liles and four-star Brandon McKinney are top targets in the passing game. McKinney also leads the team in tackles, and Liles leads in interceptions.

Entering the playoffs fresh off of a must-win game in which it fell short, Orange Lutheran could be feeling the late-season effects of one of the toughest schedules in the country. However, if it can use its previous challenges to its advantage and strengthen some of its exploited weakness, it should pull away from St. Bonaventure.

A loss in the opening round wouldn’t bode well for the power of one of the perceived strongest leagues in the country, even if it is from its third place finisher.

Central Catholic (Portland, OR) vs Clackamas (OR)

Two Mt. Hood league foes will face off once again — less than a month removed from a 17-14 victory for Central Catholic.

This time around the stakes are much higher as the winner will advance to the quarterfinals of the Oregon 6A state playoffs and the loser will be done for the season. Both teams enter with 8-2 records.

Two-time defending state champion Central Catholic lost its first two games of the season but has rallied nicely since. Eight straight wins and a league championship later, it has found itself once again a legitimate contender in the state playoffs.

Despite the recent success, the Rams made a switch at quarterback last week in its opening round win. Junior quarterback DeAndre Smith gave way to sophomore Marcus Mildenberger in route to a 42-21 victory.

Mildenberger threw for 94 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for two scores. He did also throw three interceptions, which has left the door open for either quarterback to start the game this week.

When asked how he would rate his young quarterback’s performance and who would start this week, head coach Steve Pyne told the Oregonian,” I thought for his first start at the varsity level and in the playoffs he played very well at times.  He executed our run game very well and was pretty consistent with his reads. Two of the three picks he threw were 50-50 balls and we lost the battle on both; his third interception was a result of poor mechanics and he knew it as soon as he came to the sideline.  We will continue to evaluate in practice who is most productive and make our decision based on that information.”

Whoever does get the starting nod will have the benefit of being surrounded by collegiate-level talent. Three-star defensive back Ronnie Rust also functions as the team’s starting running back. Last week, Rust had 179 yards on the ground with two touchdowns. He also caught Mildenberger’s lone touchdown pass. A pair of four-star Oregon commits play both ways as well, in linebacker Lamar Winston and defensive back Brady Breeze. Winston and Breeze will both be targets in the passing game. Breeze has even played quarterback for the Rams, before giving way to Smith. Breeze connecting with Winston put up most of the points in losses to Jesuit (Portland, OR) and St. John Bosco (Bellflower, CA) earlier in the season.

One advantage for Clackamas will be its stability at quarterback.

Senior Wyatt Hutchinson has started every game for Cavaliers and has thrown for 1,890 yards and 17 touchdowns. His main target, David Benintendi, has caught 40 passes for 682 yards and nine scores. Richie Seratt serves as the lead back with 968 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Josh Gray is another option on the ground along with Hutchinson, as both have scored five rushing touchdowns.

In the first matchup between these two teams, Central Catholic was held to 179 total yards of offense. Despite one of its worst offensive outputs all season, it still found a way to win the game. Expect head coach Steve Pyne to make adjustments and get his offense going this time around, in a less-challenged win over the Cavaliers.

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