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This Week's Top Football Games

November 21, 2002|Eric Stephens,Mike Bresnahan, Ben Bolch, Eric Sondheimer, Martin Henderson

CITY SECTION

Dorsey (4-6) at Franklin (9-1), 7, tonight

Northern League champion Franklin, the eighth-seeded team, has plenty of motivation, hoping to send longtime Coach Armando Gonzalez out after a long run in the playoffs. The Panthers can move the ball with quarterback Narciso Diaz (66.7% passing, 2,864 yards, 32 touchdowns) and wide receivers Brandon Powers (67 catches, 1,336 yards) and Adam Viola (39 catches, 754 yards), but they have not been in sync offensively the last two weeks. Ninth-seeded Dorsey isn't the same team that won the City Section championship last year, but the Dons are always dangerous in the playoffs. Dorsey has won three of its last four games and was only a minute away from upsetting Coliseum League champion Crenshaw last week. Running back Jeremiah Johnson will prove a major test for the Franklin defense.

-- Eric Stephens

Fremont (8-2) at Venice (8-2), 7, tonight

The section's most intriguing first-round matchup figures to have a number of college scouts in attendance. Fremont started 7-0 but suffered consecutive losses to Crenshaw and Dorsey, falling to a No. 13 seeding. The Pathfinders have plenty of playmakers, among them wide receiver Mark Bradford, running backs Milvon James and Eric Jones, and tight end Thomas Herring. Herring, a 6-foot-7, 290-pound junior, is also a force on the defensive line. Venice was seeded fourth after winning the Western League. The Gondoliers' only losses have come by one point to Santa Monica and by five points to La Verne Damien. Big wide receivers B.J. Vickers (58 receptions, 1,245 yards) and Antwuan Giddens (49 receptions, 1,011 yards) create matchup problems on the outside for opponents. Senior quarterback Eddie Miller leads the section with 3,086 yards passing and running back Byron Ellis (1,051 yards) has had several big games. The decisive factor could be whether Venice's offensive line gives Miller time to throw.

-- Eric Stephens

SOUTHERN SECTION

Santa Margarita (6-4) vs. Anaheim Esperanza (9-1) at Placentia Valencia High, 7:30 p.m., Friday

A tough first-round game for Esperanza in the Division I playoffs. The Aztecs lost only once and were rewarded by drawing Santa Margarita, which will have a healthy Ashton White. A senior running back, White missed two games because of a knee injury, but spurred the Eagles to a 19-0 victory over then-No. 5 Mater Dei on Nov. 8. White has 1,000 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in 200 carries. Esperanza, in Coach Gary Meek's final season before taking over as the school's athletic director, is led by quarterback Rick Taloa, who has 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.

-- Mike Bresnahan

La Puente Bishop Amat (5-5) vs. Redlands (7-3) at University of Redlands, 7:30 p.m., Friday

These are two teams attempting to salvage disappointing seasons by making their mark in the playoffs. Redlands won its last four games after opening Citrus Belt League play with a loss to eventual champion Rialto Eisenhower, but the Terriers hardly inspire fear the way they did last season, when they went undefeated in the regular season. Bishop Amat had to win its last two games just to get into the playoffs, though the Lancers played as well as anyone during the final weeks of the season. Running back Chris Seals gained 187 yards last week in a 37-20 victory over Santa Margarita. Running back Zach James (983 yards, 11 touchdowns), quarterback Brandon D'Amico (1,034 yards, eight touchdowns) and receiver Brian Walsh (497 yards, three touchdowns) have been the mainstays for Redlands.

-- Ben Bolch

Etiwanda (8-2) at Canyon Country Canyon (9-1), 7:30 p.m., Friday

This is the equivalent of the NCAA men's basketball tournament play-in game, since the winner likely will draw top-seeded Mission Viejo in the second round. Overachieving Etiwanda, which finished in a three-way tie for first in the Baseline League after being picked by some to finish last, will rely on the power running of tailback Chris Lavalle (1,587 yards) and fullback Paul Unga (798). Canyon Country Canyon has proved it can stop the run -- the Cowboys held touted Valencia tailback Charles Burnley to 58 yards in 19 carries. Canyon has good offensive balance with quarterback Nate Longshore (1,695 yards) and running back Louis Montano (1,282 yards).

-- Ben Bolch

Arroyo Grande (6-3) vs. Ventura St. Bonaventure (9-1) at Santa Barbara City College, 7:30 p.m., Friday

Arroyo Grande was ranked No. 1 in Division IV after going 5-0, then lost three of four Pac 5 League games to end up as a fourth-place team and a dangerous first-round opponent for the top-seeded Seraphs. Arroyo Grande's offense has been sputtering, but the Eagle defense features safety Chad Simonson, a four-year starter. St. Bonaventure relies on the passing of junior quarterback Brian Stevens (2,094 yards, 26 touchdowns) and the all-around play of Whitney Lewis (870 yards receiving, 561 yards rushing, 26 touchdowns).

-- Eric Sondheimer

Irvine (6-4) vs. Orange Lutheran (8-2) at Brea Olinda High, 7:30 p.m., Friday

As Terrell Vinson goes, so goes Irvine. Vinson has rushed for 1,805 yards and scored 22 touchdowns, and accounted for 134 of Irvine's 217 points this season. He also returns punts and kickoffs, and special teams could play a critical role in this game's outcome. Second-seeded Orange Lutheran, which last season was seeded second and finished as runner-up to St. Bonaventure in Division XI, is more balanced but is without its best player, tailback John Ausmus, who broke his leg in Week 7. In his absence, Brent Concolino has averaged 9.8 yards per carry. The Lancers are averaging 29.6 points and haven't lost since dropping successive games to Santa Ana Mater Dei, 21-20, and Anaheim Servite, 34-3, to open the season.

-- Martin Henderson

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