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Southern Section football playoffs promise excitement


The Southern Section football pairings were released Sunday, so it's time to evaluate the top divisions and project which teams and players are going to be busy on Thanksgiving and beyond.


Top seedings: 1. Huntington Beach Edison (10-0); 2. Mission Viejo (10-0); 3. Anaheim Servite (9-1); 4. Lakewood (9-1).

Best opening matchup: Santa Ana Mater Dei (6-4) at La Puente Bishop Amat (9-1).

Most underrated player: Running back Kyle Middlebrooks, Fountain Valley. He's one of the fastest teenagers in California, and any kind of good blocking creates the opportunity for a long gain.

The scoop: "Edison is the cream of the crop," Mater Dei Coach Bruce Rollinson said. He's right, but the Chargers may have to go through a private-school gauntlet to win it all. Servite has a smoother path to the final.

The pick: Servite.


Top seedings: 1. Redlands East Valley (10-0); 2. Vista Murrieta (10-0); 3. Norco (9-1); 4. Moreno Valley Rancho Verde (10-0).

Best opening matchup: Corona Roosevelt (8-2) at Temecula Chaparral (7-3).

Most underrated player: Quarterback Derek Brown, Vista Murrieta. At 6 feet 3 and 230 pounds, Brown is big enough to play on the line. But the junior has a strong arm and booms punts so high you need binoculars to keep track.

The scoop: Everybody's eyes are on unseeded Corona Centennial (8-2), which could face Rancho Verde in the second round. The Huskies figure to be a big factor before this division is decided.

The pick: Vista Murrieta.


Top seedings: 1. Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (8-2); 2. Culver City (9-1); 3. Mission Hills Alemany (7-3); 4. Palmdale (8-2).

Best opening matchup: West Torrance (7-3) at Warren (9-1).

Most underrated player: Quarterback Marquel Carter, Culver City. Yes, he speaks fluent Japanese, but he also has passed for 2,495 yards and 27 touchdowns, and rushed for 15 touchdowns.

The scoop: Mira Costa has played a tough schedule and has the most playoff experience. Alemany is a dangerous team with speed and a Division I mentality.

The pick: Mira Costa.


Top seedings: 1. Valencia (10-0); 2. Ventura St. Bonaventure (9-1); 3. Westlake Village Westlake (10-0); 4. Moorpark (9-1).

Best opening matchup: Thousand Oaks (5-5) at Valencia.

Most underrated player: Receiver Zach Tartabull, Valencia. All he does is make spectacular catches. He's averaging 21.1 yards a catch.

The scoop: It's the first time since 1999 that St. Bonaventure isn't seeded No. 1. A semifinal matchup between Westlake and St. Bonaventure ought to fill the biggest stadium.

The pick: Westlake.


Top seedings: 1. Colton (9-1); 2. Ontario Colony (9-1); 3. Elsinore (8-2); 4. Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos (6-4).

Best opening matchup: Cajon (7-3) at Etiwanda (7-3).

Most underrated player: Angel Santiago, Etiwanda. He has passed for 2,005 yards and 15 touchdowns despite being listed at 5-10.

The scoop: Defending champion Rancho Cucamonga is unseeded and looming as a second-round opponent of Colton.

The pick: Rancho Cucamonga.


Top seedings: 1. Covina Charter Oak (9-1); 2. West Covina South Hills (8-2); 3. Montebello Schurr (8-1-1); 4. Burbank (8-2).

Best opening matchup: Rowland (8-2) at Whittier California (7-2-1).

Most underrated player: Running back Adam Muema, Charter Oak. He's a 6-1, 215-pound bowling ball who can run over or away from defenders.

The scoop: Get ready for a battle of the Covinas.

The pick: Charter Oak.


Top seedings: 1. Westlake Village Oaks Christian (10-0); 2. Gardena Serra (10-0); 3. Santa Maria St. Joseph (10-0); 4. Santa Maria Pioneer Valley (9-1).

Best opening matchup: North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (6-3) at Compton Centennial (7-3).

Most underrated player: K.J. Cusack, St. Joseph. The versatile Cusack is averaging 15.6 yards per carry, and has 1,514 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns. In a game last season, he scored two touchdowns on kickoff returns, returned a punt for a touchdown and returned an interception for a score.

The scoop: A year ago, Serra lost to Oaks Christian, 63-28, in the championship game. Serra is better, but so is Oak Christian, and the Lions have UCLA-bound Malcolm Jones, who has 99 touchdowns in his career.

The pick: Oaks Christian.


Top seedings: 1. La Habra (9-1); 2. Tustin (9-1); 3. Mission Viejo Trabuco Hills (9-1); 4. Cypress (9-1).

Best opening matchup: Fullerton Troy (7-3) at Cypress.

Most underrated player: Senior Joshua Quezada, La Habra. He has rushed for 1,299 yards and scored 26 touchdowns.

The scoop: Somebody is going to have to stop Tustin and Stanford-bound running back Anthony Wilkerson.

The pick: Tustin.


Top seedings: 1. Monrovia (10-0); 2. San Dimas (9-1); 3. Azusa (9-1); 4. El Monte Arroyo (8-2).

Best opening matchup: Lancaster Paraclete (6-4) at La Puente (8-2).

Most underrated player: Lineman Todd Davis, Paraclete. He has made 27 tackles for losses.

The scoop: Junior quarterback Nick Buena of Monrovia must be stopped. He has rushed for 1,093 yards and passed for 756 yards.

The pick: San Dimas.

-- Sondheimer

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