Weekend Watch: Five must-see matches

Each week during the high school season, ESPNHS highlights five weekend matches that have a compelling storyline or could have significant state, region and/or national implications.

This week, section titles in the Central Coast, San Diego and Southern Sections highlight the schedule.

Friday, March 2

No. 5 El Rancho (Pico Rivera, Calif.) vs. Crescenta Valley (La Crescenta-Montrose, Calif.)

This CIF-Southern Section Division IV final features a pair of undefeated teams. El Rancho has climbed to No. 5 in the latest POWERADE FAB 50, thanks in large part to the scoring of Francisco Lara. Lara netted all four goals in the team’s Round of 16 and quarterfinal victories. Earlier this week, El Rancho received goals from three different players to win its semifinal contest 3-1. Crescenta Valley is an ESPNHS state-ranked team but has not yet cracked the POWERADE FAB 50. That could change following Friday’s action. Crescenta Valley is led by Pavle Atanackovic, who has signed with UC Irvine.

Saturday, March 3

No. 9 San Pasqual (Escondido, Calif.) vs. No. 39 Torrey Pines (Encinitas, Calif.)

This CIF-San Diego Section Division I final is a rematch from an early January contest between these non-league opponents. In the first meeting, Zac Salado and Leon Prikhodovisky scored to lead San Pasqual over Torrey Pines 2-1. The winner of this match will be guaranteed a spot in next week’s Southern California Regional tournament.

No. 10 Ventura (Calif.) vs. No. 19 Millikan (Long Beach, Calif.)

Millikan mounted a staggering rally just to reach the final. The Long Beach power was trailing Loyola (Los Angeles) 2-0 with less than 15 minutes to go before scoring twice to send the match to overtime and ultimately prevailing in penalty kicks. Ventura, meanwhile, dispatched Marina (Huntington Beach, Calif.) 2-0 in its semifinal match. For long-time Millikan coach Rod Petkovic, this is the program’s second final appearance in four years. Under Petkovic, Millikan won section titles in 1992 and 2001, and one this year will make him the second coach in CIF-Southern Section history to win titles in three different decades.

No. 18 Menlo-Atherton (Atherton, Calif.) vs. Watsonville (Calif.)

Not much of a surprise in this CIF-Central Coast Division I meeting. Menlo-Atherton was the No. 1 seed and Watsonville was the No. 2 seed to start the playoffs. The outcome of this match has important national ranking implications as Watsonville’s only loss of the season was a 2-0 setback to Loyola (Los Angeles), which lost in the Southern Section semifinals. If Watsonville wins the section, it will validate higher rankings for several Southern Section programs. If Menlo-Atherton prevails, this program could move even higher in the POWERADE FAB 50.

No. 24 Cate School (Carpinteria, Calif.) vs. University Prep (Victorville, Calif.)

Cate, with Santa Barbara signee Ema Boateng, won the inaugural Division 7 title last year and is one of three Southern Section programs in position to repeat as champs. Boateng had a goal and one assist in the team’s semifinal win. Meanwhile, University Prep offers high-scoring Oscar Bonilla, who has scored 41 goals this season.