Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (1-3) at Newport Harbor (1-3), Thursday, 7 p.m.
This has developed into a nice series that seems to have benefited both programs. It's the eighth consecutive season they have played, and though Newport holds a 4-3 edge, Mira Costa has won the last two years, including a 17-6 victory last season. Both teams need a victory because league play is on the horizon. They are similar in that they have played good competition. Mira Costa's losses have been to Loyola (4-1), Gardena Serra (3-2) and Chaminade (3-1); Newport's losses have been to Trabuco Hills (4-1), Loyola (4-1) and San Clemente (5-0). Newport hung around last week against San Clemente and was in the game in the fourth quarter; the Sailors will likely need a strong performance by QB Cole Blower.
Yorba Linda (5-0, 1-0) at Tustin (3-2, 1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
Is Yorba Linda ready to hang with the big boys? The Mustangs are undefeated and players -- including quality QB Alex Bernstein -- have put up some nice numbers, but they are untested against a physical team, and none of their previous opponents has a winning record. Even if Tustin is banged up and shorthanded (which it is), the Tillers can still apply the hurt; they will pound you, and they will force you to be there in the fourth quarter. And if you're there in the fourth quarter, they still have RB Tyler Siudzinski to pound on you some more. Yorba Linda can't be The Man in the Empire League until it beats Tustin (whose only losses are to undefeated Orange Lutheran and Upland).
No. 2 Mission Viejo (4-1) vs. Redlands East Valley (4-0) at University of Redlands, Friday, 7 p.m.
If the Mission Viejo offense has caught up to its defense, and last week's 31-0 victory over Carson might be an indication that it has, then there might not be any worries for the Diablos in this final game before South Coast League play. But if the offense struggles -- and it's facing a defense that has shut out two opponents, including Dominguez -- then this game might not be decided until the fourth quarter. When they played a year ago, REV was banged up and young, but there was no lack of fight in the 42-14 loss. The best guess is that REV will bring its best in front of a rocking stadium crowd, and if Mission makes some mistakes that it hasn't always avoided this season, it's game on.
Cypress (4-1, 1-0) at Western (3-1, 0-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
The reality is that Cypress should win this game, but football sometimes doesn't adhere to onnvention, and no matter what Vincent "Bug" Rivera does for the Centurions, it might not matter. If Western plays as it did a few weeks ago in a 22-21 loss to the Southwest Division's best team, Corona del Mar, then the Pioneers could score the upset behind Marcus Hays.
Foothill (3-2, 0-0) vs. Esperanza (3-2, 0-1) at Yorba Linda HS, Friday, 7 p.m.
Esperanza scores a lot of points behind Troy Poole, who has averaged 190 yards rushing, and Nick Catalano, but the Aztecs give up a lot of points, and are coming off a 41-28 loss to undefeated Villa Park. Foothill, though, doesn't even average 190 yards rushing as a team, but it allows about half as many points on defense, and though the Knights have been quiet behind a pair of undefeated teams (Villa Park and Brea), this game might determine what kind of season the Knights have. It's not unreasonable to think this is a playoff game for both teams.