It’s rivalry week in the Inland Empire. The Baseline, Big VIII and Citrus Belt leagues feature matchups involving teams that have spent the last decade hammering away at each other. While some of these rivalries have turned into one-sided affairs in recent years, it’s tough to predict which way they’ll turn once the teams step between the lines.
(Inland Empire top 10 rankings included)
No. 9 Rancho Cucamonga (6-0, 1-0) at No. 12 Upland (6-0, 1-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – This has been one of the more even rivalries over the years and another tight one is expected Friday night. Rancho Cucamonga has won four straight close games against the Highlanders, including a victory in the 2008 Central Division finals, but Upland is a slight favorite this time around. The Highlanders earned that distinction with an impressive win three weeks ago against visiting Loyola, while Rancho Cucamonga has spent the first six weeks steamrollering mostly mediocre opponents. The key matchup will be Upland’s offensive line and fullback Christian Powell against a defense led by linebacker Viliami Latu, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior. Offensively, the Cougars also need to be on the lookout for Powell, who leads the Inland Division with nine sacks.
Calpreps.com computerized projection: Upland 31, Rancho Cucamonga 24
ESPNLA: Rancho Cucamonga 28, Upland 24
Norco (4-2, 2-1) at No. 4 Corona Centennial (5-1, 3-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – For the second consecutive season this rivalry has lost some of its luster due to an early loss by Norco in Big VIII League play. The Cougars were upended by Corona Santiago two weeks ago, the second time this season they've allowed 49 or more points in a game. That’s not good news against an offense as unrelenting as Centennial’s, which has scored at least 48 points in four straight. Norco will need to find a way to keep the ball out of Centennial’s hands for as long as possible. Don’t be surprised if the Cougars go for it on fourth down at midfield, or try an onside kick the first time they have the opportunity.
Calpreps.com: Centennial 44, Norco 21
ESPNLA: Centennial 56, Norco 28
No. 7 Redlands East Valley (6-0, 1-0) at Redlands (2-4, 1-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – While the Smudge Pot Game might not have the competitive edge of the past, it certainly hasn't lost any tradition. Redlands, in fact, still owns an 8-6 lead in the series, but the Terriers have lost four straight against REV and six of the last eight. The Wildcats have been winning ugly lately, but they’ve been winning. They didn’t score an offensive touchdown in a 10-7 victory two weeks ago against nationally-ranked Mission Viejo and barely scraped together enough points last week to beat A.B. Miller, 21-13, in a Citrus Belt League opener. Redlands played a punishing nonleague schedule, so REV won’t show anything the Terriers haven’t already seen.
Calpreps.com: Redlands East Valley 31, Redlands 3
ESPNLA: Redlands East Valley 24, Redlands 7
Kaiser (4-2, 1-0) at Jurupa Valley (5-0-1, 1-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – Kaiser has won 20 straight Sunbelt League games dating to 2007, when the Cats lost to Bloomington, 56-28. Kaiser lost a lot to graduation last season, putting the winning streak in jeopardy. Jurupa Valley would like nothing more than to have those honors. Jurupa Valley quarterback Martin Mercado has picked up where he left off last season, passing for 1,064 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ramon Barrajas was his favorite receiver last season, but Daulton Boughton is getting more looks this fall, catching 22 passes for 399 yards and five touchdowns.
Calpreps.com: Kaiser 35, Jurupa Valley 21
ESPNLA: Jurupa Valley 24, Kaiser 21
Last week’s picks: