League play kicks off this week for the remainder of the I.E., and the Southwestern League doesn't waste any time, opening up with two excellent matchups. Meanwhile, the Big VIII League will feature its only remaining undefeated teams in a cross-town showdown, and the Baseline League opens up with a potential high-scoring affair.
(Inland Empire top 10 rankings included)
No. 13 Vista Murrieta (5-0) at Chaparral (2-3), Friday (7:30 p.m.) – These programs don’t own a long history but what they have experienced is pretty energized. Vista Murrieta is 5-3 in the series but Chaparral owns the biggest win, a 13-7 victory against the Broncos in the 2009 Inland Division final. Four of the meetings have been settled by three points or fewer, with two stretching into overtime. The player to watch for Vista Murrieta is junior Su’a Cravens, a strong safety by trade but a major part of the offense this season as well. Out of necessity, Cravens has been playing running back for the Broncos, giving them a great weapon as a runner or receiver. Chaparral will need San Diego State-bound quarterback Matt Morin to be consistently sharp, something he has struggled with this season. The Pumas have their own stellar strong safety in Arizona State-bound senior C.J. Dozier.
Calpreps.com computerized projection: Vista Murrieta 34, Chaparral 6
ESPNLA: Vista Murrieta 26, Chaparral 20
No. 14 Upland (5-0) vs. Etiwanda (3-2) at Colony HS, Friday (7 p.m.) – Two of the top three teams in the Baseline League square off in the league opener. Both teams have offenses that should keep the scoreboard operator busy. Upland is led by running back Donta Abron and wide receiver Kenny Lawler, who have immense big-play ability. The Eagles will count on quarterback Larry Cutbirth to match Upland point for point. Look for the game to turn on the game’s first non-scoring change of possession, whether it’s a turnover, missed field goal or simply a punt.
Calpreps: Upland 42, Etiwanda 28
ESPNLA: Upland 56, Etiwanda 35
No. 5 Corona Centennial (4-1, 2-0) at Corona Santiago (3-2, 2-0), Friday (7 p.m.) – And then there were two. Santiago kept pace with Centennial last week by upsetting Norco, 49-22. Michael Darr, a junior quarterback, returned after missing Week 4 with the flu and half of Week 3’s game against Vista Murrieta because of a concussion. Darr welcomed the addition of running back Roosevelt Monk, a Hemet transfer who became eligible after the Vista Murrieta game. Monk gives opposing defenses another athlete to worry about besides Darr. If the Huskies continue to pile up points the way they have this season, they won’t need to worry too much about Santiago’s offense. Centennial scored 42 points in the first 13 ½ minutes of a 52-34 victory Friday night against J.W. North, considered the second-best team in the Big VIII heading into that game.
Calpreps: Centennial 42, Santiago 27
ESPNLA: Centennial 56, Santiago 31
Murrieta Valley (4-1) at Temecula Valley (4-1), Friday (7 p.m.) – The second-best matchup in the Southwestern League also happens to fall on the opening week. Derrick Tarin of Temecula Valley has been the most productive quarterback in Southwest Riverside County, throwing for 1,046 yards and four touchdowns. The Golden Bears have been without running back Kason Kennedy since Week 3 because of a lower-back injury, but he should be ready to go for this one. Ryan Smith has filled in nicely, rushing for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the last game, a 37-14 win against Paloma Valley. Murrieta Valley also had a week off to prepare for this game. The Nighthawks have been leaning on the two-headed rushing attack of Jacob Augustine and Jack Magpuaso and the deft passing of junior quarterback Andrew Blake.
Calpreps: Murrieta Valley 21, Temecula Valley 17
ESPNLA: Murrieta Valley 24, Temecula Valley 10
Last week’s picks: