The Mater Dei Catholic Crusaders and Mar Vista Mariners will be out to nail down league titles — and automatic playoff berths — when they close out regular season play Friday.
The Crusaders can officially wrap up their second consecutive Metro-Pacific League championship title with a victory against visiting Sweetwater.
Meanwhile, the Mariners can do the same in the Metro-South Bay League with a win against visiting Southwest.
Both Mater Dei Catholic and Mar Vista clinched no worse than a co-championship in their respective leagues after recording big victories last Friday.
In a match-up of Metro-Pacific unbeatens, the Crusaders (2-0 in league, 7-2 overall) defeated visiting Castle Park, 35-7, while Mar Vista (2-0 in league, 6-3 overall) shaded the host Hilltop Lancers, 20-19, in overtime in a pairing of two more league unbeatens.
Metro-Pacific League Previews
Sweetwater at Mater Dei Catholic
The Crusaders appear to be playing their best at the right time of the season as the Division IV playoffs prepare to dawn. Last week against Castle Park, Mater Dei Catholic forced three turnovers, including a school record 102-yard interception return by Nick Conlin (it’s officially a 99-yard return under high school rules).
On offense, the Crusaders compiled “a nice balanced attack,” according to head coach John Joyner, with 193 passing yards and three rushing touchdowns.
The team’s “NFL” connection continues to be quarterback Joseph Legerrette-Luke and receiver Iman Chatman-Dixon. On the season, Legerrette Luke has passed for 1,409 yards passing with 11 touchdown passes and has also rushed for 548 yards rushing and 11 TDs. Chatman-Dixon has chalked up 789 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.
Sebastian Aluza led MDC with 14 tackles against the Trojans while Lorenzo Eribez made 10 stops. Four players shared in two sacks: Sebastian Kelley, Aristeo Montano, Max Hernandez and Nate Conlin.
Eribez also had a pick to give the hosts two interceptions on the night. Aluza also recovered a fumble.
Sweetwater (1-1 in league, 2-7 overall) gave its homecoming fans something to cheer about last Friday by beating visiting Montgomery 23-7. Jaylon Davis had three second-half picks for the Red Devils, who have now won two of their last four games after starting the season 0-5.
Montgomery at Castle Park
The Warrior Bowl will pit the host Trojans (1-1 in league, 2-7 overall) against the Aztecs (0-2 in league, 1-8 overall). This is the third trophy meeting between the two teams. Each team has posted a victory on the other team’s turf the previous two seasons.
Castle Park is coming off its 35-7 setback at MDC. Quarterback Juan Luna passed to Aaron Leon for the Trojans’ lone touchdown. Castle Park totaled 194 yards in total offense — 164 yards on the ground. Leon rushed 14 times for 53 yards and caught a 30-yard TD pass. Marcos Ochoa had eight carries for 55 yards. Daniel Hernandez had two sacks on defense.
Montgomery is coming off an upset loss at Sweetwater last Friday. Marcos Mathis passed to Dion Moore for the Aztecs’ lone touchdown of the game. Montgomery generated just 142 yards of total offense, including just 38 rushing yards, in the loss to the Red Devils. Moore had two catches for 79 yards, with one being a 78-yard score.
Metro-South Bay League Previews
Southwest at Mar Vista
Mar Vista has to be favored in the annual Battle for the Bell game. The Mariners fended off their stiffest challenge in the three-year history of the revamped Metro-South Bay League last Friday at Hilltop as the teams headed into overtime tied 13-all. In prior years, this game would have ended in a tie, giving both teams a share of the league title. But under new state rules, no section games can end in ties. It obviously makes it exciting for the winners and bittersweet for the losers. Either way, it remains stressful for both teams.
Landon Clark completed two of three passing attempts — both for touchdowns — while MV’s Beef Train took over in the trenches with 382 rushing yards on 56 attempts. Clark carried the ball 18 times for 170 yards. He had ample support from teammates Kenny Nieves (seven carries, 47 yards), Jimmie Hill (11 carries, 49 yards) and Landon O’Connell (13 carries, 67 yards).
Hill had one scoring run while O’Connell and Beto Garcia each caught scoring passes.
On defense, O’Connell had two interceptions, Adrian Iriarte collected one sack while Gilbert Rivera blocked a Lancer field goal attempt. Johnny Hayes made a team-high 11 unassisted tackles.
But it took a missed extra point by Hilltop in the overtime tie-breaker to seal the Mariners’ win. O’Connell scored on a 21-yard pass on fourth down on Mar Vista’s first overtime possession. The Lancers answered with a rushing TD in two plays but missed the PAT to hand the Imperial Beach team its fifth consecutive victory.
The Raiders (1-1 in league, 3-6 overall) are coming off a 35-28 win at San Ysidro. The Raiders compiled 267 rushing yards and 91 passing yards (including two TD passes by Dominic Villamor). Chris Martinez rushed eight times for 80 yards while Villamor added 51 yards on the ground and a TD.
Mark Daniels (two catches, 42 yards) had both touchdown receptions while B Jay Martinez (three carries, 38 yards) and Omar Felix each scored rushing TDs. Jesus Gallegos had an interception return for 25 yards while Oscar Lezcano led Southwest with 10 tackles.
The Raiders retain faint hopes of qualifying for the Division III playoffs. Villamor has passed for 1,369 yards and rushed for 308 yards, scoring six times.
San Ysidro at Hilltop
The winner of this match-up of 4-5 teams not only likely locks up a Division II playoff berth but a possible home game in the first round. Hilltop (1-1 in league) will be out to duplicate the gritty defensive battle it put up against Mar Vista last week, while San Ysidro (0-2 in league) will be out to regain some momentum after opening the season 3-2.
The Lancers — winners of four of their last five games — racked up 211 passing yards against the Mariners and tacked on 113 rushing yards. Daniel Sanchez passed for 174 yards and one score while Dustin Downs had seven carries for 48 yards and a touchdown. Montel Campbell caught a scoring pass (a 75-yarder) and also rushed for a TD. Sergio Vidrio had two catches for 76 yards.
Defensively for Hilltop, Jared Akers was credited with 23 unassisted tackles, followed by teammates Diego Uranga (14), Richard Estrada (13), Jovan Vera (11) and Ben Bernabe (10). The Lancers totaled nine sacks last week — two each by Uranga, Adrian Rios, Vera and Russell Ewbank. Christian Sandoval also recovered a fumble.
Mike Thomas has excelled for San Ysidro, averaging 80 rushing yards per game. He and quarterback David Diaz lead the team in scoring. The Cougars have been out-scored 236-191.