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Is there a favorite any more in the South Bay League title race? Phillip Brents | Fri, Oct 29 2010 12:04 AM

The records for the Metro-South Bay League’s four teams speak for themselves — or do they?

The Mar Vista Mariners and Southwest Raiders are both 4-3, followed by the Hilltop Lancers at 3-4 and the San Ysidro Cougars at 1-6.

The favorite? At the beginning of the season, it might have been Mar Vista, the only team in the bunch to qualify for last year’s San Diego Section playoffs. After last Friday’s final round of non-league match-ups, there really doesn’t appear to be one.

Hilltop hosts Mar Vista in a Nov. 5 homecoming game. Many are predicting that game will be for the league championship. That might be so, but the outcome appears very much up for grabs.

And that’s one bright spot for a league many have dumped on since the Metro Conference announced its realigned three-league format. Both Hilltop and Mar Vista are contending for playoff berths and both will be in a furious fight for the league’s automatic entry by winning the league title.

But neither the Cougars nor the Raiders should be overlooked, as both are capable of scoring upsets. Hilltop will play at Southwest while Mar Vista will entertain San Ysidro in a pair of pre-Halloween encounters to kick off league play.

Hilltop is vying for a berth in the San Diego Section Division II playoffs but, with a 20-point loss to Bonita Vista (2-6 overall), an at-large berth might be marginal. Mar Vista is vying for a Division III playoff spot. In the division, the Mariners lost by two points to Montgomery but defeated Castle Park by 28 points.

The Lancers enter league play riding a three-game losing streak while the Mariners are riding a three-game winning streak.

Thus, the pressure appears to be on Hilltop to win the league title to gain a playoff berth.

And that just might be fine for the pass-happy Lancers, who nearly pulled off one of the section’s bigger upsets in last Friday’s 31-28 loss to visiting Olympian. Quarterback Omar Hernandez passed for 424 yards and three touchdowns against the run-oriented Eagles. Mark McGuire caught all three scoring passes to finish the game with 217 receiving yards. Trey Ventura had four catches for 117 yards and also rushed for 21 yards on 10 carries. Ruben Maldonado caught four passes for 57 yards.

Hilltop, however, totaled just four net rushing yards in the game. For the season, Hernandez has passed for 966 yards and nine touchdowns — five to McGuire (20 catches, 498 yards). Hernandez also is the Lancers’ leading rusher with 437 yards and five touchdowns.

Mar Vista’s potent running game proved its salvation in last Friday’s come-from-behind 28-26 win at Sweetwater. The Mariners spotted the Red Devils a 20-point first-quarter lead before getting down to work.

Mar Vista unleashed a 400-yard rushing attack and tacked on 102 passing yards for a total of 502 offensive yards. Rommel Cooper rushed 22 times for 219 yards and scored three touchdowns. Justin Peoples had 14 rushes for 100 yards while quarterback Jordan Lertique had seven rushes for 64 yards and one score. Ruben Gonzales had two pass receptions for 102 yards and one two-point conversion.

Gaston Garza led the MV defense with 13 tackles, including one sack, while Demarcus Henderson had one interception and Cash Thompson recovered one fumble. Henderson has five picks on the season.

Cooper (1,215 rushing yards, 14 touchdowns), Peoples (619 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and Gonzales (338 rushing yards, 202 receiving yards, three touchdowns) remain the Mariners’ top three offensive weapons with more than 2,000 yards in combined offense.

Mar Vista coach Brian Hay sees the SBL championship race as one coming down to a war of attrition. “We just want to stay healthy,” Hay said. “All the teams in the South Bay are low in numbers. If we can stay healthy, we’ll be fine. If we can’t, then I’m not sure.”

The Mariner defense held SuHi to six points in the last three quarters while the MV offense made its heroic comeback. The Mariners limited Castle Park to 44 rushing yards in a 34-6 win the previous week. “The defense played phenomenal,” Hay said in regard to the 34-6 win over the Trojans.

Southwest defeated visiting St. Joseph Academy, 31-14, last Friday as Pierre Davis (34 carries, 286 rushing yards) scored two touchdowns, Walter Henry (three catches, 76 yards) and Lawrence Walker each scored one touchdown and Sammy Sanchez tacked on seven kicking points, including a 31-yard field goal.

Lamar Weston threw for 125 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions. The Raider defense netted four sacks (two by Walker) and one fumble recovery (by Darius Madjlessi).

The Raiders’ relatively lightweight schedule will likely not be looked upon with favor by the playoff selection committee. But the wins have built confidence.

Davis has rushed for 942 yards and scored nine touchdowns while Marcus Gladden has 17 catches for 381 yards and seven touchdowns to lead Southwest. Gladden also has five picks on defense.

San Ysidro can also generate offensive numbers. In six games, quarterback David Vega had thrown for 1,057 yards and seven TDs while also rushing for 304 yards and three scores. Meanwhile, Chandler Tarrant had 35 catches for 462 yards.

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