Three county high school football teams remain alive in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs and will suit up for second-round matchups on the gridiron tonight.
Mission Prep (9-1) will head south to take on Flintridge Prep (6-4) in La Cañada at 7:30 p.m.
Atascadero and Morro Bay highs will play at home after their road wins last week.
Atascadero (5-6) will face Canyon (8-2-1) at 7:30 p.m., while Morro Bay (8-3) will square off against highly touted Chaminade High (10-1) at 7 p.m.
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Mission Prep bounced back from its only defeat this season, a 16-13 loss against unbeaten Bishop Diego on Nov. 2, to trounce Frazier Mountain 41-8 in the first round.
After a slow start on offense, Mission Prep started clicking in the second half with a 21-point third quarter in the home win.
“Especially since we lost to Bishop Diego, it was good to get back on the track of winning,” said Tyler Baty, the Royals’ senior quarterback.
Baty finished with 283 yards passing with four touchdowns and one interception in a high-powered passing offense that targets multiple receivers. Five players caught multiple passes in the playoff win.
Joey Hall has been Baty’s most frequent target, catching six passes for 168 yards last week and two receiving touchdowns.
“He seems like he’s fast, but in games he turns it on to a different speed,” Baty said. “With the receivers we have, we have a lot of playmakers. It has been fun to work with them.”
For Royals coach Chad Henry, getting the first playoff win has brought a certain level of calm to the team.
“These last two weeks our team has had to grow a lot,” Henry said. “Coming out of a heartbreaking loss against Bishop Diego with such emotion and intensity, and then having to play a team that’s very tough and physical last week and having things not go well initially, but coming out on the right side of the scoreboard, it has all been a learning experience.”
In Flintridge, the Royals will be face an opponent that upset its first-round adversary, Ribet Academy 34-28 in overtime. Ribet had lost only once this season before last week.
Flintridge 6-foot-7 wide receiver Kareem Ismail caught the game-winning touchdown last week on a 15-yard pass from quarterback Clayton Weirick. Rebels running back Stefan Smith, who averages 135 yards per game, had 181 last week with three scores.
As Henry and other coaches work with players on the Xs and Os, the overarching message has been to enjoy the moment and to not worry about the pressure of playoff football.
“The key for us this week will be just be getting back to ourselves,” Henry said. “Our theme has been getting back to the basics and having fun playing football.”
While Mission Prep started the postseason a heavy favorite, Atascadero stunned undefeated Palmdale last week in a 26-7 upset as the underdog.
The fifth place team in the PAC 7 earned an at-large bid and took advantage of that opportunity, making the Greyhounds the only team from the league still standing in the postseason.
“It has been an exciting past couple of weeks,” Atascadero coach Vic Cooper said.
Cooper credited his team’s defense for shutting down Palmdale and said another strong effort in tonight’s matchup would be a big boost.
“We’ve been playing well defensively and we’ve been able to make some big stops,” Cooper said. “We hope to carry that momentum into the game against Canyon.”
Canyon enters as the top team from the Foothill League, having beaten San Luis Obispo 42-9 last week. Quarterback Cade Apsay threw for 246 yards and three touchdowns in the blowout against the Tigers.
But Canyon’s passing game may be impacted by what’s expected to be a rainy night in Atascadero. The Greyhounds will look to establish the run as a team that uses four key players on running plays.
“We like to spread the ball around to a lot of guys and (quarterback) Robbie Berwick does a nice job of tucking the ball and running for gains,” Cooper said.
Running back Jonathan Torres, who pulled his hamstring in a game against
Arroyo Grande earlier this season, has played the past two weeks but he has been limited to about 70 percent, Cooper said.
Still, he managed 72 yards rushing against Palmdale while Ethan Hicks had two rushing touchdowns and 94 yards. The Greyhounds finished with 265 yards rushing in the game.
Another local team that will be playing in front of a home crowd this week is Morro Bay. The Pirates will be pitted against a Chaminade team that’s ranked 12th in the state and 60th in the nation, according to MaxPreps.com.
Morro Bay is coming off a 17-14 upset against Inglewood in which the Pirates rushed for 339 yards. They were led by Derek Viles, who had 144 yards on 23 carries.
“All season long other coaches have commented on how hard we play, even though often we’re vastly undersized and outmanned,” Pirates coach Jack Greer said. “Our coaching staff, school and community are extremely proud of our players.”
Greer said the Pirates need to “stay true to our conviction” that a ground game is the best approach.
“That’s what we do,” Greer said. “At the beginning of the season, I made it our coaching philosophy after evaluating our players. We can’t be a gun spread team. We can’t match up with Chaminade’s athleticism.”
Greer said that quarterback Jordan Bray is the team’s “general” who has had minimized mistakes and made solid decisions all season long. Bray finished with 56 yards on 13 carries last week.
The Pirates will try and contain Chaminade star running back Terrell Newby, a college recruit who averages 173 yards per game and has 33 touchdowns on the season. And Morro Bay also has a few players banged up.
“In the game against Inglewood, they beat us up and we beat them up,” Greer said. “But we’ve been beaten up before. Our kids continue to play hard even when they’re not all full strength. They’re definitely going to be playing on heart.”