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A look ahead at this week’s CIF playoff matchups

Atascadero High quarterback Carson Rinkenberger eludes a Paso Robles defender in the regular season finale on Nov. 6.
Atascadero High quarterback Carson Rinkenberger eludes a Paso Robles defender in the regular season finale on Nov. 6. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Royal (4-6, 0-3 Camino) at Arroyo Grande (9-1, 4-0 PAC 5)

Last week: Camarillo 49, Royal 21; Arroyo Grande 47, San Luis Obipso 14

Arroyo Grande enters its first-round playoff game against Royal on a seven-game winning streak with all elements firing. The Eagles’ reward for winning the PAC 5 and an overall No. 2 seed is a home matchup against Royal, a team that has lost five of its past six and finished last in the Camino League. Royal likes to move the ball through the air on offense. Led by quarterback Matt Sciumbato, the Highlanders are averaging 251 yards passing this season. The dual threat quarterback threw 25 touchdowns and ran for three more during the regular season.

Luckily for Arroyo Grande, its secondary is one of the best around. Three of the top five interception leaders in the PAC 5 make their home in the Eagles defensive backfield — free safety Bradley Mickey (5), cornerback Benny Willkomm (5) and cornerback Alex Cecchi (4). Meanwhile, Royal has struggled to stop teams on defense. The Highlanders have yielded over 40 points in their past three games and will have Arroyo Grande quarterback Sawyer May and company licking their chops.

Paso Robles (5-5, 2-2 PAC 5) at Lompoc (9-1, 4-0 LPL)

Last week: Atascadero 31, Paso Robles 14; Lompoc 50, Cabrillo 0

Paso Robles will have to put a rough season-ending loss behind them this week when it plays Lompoc, winners of nine in a row. The Braves dominated the Los Padres League and only gave up 24 points in four league games to finish undefeated. The only Lompoc loss this season was the team’s first game against Arroyo Grande. The Paso Robles offense struggled to control the ball against Atascadero’s defense last week, and turned the ball over three times.

Paso Robles running back Christian Erickson was held under 100 yards for the first time this season in the loss and quarterback Justin Davis threw two interceptions. While the Bearcats are backing into the playoffs, the Braves are riding high. The Lompoc rushing attack is a three-headed monster, with running backs Chris Green (600 yards this season), Toa Taua (569) and quarterback Torey Sims (564). Taua had 87 yards rushing and a touchdown last week against Cabrillo. Anthony Nunez leads the Braves with five sacks on the season.

St. Joseph (8-2, 3-1 LPL) at Atascadero (8-2, 3-1 PAC 5)

Last week: Atascadero 31, Paso Robles 14; St. Joseph 35, Santa Ynez 17

Both Atascadero and St. Joseph are coming off strong games to end the season, and both teams’ only loss came against the top teams in their league, Arroyo Grande and Lompoc, respectively. Atascadero’s defense has elevated its play heading into the bracket. Last week, Zach Quigley helped the Greyhounds to a win over Paso Robles with an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. In its other three league games, Atascadero gave up a total of seven points to Righetti and San Luis Obispo and held Arroyo Grande to 24 points, the Eagles’ lowest offensive output in league play this season.

This week, the Greyhounds will host one of the most balanced offenses on the Central Coast. Knights quarterback Blake Jaeckels is averaging just under 200 yards per game passing and over 40 yards rushing per game. In the run game, running back Joe Guzman has gone over 100 yards rushing three times this season and racked up 12 touchdowns. Atascadero again will look to running back Marc Martin to carry the offense. Martin had 171 yards and two touchdowns last week.

Aquinas (6-4, 3-2 Ambassador) at Mission Prep (8-2, 4-0 Northern)

Last week: Notre Dame 28, Aquinas 7; Mission Prep 59, Morro Bay 19

Mission Prep capped off an undefeated Northern League title last Friday and became the first team to win the league title outright since it was formed last season. This week, the Royals will host Aquinas from San Bernardino. Aquinas is a run-first team, having attempted just 69 passes all season. Instead, the Falcons depend on the very capable sophomore legs of Braden Rankins. Rankins has rushed for 1,370 yards on the season, tops in the Ambassador League, and 14 touchdowns.

But the Royals have a Brayden of their own that can carry the rock, too. Mission Prep running back Brayden Corona finished the season with 1,104 yards and 13 touchdowns, both tops in the Northern League. To stop the rushing attack of Aquinas, Mission Prep will rely on defensive ends Conrad Ochotorena and Jacob Wright, who combined for 32 tackles for loss this season.

Nipomo (5-5, 3-1 Northern) at Rio Hondo (6-3, 3-0 Prep)

Last week: Nipomo, BYE; Rio Hondo 35, Polytechnic 21

After failing to repeat as Northern League champs, Nipomo travels to Arcadia to face league champion Rio Hondo on Friday. Both teams lost to Mission Prep this season, the only shared matchup of the season, with Rio Hondo dropping its first game of the season 23-6 and Nipomo losing 24-7 three weeks ago. With a new quarterback at the helm in junior Spencer Pool, Nipomo finally got its offense cranking in its final game of the season two weeks ago. The Titans gained 271 yards rushing through the combined efforts of Antonio Navarro (137 yards) and J.J. Ramirez (88).

The Nipomo defense, which has kept the Titans in a lot of games this season, will face a Rio Hondo offense that is on a tear recently. The Kares have averaged 54 points in their past four wins. Rio Hondo mostly relies on a running back by committee offense, featuring Stephen Santizo, Domenico Chico and Mikey Tsogt.

Templeton (6-4, 2-2 Northern) at Valley Christian (8-2, 4-0 Olympic)

Last week: Templeton 55, Santa Maria 25; Valley Christian 37, Maranatha 6

After dropping out of contention for a Northern League title with the loss to Nipomo, Templeton was able to rebound in its final game of the season against Santa Maria. The Eagles have struggled to find consistency on offense, but quarterback Jordan Bernal and wide receiver Matteo D’alfonso have shown they can be a lethal combination.

Bernal passed for 143 yards and two touchdowns last week, with 128 and both touchdowns going to D’alfonso. Templeton’s Clint Howland, the Northern League’s leading tackler (123) will be challenged by the Olympic League’s offense, an attack that has averaged 45 points in its past four wins.

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