Paso Robles (5-4, 4-0 PAC 5) will be underdogs Friday when it hosts Damien (Le Verne) in the first round CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs — even with a home game.
Damien (6-4, 2-3 Baseline), which received an at-large playoff bid, finished third in one of the most difficult leagues in the Southern Section. The Spartans finished behind Upland and Rancho Cucamonga, the top seed in Division 2 and the No. 6 team in Division 1, respectively. Both are Top 11 teams in the state, according to MaxPreps.com. Damien didn’t beat either team, but its safe to say playing against the best in the state will come in handy this time of year.
Making things more difficult for the Bearcats, starting sophomore quarterback Hunter Barnhart is expected to be out again with a knee injury and is likely done for the season. The injury paves the way for junior Reese Brumley, who played well (13-of-20, 128 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions plus 40 yards rushing) against Atascadero last week. A handful of starters, including running back Julian Madrigal and lineman Scott Pedretti, missed the Atascadero game and their status for this week is unknown. But Paso Robles has surprised at every turn this season and will be looking to do it again in front of the home crowd.
To do so, it will need to stop Damien’s dual-threat quarterback Warren Bryan. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior has thrown for 12 touchdowns and rushed for five more, gaining nearly 2,400 total yards this season.
Golden Valley (Santa Clarita) at Nipomo
Golden Valley is another team that is better than what its 5-5 (2-3 Foothill) record might suggest. The team enters Friday’s first-round CIF-Southern Section playoff game as the No. 4-ranked team in Division 6. The Grizzlies are led by junior De’Gabriel Floyd, a standout two-way player and four-star prospect who is verbally committed to play at USC. Floyd is being recruited as a linebacker, but he’s also a threat on offense. He has rushed for eight touchdowns, caught four and thrown for three more this season.
Nipomo (4-6, 2-1 Northern) is coming off a disappointing loss to Santa Maria in the final game of a regular season. After the Titans jumped out to a 19-0 lead, Santa Maria scored 34 points in the second half to squash the Titans’ league title hopes. The Nipomo defense will need to rebound from that performance and completely shut down a Golden Valley offense that is averaging just more than 23 points per game this season to have any chance of advancing to the second round.
Arroyo Grande at Oaks Christian (Westlake Village)
Rounding out the SLO County teams in action Friday night is Arroyo Grande, which will face powerhouse Oaks Christian in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs. Oaks Christian (8-2, 3-0 Marmonte) is ranked No. 4 in Division 2 and is the No. 20-ranked team in the state, according to MaxPreps.com. The Oaks Christian defense is top notch, led by two blue-chip prospects. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is the No. 1-overall rated prospect for the class of 2019 and has offers from every top football program in the country, including Alabama, USC, LSU, Michigan and Notre Dame. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound junior has 12 sacks and 15 tackles for loss to go along with three touchdowns on offense this season.
There’s also junior linebacker and USC commit Bo Calvert.
To say it will be difficult for the Arroyo Grande running game, led by junior back James Gilmet, is an understatement.
Other Central Coast Teams Playing Friday Night
Division 3: Camarillo at Lompoc
Division 5: Harvard-Westlake at St. Joseph
Division 8: Righetti at Antelope Valley
Division 12: Carpinteria at Santa Maria