As a wild-card addition to last year’s CIF-Southern Section Western Division playoffs, the Arroyo Grande High football team wasn’t expected by many in the Los Angeles area to make it too far.
That might not be the case this time, though.
After an upset-propelled run to the 2010 championship game, multiple players since getting Division I recruiting attention, and an undefeated run through the PAC 7 to cap a current nine-game winning streak, the Eagles have plenty of eyes on them.
“We aren’t going to sneak up on anyone,” Arroyo Grande coach Tom Goossen said. “This year, being a high seed, we know people are going to be looking at us and that we’ll have a mark on us. It’s something we’ll just have to deal with.”
Arroyo Grande (9-1), the division’s No. 2 seed in a 16-team bracket, will open the postseason by hosting Dos Pueblos (3-7) at 7 tonight.
After the Eagles closed the regular season with a 42-12 win over then-seventh-ranked San Luis Obispo (7-3), coupled with then-No. 1-ranked Chaminade of West Hills’ 35-29 loss to third-ranked Serra of Gardena, there was a buzz that Arroyo Grande might be awarded the No. 1 seed.
Instead, though, the top billing went to Serra.
The Cavaliers (8-2) have been a familiar program to Central Coast fans in recent years after eliminating Nipomo and St. Joseph in the Northwest Division playoffs in 2009, and then ousting Paso Robles in the Western Division semifinals a year ago before winning the title game over Arroyo Grande, 35-10 at home.
Opening against the Chargers tonight, the Eagles will face a squad that shares four common opponents from this season. Dos Pueblos fell to Righetti 27-7, San Luis Obispo 36-23, Cabrillo 28-7 and Lompoc 23-0. It was part of an 0-7 start to the season before a current three-game winning streak that clinched second place in the Channel League. Two of the Chargers’ other losses came by a combined 10 points.
“Momentum plays a big part in how you’re playing lately,” Goossen said. “They’ve been very good at what they’ve been doing, and a break here or there and they could have two additional wins.
“It’s always difficult when you go into the playoffs. We’re certainly aware of what a wild-card team can do against a ranked opponent.”
A week ago, the Chargers beat San Marcos 28-0, a game in which their top two running backs combined for 238 yards and two TDs. The ground game was complemented by a 45-yard TD pass in the second half.
“They do a very good job of running the ball,” Goossen said, “and they have a quarterback who does a good job of distributing the ball.”
The other county team in the Western Division playoffs, the Tigers, will travel to face Camarillo, also at 7 tonight.
The Scorpions (7-3), who’re averaging 58 points per game over their past four matchups, produce some of the most eye-popping passing numbers in the state.
Wide receiver Jake Maulhardt, a 6-foot-7, 190-pound senior who recently took a visit to Boise State, has 109 catches for 1,516 yards and 14 touchdowns this year. He gained national recognition after setting an all-time, single-game state record with 28 receptions (for 351 yards and three TDs) during a 52-28 loss to Canyon Country on Sept. 23.
Over the past six weeks, quarterback Travis Valdez has passed for nearly 365 yards per game, with a 31-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Camarillo has two common opponents with San Luis Obispo this year. The Scorpions lost to Righetti 35-21 on Sept. 16 (the Tigers lost to the Warriors 19-12 on Oct. 14) and outscored Oxnard 63-50 on Nov. 4 (the Tigers won 28-7 on Sept. 16).
In the Northwest Division, Templeton (5-5), coming off a 12-0 loss at Nipomo, will open the playoffs visiting Carpinteria (7-3) at 7:30 p.m. today.
Carpinteria, which has lost two straight, opened the year with back-to-back wins over Los Padres League foes Morro Bay (by a score of 22-8) and Nipomo (24-13), before losing to a third, Santa Ynez (21-0). Templeton beat Morro Bay 41-21 and Santa Ynez 16-6 earlier this season.
A Templeton win tonight would likely set up a second-round matchup against second-seeded St. Bernard (10-0) of Playa del Rey, which is opening against South Torrance (5-5).
St. Bernard would play at Templeton in that situation.
The No. 1 seed, LPL champion Lompoc (10-0), is looking for its second straight Northwest Division title. The Braves were No. 24 in the Los Angeles Times’ Southland rankings this week. In CalPreps.com’s statewide power ratings, Lompoc is ranked No. 30, with the next team in the division, third-seeded Cabrillo (which Lompoc just beat 42-7), at No. 151, and St. Bernard at No. 281.