Mission Prep pulled out a gritty 36-33 win against St. Genevieve of Panorama City in its third game this season.
The Royals (9-2) will return to the scene of that game tonight, facing the Valiants (8-3) on the road for the second time this year.
The second round CIF-Southern Section Northeast Division contest begins at 7:30 p.m.
The Royals will be playing with heavy hearts after coach Chad Henry’s mother passed away this week.
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“I’ve talked about my mother a lot in pre-game speeches and about some of the lessons she taught me,” Henry said. “So, the guys know her through what I’ve told them. We’re a tight-knit group here and the team wants to do something for my mother.”
Henry said he knows how tough this game might be having beaten Rio Hondo Prep last year on the road in a 47-14 rout before losing to the same team 28-21 in the division final.
“It can be really hard to a beat a team twice in a season at their place,” Henry said. “We’ve used the Rio Hondo game as an example to them. This won’t be the same game as last time.”
The Royals — the top-ranked team in the Northeast Division — are battling some injury issues, including a dislocated elbow sustained by standout defensive back Calvin Levisay, an all-CIF-Southern Section player last year. Henry said he expects Levisay to play tonight with a brace.
Mission Prep also expects to get three players back from injury — center Brendan Ikeda, running back Jack Balentine and defensive lineman Conrad Ochotorena.
Running back Patrick Laird has shouldered a large load this season, rushing for 2,491 yards on 319 carries with 24 touchdowns.
Laird ran for 258 yards and three touchdowns last week in a first-round 49-12 victory over Santa Clarita Christian.
But despite the heavy lifting, he has stayed healthy thanks to a strenuous training and weight lifting regimen that some him bulk up to 205 pounds after weighing 185 last year.
Laird also has dropped his 40-yard dash time from 4.83 to under 4.7 seconds.
Laird said he expects a tough battle against St. Genevieve, and said the Royals are a better team than they were early in the season.
“We have a young team that has gotten a lot better in the second half,” Laird said. “The O-line started out struggling. Now, they’re blocking great and opening up holes.”
Laird said even when teams stack the box, Mission Prep is able to run, which is a testament to the offensive line.
Last year, Mission Prep’s prolific passing game led by Tyler Baty, The Tribune’s county player of the year, set up the run game with Laird sharing carries with Michael Cardwell. This year, the power running game creates opportunities for the passing game.
Sophomore quarterback Patrick Miller threw for 109 yards on 6-for-9 passing with two touchdowns last week.
“That’s exactly the kind of game we’d like him to play,” Henry said. “He managed the offense well and didn’t try to do too much.”
Coast Union on the road in semifinals
Coast Union lost in the fourth game of the season. It hasn’t lost since.
The Broncos , Division 1’s second-seeded team in 8-man football, will try to continue their magical run tonight on the road against undefeated Lucerne Valley (11-0), the third-seeded team in the division.
Coast Union (10-1) beat Laguna Blanca 47-20 last week. Lucerne Valley, the champion of the Agape League, won 36-20 over Thacher last week.
The semifinal contest in the Mojave Desert will come on a night when temperatures are expected to dip to 38 degrees and precipitation in the forecast.
The Broncos’ explosive offense is led by senior quarterback Angel Avina, who has surpassed 1,000 yards rushing and passing this season, and he has accounted for 40 touchdowns.
“He’s tough and kids respond to him,” Broncos coach Charlie Casale said. “He’s a great leader.”
Most players go both ways for the Broncos, so Casale has to substitute with different units to make sure players get a breather.
Their running game offers a punishing attack with Lane Sutherland (1,365 rushing yards) and a quicker punch from Binh Trieu (621 yards rushing).
Senior receiver Quinten Raethke is a deep threat. Raethke has racked up 867 yards receiving with 16 touchdowns.
“We haven’t had a bad practice all year,” Casale said. “We sold them on the idea of playing one week seasons and the kids really bought into it.”