Prep football game of the week: Rancho at Charter Oak

Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar joked that he used to refer to nonleague games as practice games. With the Fox Prime Ticket cameras encircling the field tonight, Farrar allowed “they don’t feel like practice games anymore.”

When defending CIF champions Rancho Cucamonga (3-0) and Covina Charter Oak (3-0) clash tonight, it could have state-championship implications. Though neither of these teams, who tied 14-14 last season on the way to identical 13-0-1 records, is proclaiming it’ll march to consecutive CIF titles, the significance of tonight isn’t lost on either side.

“It may be just another nonleague game but it feels more like a CIF championship game,” Rancho Cucamonga coach Nick Baiz said. “I don’t know if it’s because its on TV or its two defending CIF champions, but it feels big.”

When Charter Oak has the ball:
The Chargers have not one but two Division-I caliber tailbacks in Adam Muema and Brandon Golden. The Washington State-committed Golden has spent most of his time playing cornerback thus far and, though you couldn’t tell by his statistics, Muema has been limited on offense too. In roughly six quarters – Muema sat out the second half of two blowouts – Muema has 385 yards and four touchdowns on 50 carries.

The Rancho Cucamonga defense that held Charter Oak to 14 points last season graduated eight of its starters. Of course, Muema is just one of two offensive starters returning for Charter Oak.

“Our front seven versus their running game is going to be a deciding factor,” Baiz said. “They’ll try to control the ball and they’re pretty big up front. I don’t think they want our offense on the field and I know we don’t want their offense on the field.”

Baiz estimated the Charter Oak offensive line, whose only returning starter is its center, outweighs the Rancho Cucamonga defensive line by an average of 50 pounds a person.

Charter Oak is rotating two quarterbacks who will give the Cougars drastically different looks. Athletic sophomore Travis Santiago is a dual threat while 6-foot-5 junior Josiah Thropay is a pocket passer.

“One looks like Mark Sanchez,” Farrar quipped, “and they other looks like Peyton Manning.”

When Rancho Cucamonga has the ball:
Both teams are averaging over 35 points per game, but Rancho Cucamonga’s offense didn’t hit its stride until last week’s 49-18 win over Carter. The Cougars, who Baiz professed to be a running team, have lived up to that billing so far. A healthy Michael Boyd, who was banged up all of last season, is averaging 137 rushing yards per game and he may not be one of the Cougars’ top two dynamic weapons.

Dual-threat quarterback Greg Watson, the reigning CIF-SS Central Division MVP, is averaging over 200 yards of total offense and 6-foot-4, 230-pound tight end Randall Telfer, who is committed to USC, broke out with a 100-yard performance last week.

“With a quarterback who is an outstanding athlete, they’re an explosive football team,” Farrar said. “And that monster they’ve got catching passes is pretty formidable too.”

The same Charter Oak defense that held Rancho Cucamonga in check last season, including a key interception of Watson on the Cougars’ final possession, returns eight starters.

“They’re better on defense than they were last year,” Baiz said. “And they were good enough to hold us to 14 points then.”

Prediction: Rancho Cucamonga 24, Charter Oak 20