There are only two remaining teams undefeated in the Baseline League and they’ll both be on the same field Friday night when the top-ranked squad in the CIF-SS Central Division, Upland (7-0, 2-0) hosts No. 7 Etiwanda (5-2, 2-0).
“This game,” Etiwanda coach Steve Bryce said, “is a lot bigger than it looked last week.”
When defending CIF and Baseline League champion Rancho Cucamonga went down a week ago, Etiwanda-Upland became a battle for the inside track to win a league title.
“Whoever wins this game controls their own destiny,” Upland coach Tim Salter said. “Whoever loses is going to need some help. So, in terms of winning a league championship, you want to come out of this one a winner.”
Upland is fresh off a CIF-championship game appearance in 2008. Etiwanda sneaked into the playoffs with an at-large bid as the fourth-place team from the Baseline League.
Etiwanda lost to Upland by a point in overtime last season. The season before, the Eagles’ 34-10 loss to Upland cost them an outright league championship.
“We want this game badly,” Bryce said. “We took them lightly two years ago and they blew us out. We lost going for two in ovetime last year. We have been telling the team to learn from mistakes of the past or you’re doomed to repeat them.”
STANDING THEIR GROUND:
The speedy Upland defense may be the best Etiwanda quarterback Angel Santiago has seen this season. The Highlanders are, after all, allowing six points per game.
But Upland may not have seen a quarterback like Santiago. The third-year starter has completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,368 yards and 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions. The shifty 5-foot-10 senior has also rushed for 696 yards and 13 scores on just 83 carries.
“If I were Upland, I would make Angel beat me with the pass because he’s proven he can do it with his feet,” Bryce said.
Salter wouldn’t allow that Upland’s philosophy was primarily directed at stopping Santiago from running, but he is certainly concerned about the senior’s scrambling ability.
“He’s going to make you miss, you just have to hope you corrall him enough that other people can get there,” Salter said of Santiago. “We think we’re fast but we’ll find out how quick we are (tonight).”
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