Prep football game of the week: Chino Hills at Etiwanda

After meeting in the CIF-SS Central Division quarterfinals last season, Chino Hills and Etiwanda find themselves fighting for a berth in the semifinals again this year, only tonight’s meeting between the two is in the more competitive Inland Division. Chino Hills emerged a 35-14 winner in last season’s quarterfinal but lost a close one to eventual champ Upland in the semifinals.

Steeper road: While Etiwanda was a co-champion of the vaunted Baseline League last season, the Eagles didn’t exactly take a similar path to the quarterfinals in 2010. Had Upland not claimed a comeback victory over Los Osos in the regular season finale, Etiwanda would have been relying on a coin flip to grant it access to the postseason.

As it was, Etiwanda finshed third in league and drew a first-round matchup with Citrus Belt League champ Redlands East Valley. The Eagles pulled the first-round upset last week, 21-16, in their best defensive performance of the season by head coach Steve Bryce’s estimation.

“I just hope it wasn’t a flash in the pan from our defense,” Bryce said. “I think (REV) is the best defense we’ve faced all year, maybe the best defense in the divison, and our defense outperformed them.”

Uphill climb: Chino Hills lost its league opener 31-30 to Claremont, but consecutive losses by the Wolfpack to end the regular season awarded the outright Sierra League title to the Huskies.

Though it was climbing uphill the whole way, Chino Hills won its final four league games by an average of 26 points before outlasting the Big VIII League’s fouth-place team, Corona, in a 70-43 marathon first-round victory last week to set up the quarterfinal with Etiwanda.

“We’ve got some adjustments and improvements to make after last week but we’re excited to still be playing football,” Chino Hills head coach Derek Bub said. “We’re excited about what we can do.”

Offense anyone?: There should be plenty of fireworks in this one considering Etiwanda quarterback Larry Cutbirth is the seventh leading passer in the CIF-Southern Section and his running back Marcus Mason’s 1,508 rushing yards rank 33rd in the CIF-SS.

“They’ve got one of the best running back’s we’ve seen this season,” Bub said. “They run play-action with him and it sets up that passing game with a quarterback who can obviously play.”

Chino Hills is fresh off a 70-point performance in its playoff opener highlighted by a four-touchdown performance from recent Oregon commit Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The Huskies tend to use Ekpre-Olomu, who will play defensive back in college, sparingly on offense during the regular season but they pull out all the stops in the playoffs.

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior has now scored 11 touchdowns in Chino Hills’ last four playoff games. Etiwanda knows plenty about Ekpre-Olomu seeing as had four interceptions, rushed for 188 yards and scored five touchdowns in their quarterfinal meeting last year.

“If he didn’t have a scholarship offer before he played us, we made sure he got one,” Bryce said. “I’m surprised at how many different ways they use him and surprised that he doesn’t run out of gas.”

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