The matchup between Upland (5-0) and Rancho Cucamonga (4-1) only seems to grow bigger each season. The meeting between these two powerhouse programs has decided the Baseline League championship the last two seasons and likely will again this year.
Title implications: The enormity of this matchup is best captured by the fact that these were two of the four teams left in the CIF-SS Inland Division playoffs last season. Upland’s 12-game winning streak ended in the semis courtesy of a 39-18 loss to eventual champion Vista Murrieta while Rancho Cucamonga’s season came to an end via a 41-21 loss to Corona Centennial.
Upland was extremely efficient on offense in its 31-17 win over Rancho Cucamonga last season, scoring on five of seven possessions to build an insurmountable that was aided by a pair of Cougar turnovers. The Cougars got the better of Upland in 2010 with a 35-31 win on their way to the Baseline League title.
Combating the quarterback: The most interesting matchup tonight pits Upland quarterback Nate Romine against a Rancho Cucamonga defense featuring four players with multiple scholarship offers. Something has to give tonight seeing as the Cougars are only allowing 13.8 points per game and Romine has led the Upland offense to an average of 43.6 points per game. The Upland quarterback is averaging 80 yards on the ground and 187 through the air having rushed for three scores and thrown seven touchdowns opposite three interceptions.
“I think (Romine) is a great player, but if we do what we’re supposed to do, we can stop him,” said Rancho Cucamonga safety Tahaan Goodman, who is ranked second in the country at his position by rivals.com. “I think our defense has lived up to its billing. We’re just going to try and keep that going.”
New faces: Several of the players new to the rivalry are members of the Rancho Cucamonga offense, none more important than senior quarterback Adam Friederichsen.
The transfer from La Costa Canyon has thrown for 847 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions thus far.
“I didn’t understand this rivalry when I first got here,” Friederichsen said. “But seeing the way we practiced this week and hearing about it, I know how big it is. We understand how important it is to win league and to win this game.”
Senior running back Tyan Washington, who rushed for 1,600 yards last season, is yet to play a game due to a broken foot. Sophomores Kiraun Mayo and Khalil Muhammad have teamed with senior James Robinson to help Rancho Cucamonga average 156 yards per game on the ground.
But the Cougars offense scored just 17 points its last time out, a three-point win over Riverside North on Sept. 21.
Study hall: Both of these teams have had two weeks to prepare for each other, which isn’t a coincidence. There will likely be a few wrinkles unveiled tonight by the opposing coaches.
“Rancho Cucamonga seems to always find the other team’s weakness,” Upland coach Tim Salter said. “And they adjust well during the game when they find something. They’re very well coached and considering they lost their quarterback and running back from last year, they’re executing very well on offense.”