By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
There is a common theme among the final four teams in the CIF-Southern Section Southeast Division playoffs, and it all has to do with momentum.
All four semifinalists were undefeated in the month of November, which includes .500 Diamond Ranch (6-6), winners of five games in a row heading into Friday’s semifinal against South Hills (10-2) at Covina District Field. The Huskies bring their own nine-game winning streak to the contest. In Saturday’s other semifinal California (9-2-1), which will be taking on defending champion Charter Oak (11-1), has won eight consecutive games and hasn’t lost since opening the season with back-to-back losses to Rowland and La Mirada. The Chargers have a modest eight-game winning streak, too, and are 24-1-1 since last season.
“You get to this stage by improving over the course of the season,” Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar said. “What you were in September isn’t what you’re today. You can look at the scores, and who beat who, but it doesn’t really tell you anything. If you’re playing football in December, you’re doing something right and you can’t take any game for granted. At this point there are no upsets, just good teams trying to make it to the next round.”
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The Condors certainly are capable of winning it all. Before last week’s second-round 24-21 victory over Burbank, they had a four-game stretch in which they shut out Pioneer (37-0) and Santa Fe (28-0), pounded La Serna (56-7) to win the outright Del Rio League title then dismantled Rowland 55-27 in the first-round of the playoffs.
“They’re as good as anybody right now,” Farrar said. “They look like they’re playing with a lot of confidence. The Rowland game is a good example. They lose (to Rowland) in the beginning of the year when Rowland was at full strength and when they were probably figuring things out.
“When they played them again they were a different team. I know Rowland didn’t have their quarterback, but they scored an awful lot of points. They scored only 10 points the first time they played, but the second time around it was a much different story.
“That’s the difference between football in September and playing now.”
The Condors’ offense centers around 5-foot-8 running back Terris Jones, who has made a habit of getting into the end zone.
In addition to averaging 144 yards a game, he has scored 25 touchdowns.
“He’s very quick, maybe the quickest back we’re going to face,” Farrar said of Jones.
Junior quarterback Adam Contreras took over for injured Eddie Artiga during the season and has completed 67 percent of his passes while averaging 80 yards a game.
But Jones is the difference-maker.
“Their quarterback does a good job of managing their offense, but they like to move it on the ground whenever they can,” Farrar said. “That kid (Jones) has great vision. If you don’t have to throw it, why throw?”
Farrar is happy with the progress of sophomore quarterback Travis Santiago.
Santiago took over for three-year starter Chris Allen, who took the Chargers to two championship games and a semifinal appearance in three years.
Santiago, just like Allen, is hoping to take the Chargers to a title game as a sophomore. He was especially sharp against West Covina in throwing for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s not a sophomore anymore,” Farrar said. “He started the season that way, but he has a lot of game experience now.”
With Charter Oak-California playing on Saturday, the winner will have one less day to prepare when it faces the winner of Friday’s South Hills-Diamond Ranch game in next week’s championship.
While both teams get to scout each other, is there a disadvantage to playing on Saturday, knowing the Friday winner is relaxed, resting and scouting without the worry of having to prepare for a game the next day?
“I don’t know. Last year we played on Friday and watched the Saturday game (West Covina-Diamond Ranch),” Farrar said. “When you get to the finals I don’t think any of it matters. And by kickoff on Saturday I don’t care who’s sitting in the stands watching. We have to take care of the game in front of us.”
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