“They’ve beaten everyone in front of them except Monrovia and we’ve beaten everyone in front of us except Monrovia, so it’s a neat little game. We’re very similar, our schools, in terms of makeup. It feels a lot like we’re playing ourselves.” — San Dimas coach Bill Zernickow on facing San Marino
By Aram Tolegian, SGVN
It’s not every year you see two 10-1 teams square off in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section football playoffs.
But that’s exactly the case on Friday night when San Marino (10-1) visits San Dimas (10-1) in a game that surely will have the attention of the rest of the Mid-Valley Division.
“They’ve beaten everyone in front of them except Monrovia and we’ve beaten everyone in front of us except Monrovia, so it’s a neat little game,” San Dimas coach Bill Zernickow said. “We’re very similar, our schools, in terms of makeup.
“It feels a lot like we’re playing ourselves.”
San Dimas took its loss to Monrovia back on Sept. 14 by a score of 35-23.
San Marino’s setback came on Oct. 26 and the score was 21-16. But reading too much into how each team did against the Wildcats would be foolish, according to Zernickow.
“They are very, very good,” he said. “Both teams. We’re going to have to play our game. The game is going to go really fast, probably two hours, because we’re both going to run the ball.”
San Dimas hasn’t had to unveil too much of its offense over the past two months. The Saints haven’t had a close game, and even against Northview for the Valle Vista League championship Zernickow refrained from using any of the plays he’s been known to throw at opponents out of his team’s “Wing-Z offense,” which is a variation of the Wing-T.
But all of that is going to change this week because San Marino’s defense is too good to crack by being vanilla.
“I think we have some things that we can do to them to be successful with,” Zernickow said. “They do a good job with their fundamentals and stuff, so we’re going to have to do some things to take advantage of that.”
San Dimas and San Marino met in the first round of the playoffs last year with the Saints advancing with a 31-21 win. The game was close at halftime and Zernickow expects the Titans to be even better this season.
“I thought last year when we played them, they did a good job defending us,” Zernickow said. “We’re expecting more of the same and probably even better because of how improved they are as a football team.”
Both teams feature two of the better ground attacks around. San Marino has a trio of capable runners in quarterback Matt Wofford and running backs Nick Gott and Ryan Wood. San Dimas is led by junior standout running back Jake Peyton, who finished the regular season with 1,526 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Two programs with rich histories will meet on Friday at West Covina when the Bulldogs (7-4) host Muir (8-3) in the second round of the Southeast Division playoffs.
“It’s one of those games that if I wasn’t coaching I would want to see it,” West Covina coach Mike Maggiore said. “I think it’s going to be competitive and it should be entertaining. There’s a lot of good athletes on the field, a lot of speed and two teams that don’t want their season to end.
“It’s one of the better teams in their area versus one of the better teams in our area.”
West Covina has won the division the past two seasons but was somewhat of a mystery entering last week’s first round matchup with San Gabriel Valley League co-champ Paramount. The Bulldogs proved to be in full postseason form by posting a resounding 41-9 win.
West Covina has been plagued by injuries all season and things won’t get any better this week with starting quarterback Jon Najera a game-time decision because of a knee injury suffered in the second half against Paramount. West Covina already was missing top offensive linemen Matthew and Marco Garcia, key running back DeShon Love and arguably its best defensive player in rush end Justin Hornsby.
On the positive side, running back Josh Best may return this week and Hornsby could be back next week if the Bulldogs advance.
Muir hasn’t lost a game since September when it was put to task with a difficult nonleague schedule that featured games against Upland, Alemany and Rancho Cucamonga. The Mustangs are on an eight-game win streak and started the playoffs with a 44-17 dusting of California on Friday.
“They’re a lot better on defense than I thought they were going to be,” Maggiore said of the Mustangs. “I’ve never coached against Muir, but you just hear a lot of the stories about the athleticism and speed, but this team seems like it plays really hard. This coach (John Hardy Jr.) obviously does a very good job.
“I think they’re a better team than they were last year and it’s going to be another big challenge for us. I liked the way we played last week, but we’re going to have to raise our level another step to beat Muir.”