Arroyo won its first championship since 1986 defeating Rancho Mirage in last year’s Division 12 championship, going for it on a gutty two-point conversion in overtime to win, 35-34.
Arroyo hosted last year’s title game, but Rancho Mirage, a 41-39 first-round winner over Jurupa Hills, is hosting Arroyo, a 35-6 winner over Lakeside, in Friday’s quarterfinals at 7 p.m.
“Hey, it’s an opportunity to play them and do it again,” Arroyo coach Jim Singiser said. “The stakes are not what they were last year, but to get to the place we want to go and play for another ring, you have to go through it, and we have to make the trip and go face them.”
Last year, Rancho Mirage arrived from the long busride 20-30 minutes before the game, something the Knights want to avoid for the 2 or 2 ½ hour drive to the desert.
“We want to give ourselves a two-hour cushion if we can,” Singiser. “We want to get there early, eat some snacks, hydrate and be ready to go.”
Singiser knows Rancho Mirage will have extra motivation to face them again. The challenge for Arroyo after winning its first title in 30 years was finding the same motivation and hunger that it took to win last year’s title.
Sure, the Knights are undefeated and answered every call, but Singiser wants to see more.
“I have said to anyone that will listen that this team is different,” Singiser said. “After you win a championship, guys are sometimes asking why should I continue to play. Some guys say they won a ring and want to focus on baseball, wrestling or getting a job.
“When you spend a couple months focusing on those other things, there is not the same dedication in the weight room, practice field or the little things. All pre-season and even in league I didn’t know if we had that edge. We found it in games against Covina, against Schurr and mustered it up against South El Monte and in last week’s win.
“But I have to give this team credit too, they’ve won a lot of games the last two years and they’ve been able to rise to the occasion when they have to. This week is no different.”
Rancho Mirage has won five straight, but struggled earlier in the season with three straight losses, one of which was to nearby Bell Gardens, 38-21.
“Earlier in the year they (Rancho Mirage) were trying to do things differently, a little more one on one up front,” Singiser said. “I don’t think they liked it, and they’re not running that stuff anymore. They’ve figured it out, are playing different and better and give them a lot of credit because they have a good coaching staff. It should be another great game.
Damien’s Warren Bryan had over 500 all-purpose yards in first-round win
Damien quarterback Warren Bryan’s numbers were staggering in last week’s 45-28 victory over Paso Robles that advanced the Spartans to Friday’s CIF Southern Section Division 4 quarterfinal at home against top-seed Capistrano Valley.
All in all, he combined for 537 yards total offense, by far his most complete game of the season.
“My take is he had a heck of a game,” Spartans coach Mark Paredes said. “We threw the ball a lot more than we have, but he was prepared and our team was prepared. We’re also starting to get more healthy.”
One of the players who had been playing through nagging injuries but seems to be on the mend is senior receiver Mikey McCauley, who had eight receptions for 162 yards and three touchdowns.
“Everyone goes through injuries this time of year, but I like where we’re health-wise right now,” Paredes said.
For Bryan, talking about his numbers or what he did personally speaks for itself.
“It was a great game by all of us,” Bryan said. “Our offensive line was giving me time in the pocket, coaches were calling great plays, guys were making catches and I ran when I had to the opportunity to run, and all happens because everyone is doing their job.”
Damien’s (7-4) reward is hosting top-seed and undefeated Capistrano Valley (11-0), a 35-6 first-round winner over Carter.
Capistrano Valley has an elite quarterback in junior Nathan Manning, who has thrown for 2,626 yards and 32 touchdowns.
But for the Spartans, who have play super teams like Rancho Cucamonga and Upland in the Baseline league, they will be ready.
“Capistrano Valley is a great football team and they’ve done an outstanding job, that’s why they’re the number one team in our division,” Paredes said. “But the Baseline league prepares you because you have to come to play every week. Not just against the Rancho Cucamonga’s or Upland’s, but against Chino Hills, Los Osos and Etiwanda. They are all good football teams.”
CIF Southern Section Playoffs
Football games and predictions
All games start at 7 p.m., unless noted
Westminster at Covina — (COVINA)
Charter Oak at Westlake — (CHARTER OAK)
St. Francis at Citrus Hill — (CITRUS HILL)
Capistrano Valley at Damien (DAMIEN)
Glendora at Murrieta Mesa (MURRIETA MESA)
San Marino at Bishop Diego – (BISHOP DIEGO)
Saugus at St. Paul, 7:30 p.m. – (STPAUL)
Burbank at South Hills –(SOUTH HILLS)
El Modena at Diamond Ranch — (DIAMOND RANCH)
Apple Valley at Montebello — (APPLE VALLEY)
Katella at Arcadia — (ARCADIA)
Arroyo at Rancho Mirage — (ARROYO)
Schurr at Santa Maria — (SCHURR)
Rancho Christian at South El Monte (RANCHO CHRISTIAN)
Rio Hondo Prep at Orange — (RIO HONDO PREP)
Nogales at Silver Valley — (NOGALES)