St. Francis, Covina reach titles games; Charter Oak, South El Monte bow out

St. Francis headed to first title game since 1964: After a 53-year hiatus, the St. Francis football team is back in the CIF Southern Section Final.And they can thank junior quarterback Darius Perrantes. The transfer from Crespi was 21 of 25 for 273 yards and four touchdowns as the Golden Knights (12-1) defeated El Toro 52-17 in a CIF-SS Division 3 semifinal. The Golden Knights will play Rancho Verde next Friday night at a site to be announced.“It was an unbelievable performance by our whole team tonight,” St Francis coach Jim Bonds said. “We scored on every one of our possessions in the first half. Darius was hot, our running backs were hot and our defense did a sensational job.”

Covina reaches championship for first time since 1995 with thrilling overtime win: Covina didn’t want to give Culver City’s high-powered offense another shot. The Centaurs (11-2) scored on their first play of overtime on a 25-yard run by Kevin McGuire to defeat Culver City 57-56 in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 semifinal game Friday night.
When the Colts got their shot, they fed Erik Cuellar, who rushed for 292 yards and five touchdowns and the senior delivered again by punching it in from 1 yard out on Covina’s possession in overtime. Then, that’s when Covina coach Joe Brown faced a big decision. He got some help from senior running back Ailaoa Tauvao, who told Brown that the Colts should go for the two-point conversion and the victory right there and then.”
Covina didn’t want to give Culver City’s high-powered offense another shot.
The Centaurs (11-2) scored on their first play of overtime on a 25-yard run by Kevin McGuire to defeat Culver City 57-56 in the CIF Southern Section Division 11 semifinal game Friday night.
When the Colts got their shot, they fed Erik Cuellar, who rushed for 292 yards and five touchdowns and the senior delivered again by punching it in from 1 yard out on Covina’s possession in overtime.
Then, that’s when Covina coach Joe Brown faced a big decision. He got some help from senior running back Ailaoa Tauvao, who told Brown that the Colts should go for the two-point conversion and the victory right there and then.

Charter Oak loses quarterback, then game: Charter Oak’s misfortune continued in the semifinals for the second consecutive year, losing quarterback Jalen Palacios in the third quarter with everything unraveling after that.
Rancho Verde (11-2) pulled away following Palacios’ injury to end Charter Oak’s undefeated season, knocking off the top seed 41-22 to advance to next week’s CIF Southern Section Division 3 championship against St. Francis, a 52-17 winner over El Toro.

Fight after Charter Oak game:

South El Monte falls in semifinals for second straight season: The South El Monte High football team found itself in familiar situations again this year. The team hosted a second straight CIF-SS semifinal game and, like last year, found itself within striking distance of the championship game to start the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for the Eagles, this year’s game ended in defeat like last year as Santa Maria surged to a 35-14 win in the Division 12 semifinal on Friday night.
“The season was a great year,” said South El Monte coach Frank Gallardo. “The boys showed a lot of character all year long. Tonight was just meant to be the end.”

Friday’s High School Football Semifinals and Predictions
Division 3

Rancho Verde 41, Charter Oak 22
St. Francis 52, El Toro 17
Division 11
Covina 57, Culver City 56
Division 12
Santa Maria 35, South El Monte 14

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Feel good stories on Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar and St. Francis tight end Greg Dulcich

Legendary coach Lou Farrar talks about retirement and his love for Charter Oak football: When you’ve been around as long as Charter Oak football coach Lou Farrar, the rumors and whispers are obvious.
After more than four decades in coaching, will the 72-year-old Farrar finally hang it up after the season?
“I’m still enjoying it too much,” Farrar said. “I have one grandson (Louis Farrar) on the team who is graduating and his little brother coming in next year as a freshman.”There’s your first hint.

St. Francis receiver Greg Dulcich shows why he’s the ultimate team player: When Greg Dulcich arrived for his first summer of football at St. Francis High School, coach Jim Bonds remembered a couple of things.
“He was a curly-haired freshman when he registered,” Bonds said. “And his size made him stand out from the rest of the others in his class.”
Fast forward four years, and it is a more physically mature Dulcich, now a senior, who has added mental maturity to his repertoire. That combination of skill and toughness has helped lead the Golden Knights (11-1) to the CIF Southern Section Division 3 semifinals, where it will be home on Friday against El Toro (8-4), hoping to advance to the championship after five straight semifinal losses since 2000.

Friday’s High School Football Semifinals
Division 3

Charter Oak at Rancho Verde, 7 p.m.
El Toro at St. Francis, 7 p.m.
Division 11
Covina at Culver City, 7 p.m.
Division 12
Santa Maria at South El Monte, 7 p.m.

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Last week was a wild night of survival of the fittest, and now just four remain in semifinal football playoffs

Last Friday was survival night for area football teams from the San Gabriel Valley, Whittier and Pasadena during the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals, leaving few teams to practice on Thanksgiving day.

When the night started there were 15 area teams vying for semifinal spots in eight different divisions, but when it was over, just three advanced to Friday’s semifinal games along with Covina, who punched its ticket on Thursday night.

There were heartbreakers all over the place.

Arroyo’s undefeated season came to an end on the road at Rancho Mirage in Division 11, losing in overtime, 27-21, against the same team it defeated in overtime last year to win the Division 12 title.

Also in Division 11, Arcadia blew a three touchdown lead to Katella, losing in overtime, 27-21.

Nogales, the second seed in Division 13, lost in double overtime on the road at Silver Valley.

South Hills, ranked No. 1 in Division 7 and Schurr, ranked No. 1 in Division 12, both had its seasons come to an unexpected end.

But the night wasn’t a total loss.

READ MORE: South El Monte’s versatility big reason to teams’ success

Charter Oak, St. Francis and South El Monte survived, and nothing was more gut-wrenching and exciting than Charter Oak’s incredible come-from-behind victory at Westlake, rallying from a 21-0 deficit to pull out a 39-28 victory to advance to Friday’s semifinals at Moreno Valley’s Rancho Verde.

Why was Charter Oak’s win so special? The Chargers are the top dogs in Division 3, are undefeated, and coach Lou Farrar, who has been around for four decades and won five championships, has never won coming behind like this.

Farrar said afterward this team has more heart than any team he’s ever been part of, and even for his longtime assistant like defensive coordinator Roger Lehigh, who has been there for more than 20 years, it was an emotional night he’ll never forget.

“It was the most dramatic game I’ve ever been a part of,” Lehigh said. “You saw us wear our heart on our sleeve. We’re an emotional group, a passionate group and we used words like ‘I love you’ and ‘fight the good fight.’

“The faith and belief in our program was tested like never before. It took every man, woman and child from the sidelines to the stands because part of the panic is you don’t want this journey to be over with. You’re fighting to live another day because you know what the struggle to get here is all about.

“You know, you want to be tested because adversity reveals character, and what we went through was powerful.”

Lehigh said the only positive following behind 21-0 was time.

“There was a lot of time left which allowed us to find a rhythm,” Lehigh said. “We made our adjustments then it was convincing the guys not to panic, just go one play, one series at a time and don’t get caught up trying to do it all at once, and that’s how we got back in it and gave ourselves a chance.”

St. Francis overcame an even bigger obstacle in the Division 3 playoffs, knocking off second seed Citrus Hill, 30-20, on the road thanks to a gutsy call by coach Jim Bonds in the fourth quarter to earn a home game in the semifinals on Friday against El Toro.

Leading 23-20, St. Francis lined up for a field goal on the nine yard line and faked it with Isaac Cordova throwing a touchdown pass to Conor McGrory for a 30-20 lead.

“That was a monster call,” Citrus Hill coach Eric Zamalt said afterward. “I thought we were going to hold them to a field goal and we’re going to go down and score and win 27-26. And this guy calls a fake? It was a great call.”

It was almost a call that never happened.

“We practice those fakes for several weeks and we watched film and we liked our chances if we got in the situation to go for it,” Bonds said. “The funny thing is, after we decided to go for it I didn’t like how they (Citrus Hill) lined up and I was starting to get cold feet. The ball is about to snap, and I was thinking are we do the right thing? I went to look for the side judge and was about to call timeout when the ball was snapped. We got away with one.”

For St. Francis and Bonds, the Golden Knights will play in their sixth semifinals since 2000, where Bonds will hope to end his 0-for-5 streak. St. Francis hasn’t played for a title since winning back-to-back championships in 1963 and ’64.

“We’ve hosted a few games Thanksgiving weekend,” Bonds said. “We’ll try to use this final home game to get it done. I’ve already started getting text messages from alumni and we’re expecting a huge crowd.”

And now, if Charter Oak and St. Francis both win on Friday, it will face each other in the championship with Charter Oak already winning the coin flip and being able to host the game at home or a nearby venue.

How about South El Monte in Division 12?

The Eagles’ season ended last year in the Division 13 semifinals to Rancho Christian and found themselves in another dogfight with the same team in the same situation, only in Division 12.

It went back and forth all night and South El Monte fell behind 35-28 entering the fourth quarter.

But quarterback Daniel Olmos not only threw two fourth quarter touchdowns to put the Eagles in front, but he also sealed the deal with an interception with 1:56 left to preserve a 42-35 victory.

Now all that stands in the way from South El Monte’s first championship appearance is Santa Maria, who has to make the long trip to South El Monte and beat the Eagles at the Swamp, which is no easy task.

All in all, it was a wild night. And if you were at the games or following on social media, you were probably talking about it all weekend.

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Charter Oak, St. Francis, South El Monte lone survivors on elimination night in the SGV

Friday’s Featured game stories and final scores

Charter Oak rallies to reach semifinals: At first, Charter Oak looked like it did not belong on the same field as Westlake, giving up 21 first-quarter points in the first quarter Friday.But the Chargers refused to quit and erased the deficit to defeat Westlake on the road 39-28 in the Southern Section Division 3 quarterfinals.
“I told this team to just play one down at a time,” Charter Oak coach Lou Farrar said. “Just play it one down at a time and one play at a time. This team has more heart then any team I have ever coached and I couldn’t be more proud.”

St. Francis makes bold fake-field goal call in fourth quarter to defeat Citrus Hill: St. Francis scored on a fake field goal in the fourth quarter en route to a 30-20 victory over Citrus Hill on Friday night in a CIF-Southern Section Division 3 quarterfinal round playoff game.
“I think we got away with one there,” St. Francis head coach James Bonds said. “That was huge.”
Isaac Cordova tossed it to Conor McGrory on 4th-and-9 from the 9 as St. Francis (11-1 overall) knocked off the No. 2 seed to earn a spot in the semifinals.
“We saw that it was a possibility on film, but I didn’t really like the look,” Bonds said. “(But) it’s just a couple of guys making big plays.”

Penalties doom Damien in loss: Capistrano Valley turned a close game at halftime into a rout with 21 points in the first three minutes of the third quarter and went on to defeat Damien, 34-7, in Friday’s CIF Southern Section Division 4 football quarterfinals.
Capistrano Valley (12-0), the top seed in Division 4, advances to the semifinals for the second straight year after reaching the Division 5 title game a year ago. The Cougars will face the winner between Corona Del Mar and Downey next week.

South El Monte wins rematch: In last season’s CIF-SS Division 12 semifinal, South El Monte and Rancho Christian entered halftime tied at two scores apiece.A year later, South El Monte and Rancho Christian entered halftime with the same score in Friday’s CIF-SS Division 12 quarterfinal.
In a back-and-forth second-round playoff matchup, all it took was an interception late in the game as South El Monte stopped Rancho Christian in its tracks to win 42-35 and advance to the division semifinals.

No. 1 South Hills falls to Burbank: With a No. 1 seed in the CIF Southern Section Division 7 playoffs, South Hills High School had a big target on its back.
Visiting Burbank took aim and came away with a 42-30 victory in a quarterfinal game Friday night.South Hills suffered a huge blow when senior starting quarterback RJ Stearns departed with an ankle injury in the second quarter and the Huskies (10-2) leading 17-10.

Montebello couldn’t overcome slow start: Apple Valley High running back Donovan Ferguson knew immediately after the snap that he had a chance.
After the Sun Devils forced a Montebello punt during Friday night’s CIF Southern Section Division 10 second-round playoff game, they handed the ball to Ferguson on an outside run from their own 11-yard line.

Late safety gives Saugus football edge over St. Paul: Saugus pulled out an improbable victory Friday night, recovering a fumble in the end zone for a safety with 2:46 remaining in the game en route to stunning St. Paul 28-27 in a CIF Southern Section Division 6 quarterfinal.
St. Paul (5-7) appeared to be on its way to the win after trailing by 12 points in the fourth quarter before scoring a pair of touchdowns to take the lead.

Rio Hondo Prep falls to Orange: Many people who know Joseph Martinez call him “Jo Jo.” They were also shouting, “Go! Go!” on Friday night when Martinez ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries to lead Orange past Rio Hondo Prep, 27-14, in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 13 playoffs at El Modena High.
Martinez, who missed time earlier this season with hamstring and knee injuries, is all the way back now and said he was 100 percent “hyped up,” to lead the Panthers into the semifinals.

CIF Southern Section Playoffs
Friday’s Quarterfinal results
Division 3

Charter Oak 39, Westlake 28
St. Francis 30, Citrus Hill 20
Division 4
Capistrano Valley 24, Damien 7
Murrieta Mesa 54, Glendora 20
Division 6
Bishop Diego 59, San Marino 21
Saugus 28, St. Paul 27
Division 7
Burbank 42, South Hills 30
El Modena 35, Diamond Ranch 7
Division 10
Apple Valley 59, Montebello 28
Division 11
Katella 41, Arcadia 35, OT
Rancho Mirage 27, Arroyo 21, OT
Division 12
Santa Maria 42, Schurr 21
South El Monte 42, Rancho Christian 35
Division 13
Orange 27, Rio Hondo Prep 14
Silver Valley 35, Nogales 29, 3 OT

Friday’s Semifinals
Division 3

Charter Oak at Rancho Verde, 7 p.m.
El Toro at St. Francis, 7 p.m.
Division 11
Covina at Culver City, 7 p.m.
Division 12
Santa Maria at South El Monte, 7 p.m.

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Covina football punches tickets to semifinals for first time since 2011

Even when Covina looked comfortably ahead, you knew Westminster and its high-powered offense was capable of making a run —  and it did — but the Colts had enough in the tank to fend off every rally.

Covina got another big performance from quarterback Nin Burns II, who threw for 265 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown, and defeated Westminster 42-28 in a CIF Southern Section Division 11 quarterfinal Thursday night at Covina District Field.

Covina (10-2) advances to the semifinals for the first time since 2011 and will await the winner of Friday’s quarterfinal between top seed Culver City (10-1) and Coachella Valley (9-2).

Covina opened the fourth quarter with Burns completing a 7-yard touchdown pass to Tristan Sprague to push the Colts’ lead to 14 points after Westminster (9-3) had scored 21 consecutive points to pull within a touchdown.

The Lions answered back on the ensuing drive, scoring on Christian Jaime’s 2-yard touchdown to cut the Colts’ lead to 35-28 with 7:37 to go.

But Burns answered back again, throwing a 40-yard touchdown pass to Danny Urrea with 5:42 left to go back up 14 points and that iced it.

“They made us work, absolutely,” Covina coach Joe Brown said. “We got off to this great start and thought we were rolling, then they came back. But our kids stepped up when we needed to and (Burns) was the difference maker for us. He put things in his hands and even called his own play and hit Urrea for a touchdown to close it out.”

Urrea hauled in nine passes for 121 yards and a touchdown and Sprague had seven receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Westminster quarterback Noah Melbon had a solid night, throwing for 217 yards and two touchdowns, and Jaime rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

But the Lions fell down 28-0 and were chasing the Colts the rest of the night.

“Kids showed some heart and it’s going to eat at us forever,” Westminster coach Ted McMillen said. “We gave them three touchdowns, literally gave it to them. But our kids showed some heart to battle back so I’m proud of them. But it was a tough one to take.”

The first half was wild as Covina raced to a four-touchdown lead only to watch Westminster cut it in half by the break.

Even though Covina dominated the opening quarter, it didn’t get rewarded until Ailaoa Tauvao’s fourth-down run, hustling in from a yard to give the Colts a 7-0 lead with 2:13 to go in the quarter.

The Colts doubled the lead when Burns, who was just trying to get a first down on third-and-short, got outside and found a lane down the right side for a 68-yard touchdown and 14-0 lead.

Westminster was putting its best drive together and was getting ready to score when it fumbled the snap and Jacob Gregory recovered for the Colts.

Covina turned it into points a couple plays later when Burns found Sprague wide open down the left sideline for 55-yard touchdown and 21-0 lead halfway through the second quarter.

Things started really going bad for Westminster when Jaime had the ball stripped out of his hands by Gregory, who simply ran the other way untouched for a 62-yard touchdown and 28-0 lead.

But Westminster closed the half with two quick touchdowns.

After Melbon’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Malachi Mesa, the Lions got it back when the Colts coughed up the ball on the ensuing kickoff at their own 32.

The Lions made them pay. On fourth-and-8, Melbon dropped a perfect pass to the corner for Joel Navarro, who got a foot inbounds for the touchdown to cut the Colts’ lead to 28-14 with 1:40 to go until half.

Westminster made it 21 unanswered points on the opening drive of the third quarter when Jaime scored on a five yard run to cut the Colts’ lead to 28-21, but that’s as close as it would get.

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Arroyo in rematch; Damien takes on top seed and quarterfinal football predictions

When the Division 11 playoff brackets were released, it was easy to look ahead to the possibility of a rematch between second seed Arroyo (11-0) and Rancho Mirage (8-3).

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.

Bryan threw for 399 and yards and five touchdowns and also rushed for 138 yards and touchdown.

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
Thursday’s Quarterfinals
Division 11

Westminster at Covina — (COVINA)
Friday’s Quarterfinals
Division 3

Charter Oak at Westlake — (CHARTER OAK)
St. Francis at Citrus Hill — (CITRUS HILL)
Division 4
Capistrano Valley at Damien (DAMIEN)
Glendora at Murrieta Mesa (MURRIETA MESA)
Division 6
San Marino at Bishop Diego – (BISHOP DIEGO)
Saugus at St. Paul, 7:30 p.m. – (STPAUL)
Division 7
Burbank at South Hills –(SOUTH HILLS)
El Modena at Diamond Ranch — (DIAMOND RANCH)
Division 10
Apple Valley at Montebello — (APPLE VALLEY)
Division 11
Katella at Arcadia — (ARCADIA)
Arroyo at Rancho Mirage — (ARROYO)
Division 12
Schurr at Santa Maria — (SCHURR)
Rancho Christian at South El Monte (RANCHO CHRISTIAN)
Division 13
Rio Hondo Prep at Orange — (RIO HONDO PREP)
Nogales at Silver Valley — (NOGALES)

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