So Cal Football Preview and Thursday Recap

Here's the first installment of our previews of Southern California's Top 20 football teams, complete with predictions. We're not afraid to pick some upsets. We also recap the action from Thursday night in the Top 20.

#1 Long Beach Poly (0-0) v. Westchester (0-0)

Poly gave up just five points a game on average a year ago and should be as good this year with its abundant talent on the line and in the defensive secondary. Offensively, the Jackrabbits will hand the ball to 1,900-yard back Hershel Dennis, who will run wild behind a huge and talented offensive line. Westchester, 8-3 a year ago, always has athletes and a huge line. It will be enough to win a lot of games. Just not this week. Tawa's Take: Poly 38, Westchester 6

#2 Santa Margarita 21, Ayala 21 (Thursday)

The Eagles were lucky to escape with a tie in their Thursday season opener at Cal State Fullerton. They were outgained 460-167, needed a two-point conversion with 4:23 left to tie the game and then had to withstand two Ayala penetrations into Santa Margarita territory late in the game to escape with the draw. Chaz Brewer and Robert Meza combined for 194 rushing yards for the Bulldogs. Ashton White, Santa Margarita's standout junior runner, had 100 yards rushing on 25 carries.

#3 Loyola (0-0) v. Saint Ignatius (SF) (0-0) (Saturday)

No Matt Ware, Rafael Rice or Walter Cale foreshadows a Loyola Cub offense that might struggle. But what a defense! Behind Kevin Harbour and Chad Slapnicka, Loyola can shut anyone down. It should be enough to dispatch a Wildcat team not ranked among the best in northern California. Tawa's Take: Loyola 24, Saint Ignatius 0

#4 Mater Dei (0-0) v. Fallbrook (0-1) Fallbrook got smashed by San Diego's No. 1 team, Helix, last week 55-21. And with a new coach after Randy Blankenship left for Texas, it doesn't figure to get any better for the Warriors, who lost to Mater Dei last year with a much better team. They still run the Double Wing offense, which could pose problems, but Mater Dei's skill position players should more than make up for it. Tawa's Take: Mater Dei 40, Fallbrook 20

#5 Eisenhower (Rialto) (0-0) v. No. 20 Centennial (Corona) (0-0)

With QB Idris Moss back (He had been rumored headed to Poly) and a talented corps of athletes in the backfield and at receiver, the Eagles should be able to score on anyone. The lines are a question on both sides of the ball, something Husky QB Cory Campbell and WR Terry Richardson and a talented collection of athletes should be able to exploit. Look for a repeat of last year's thriller, with a different result this year. Tawa's Take: Ike 38, Centennial 35

#6 Hart (0-0) v. No. 9 Banning (Wilmington) (0-0)

Do these teams schedule any patsies? Hart, CIF-SS Div. III champion, takes on LA-City champ Banning for the first time in what should be an entertaining, high-scoring game. The Indians need to find a defense after graduating most of their starters from a year ago, and will rely on QB Matt Moore and Tim Gregory to try and outscore opponents. In Fred Matua, perhaps the best lineman in the country, Banning has a stopper up front and in the defensive backfield in A.J. Tuitele, also a top runner. The Pilots started slowly last year, before catching fire, but I don't expect that again. Tawa's Take: Banning 26, Hart 24

#7 Mission Viejo 35, Temescal Canyon 20 (Thursday)

Robbie Dubois, who had 3,500 career rushing yards entering the season, got off to a fast start in the Diablos' season-opener against the homestanding Titans. The shifty senior back ran 80 yards for a score on Mission Viejo's first play and scored again five minutes later as the Diablos built a 21-0 halftime lead and were never headed. Dubois finished with 247 yards and three scores. Temescal Canyon

#8 Los Alamitos 41, El Modena 31 (Thursday)

The Vanguards returned eight starters on either side of the ball, but it wasn't quite enough against a tough Los Al squad. The Griffins scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns on the strength of QB Tim Bessolo's arm to erase a 23-20 deficit. The 6-3, 220-pound senior connected twice with Kevin Van Gorder and once to Brandon Tripp, the shortest from 23 yards out. Bessolo finished the night with 412 yards passing and four TDs, offsetting a 259-yard rushing performance from El Modena's Daniel Dixon.

#10 Helix (La Mesa) (1-0) v. Patrick Henry (0-0)

There's simply too much Reggie Bush and the rest of a potent Helix rushing attack for Patrick Henry to contend with. If the Highlanders can beat Fallbrook 55-21, what will the score be tonight? Tawa's Take: Helix 50, Patrick Henry 14

#11 St. Bonaventure (1-0) v. Lincoln (San Diego) (1-0)

The Bonnies opened up with an impressive road win at Dos Palos, with record-setting back Lorenzo Booker rushing for over 150 yards. Lincoln was outplayed last week, but struggled to a 16-0 win over Southwest. The Hornets don't get so lucky this week as Booker runs wild behind his talented line. Tawa's Take: St. Bonaventure 45, Lincoln 6

#12 Edison (HB) (0-0) v. El Toro (0-0)

El Toro is supposed to be vastly improved from the squad that went 2-8 a year ago and should be tough defensively, led by senior DB Jacob Hill. But Edison's skill position players, notably speedy back Chuckie Linman, would give any team fits. Tawa's Take: Edison 35, El Toro 10

#13 Carson (0-0) v. Long Beach Jordan (0-0)

Carson is a young team on offense, but have the power on defense, led by Matthew Malele, to stay in any game. The Panthers had a breakout year in 2000, winning eight games, and have the talent to keep it going behind 1,000-yard back Jeron McCoy. Tawa's Take: Jordan 14, Carson 13

#14 Thousand Oaks (0-0) v. Crescenta Valley (0-0)

Thousand Oaks gets the ranking on the strength of top signal caller Ben Olson and dynamic receiver Dave Anderson, but the Lancers were only 5-6 a year ago. Crescenta Valley, on the other hand, was 10-2 with a QB, Hudson Gossard, who put up huge numbers a year ago as well. If the Falcons break in decent receivers early, Crescenta Valley can repeat last year's win. Tawa's Take: Thousand Oaks 35, Crescenta Valley 30

#15 Esperanza (0-0) v. Upland (0-0)

Esperanza beat Upland in a shootout to open last year, but the Scots didn't lose again en route to the CIF-SS Div. II title. However, heavy graduation losses, Esperanza's size and the running of Shawn Wildenstein should be enough for the Aztecs to squeak by. Tawa's Take: Esperanza 27, Upland 21

#16 Chino (0-0) v. Pacific (0-0)

Pacific was not a good team last year and open this season with a new coach and a lot of new faces. Chino has a talented defense and USC commit Chris McFoy to light up the scoreboard at wide receiver. It should be a long night for Pacific. Tawa's Take: Chino 47, Pacific 6

#17 Peninsula (Palos Verdes) (0-0) v. Santa Monica (0-0)

The Vikings return an all-league backfield from a year ago, featuring 1,700-yard rusher Derrick Davis, have explosive receivers and a veteran defense. Add good coaching in the person of Norm Lacy and that spells trouble for Peninsula, a South Bay power for many years. The Panthers lost the heart of their offense in Chris Beal and Eric Meissner and some top defenders, but are always good. Look for a close one, with Peninsula's home-field advantage making the difference. Tawa's Take: Peninsula 20, Santa Monica 19

#18 Notre Dame (SO) (0-0) v. Lynwood (0-0)

Lynwood has a new coach who wants to pass, but that probably won't work against the defensive-minded Knights, who were 11-1-1 a year ago and have a powerful defensive line led by Tim Volk. QB Phil Beckmann and a large offensive line should move the ball enough to prevail. Tawa's Take: Notre Dame 20, Lynwood 6

Fountain Valley 14, #19 Dominguez 13 (Thursday)

The 19th-ranked Dons were not interested in any season-opening tie. So when Justin Wyatt scored on a 13-yard pass with 29 seconds left to pull Dominguez within 14-13, going for two was the only option. The try failed, as Wyatt was stopped on the one-yard line, giving the Barons, which had taken the lead with a fourth-quarter score of its own, the win.

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