STATE GAMES OF THE WEEK

Los Alamitos vs. Hart is an obvious No. 1, but among the top 15 on our list of the most intriguing football matchups this weekend is a few that might surprise you.

1. Los Alamitos vs. Hart (Newhall), Friday, at College of the Canyons. We know it was only Culver City, but the way the Griffins manhandled the Centaurs, the way it looks like junior Cortez Rice is going to be a force at running back, the way it looks like junior Jim Barnes is going to do a nice job at quarterback and the way it looks like the boys up front on defense will be almost as much of a force as the vaunted secondary, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them win by a couple of touchdowns. Hart may have an edge at quarterback with an experienced and proven leader in Sean Norton and it will be a home game for the Indians. Hart also is going to have to overcome the loss of talented junior Ryan Wolfe, who will be out for the season with a knee injury. Not having Wolfe to try to contain a Los Al wideout like Jeremy Childs is a scary thought. This is the game of the week in the state and is perhaps the top game of the week nationally. Los Al is No. 5 in the Student Sports FAB 50 and Hart is No. 17. They are No. 2 and No. 4 in the state. Note: Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis will be covering this game and will have a brief report on this site shortly after it ends.

2. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) vs. Lutheran (Orange), Saturday, at Santa Ana Bowl. This was a close game last year and should be again as both teams were among the top 30 in the preseason state rankings. Matchup of Lutheran LBs Anthony Vernaglia and Jon Ausmus trying to contain Mater Dei QB Jason Forcier will be worth the price of admission. Monarchs' linemen may be the difference.

3. Carson at Venice, Friday. Who was preseason No. 1 in the L.A. City Section was really a moot point. It's basically whoever won this first game. Venice QB Beau Davis is expected to throw for a ton of yards this season and he's got a terrific corps of receivers, led by Muir transfer Ryan Graves. Something tells us, though, the Carson defense will be a little pumped up to try to stop someone who transferred from their team.

4. Granite Bay at Lincoln (Stockton), Friday. These are two of the top five or six overall teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section. And if Lincoln wins, the Trojans have an outstanding chance to go 10-0 for the regular season.

5. Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) at Birmingham (Lake Balboa), Friday. This one will be the defending L.A. City champs hosting the defending CIFSS Div. III champs. Jimmy Welker takes over the QB job for ND and based on how strong he did during the summer at about a zillion camps that he attended, the Knights shouldn't miss much of a beat from last season.

6. Dimond (Anchorage, Alaska) at Colfax. Earlier this week, we goofed when we referred to Dimond at not being among the top teams in Alaska. We said that because we knew of an early-season loss that team had. As it turns out, Dimond has rebounded strongly in recent weeks and in fact will be coming to California as the No. 1 team in the state at 5-1. It's already the middle of the season in Alaska, while it will be Colfax's opener. The hosts should be able to hold their own, with a strong group of players coming back from last year, but Dimond's edge in games played plus the fact the school has more than 2,200 students compared to Colfax's roughly 900 may be too much to overcome. Note: Cal-Hi Sports founder Nelson Tennis should be attending this game and a report should be posted on this site on Saturday.

7. Valley Christian (Cerritos) at Ontario Christian, Friday. Ontario Christian starts out No. 1 in the Division V state rankings and may be playing its toughest opponent of the year right out of the gate. Valley Christian was in the top 10 in the Division IV ratings and shouldn't drop too much even though a lot of top players have graduated.

8. St. Mary's (Stockton) at Jesuit (Carmichael), Saturday. The defending Div. I champs from the Sac-Joaquin Section host a team that has a lot of talented players and may be one of the top two or three squads from the southern part of the section. Quarterbacks will be fun to watch as C.J. Bacher of the Marauders rates as one of the best in Northern California. St. Mary's junior Will Tuitama blew up at the EA Sports Elite 11 tryout in Las Vegas, but it's uncertain he will even start as the Rams were led last year by Barry Enright, who was a junior. John Gibson, one of the top linemen in NorCal, also plays for St. Mary's.

9. Claremont at South Hills (Covina), Friday. Running back Jamal Floyd will lead a Claremont team that should be among the top five for CIFSS Division II. South Hills features the Payton twins, Jeremy and Bryan, and come into the game as the preseason favorite for CIFSS Division VII.

10. CCS Doubleheader. For those who can brave rush hour traffic on a Friday, here's an idea. Catch the Los Gatos at Aragon of San Mateo day game, then get out of there quick enough to slog your way down the 101 into San Jose so you can arrive for the night game between St. Francis of Mountain View and Oak Grove of San Jose. That's four of the top 12 or so teams in the CCS in one frenetic six or seven hours.

11. Helix (La Mesa) at Fallbrook, Friday. Fallbrook was one of those hunch teams we ranked in the lower part of the FAB 50. Helix maybe should have been in there instead, although it's opening win of 22-21 over St. Augustine wasn't that impressive.

12. Rancho Cucamonga at Kaiser (Fontana), Thursday.Of all the games on Thursday night, this is the one we're most interested in. It'll be the Cougars, a team with several strong Div. I college recruits, meeting a Kaiser squad fresh off a 13-0-1 campaign from a year ago. Note: Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis is going to this game as a warm-up to the Los Al-Hart showdown on Friday. Look for a report to be posted on this site on Friday morning.

13. Arroyo Grande at Hueneme (Oxnard), Friday. Hueneme might be the most improved team in Southern California this season. That might not be evident for another week, though, as Arroyo Grande looked strong in its opener.

14. Pittsburg at Miramonte (Orinda), Friday. This is one of those games in which the winner will solidify itself as one of the top teams in the San Francisco Bay Area this season.

15. Peace in the Valley (Fontana) at Desert Chapel (Palm Springs), Friday. What, we threw an 8-man game on this list? Sure did. It's sort of a salute to acknowledge the first game for new Desert Chapel coach Russell White. Anybody who's seen high school football for more than 20 years will immediately remember Russell as the breakaway phenom running back from Crespi of Encino in the late 1980s. We're glad to see him coaching and teaching.


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