STATE GAMES OF THE WEEK

Stage two of Hart's destruction derby tour is against St. Bonaventure, but our pick for No. 1 on the list this week is Westlake at Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks. And speaking of Oaks, teams from Oakdale, Oakhurst and Oakland are also involved in showdown tussles this weekend.

1. No. 12 in the state Westlake (Westlake Village) at No. 8 in the state Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks), Friday. It was either this one or St. Bonaventure vs. Hart for the No. 1 spot. Notre Dame comes in after a 30-6 win over Birmingham of Lake Balboa. Westlake blanked Santa Paula 42-0 in what was basically a tune-up for this week. We already knew Notre Dame had some solid seniors like LB K.C. Croal, RB Brandon Clayton, OL-DL Verlondon Harris and OL-DL Adam Zucker. Now you can add junior DL Josh Cordray to the list. Notre Dame head coach Kevin Rooney used alternating quarterbacks on offense last week. It'll be interesting to see what develops if the Knights bog down at all against the likes of Jimmy Miller, Michael Stuart, Greg Newman and the rest of the Westlake defense. The winner of this game will be No. 1 in the Div. II state ratings, but if it's Westlake the Warriors won't have time to celebrate. They play Hart next.

2. No. 5 in the state Hart (Newhall) vs. No. 13 in the state St. Bonaventure (Ventura), Friday at Moorpark College. Hart's monster schedule continues with this matchup, one week after playing No. 2 Los Alamitos and the week before the Indians play No. 12 Westlake. St. Bonaventure dropped this game a year ago, 31-6, and it snapped a 43-game winning streak. The Seraphs then went on to win the rest of their games, meaning they've won 56 of their last 57. It's true they were pretty much outclassed a year ago, but they should have two words on their minds entering the stadium Friday: "Orange Lutheran." If Orange Lutheran can beat mighty Mater Dei by three touchdowns, then St. Bonnie can certainly beat Hart. Indians' QB Sean Norton is coming off a rib injury suffered in the second quarter against Los Alamitos and it's uncertain how much he'll play.

3. No. 18 in the state Palma (Salinas) at No. 1 in the state De La Salle (Concord), Saturday. We really didn't get that good of a read as to how the national and state No. 1 Spartans are going to be this season based on last week's game against Mitty of San Jose. It was too much of a mismatch. Palma should be different. The Chieftains are using the versatile Luke Lippincott at running back, alongside Ryan Hastie, and that's a punishing combination. Palma won back-to-back CCS Div. I titles in 2000 and 2001, slipped behind Salinas in its league last year, and should be back on top this year. De La Salle won't have wide receiver Cameron Colvin and running back Jackie Bates once again this week, but there wasn't a drop with Willie Glasper and Mike Dominguez at running back and Alex Stroud stepping up at wide receiver. Another key injury, though, for the Spartans would be more difficult to overcome. The sense here is that Palma is one of those teams that's capable of making history and pulling off the upset win, but that it would need some breaks and several De La Salle turnovers. Palma's not going to beat DLS straight up, with turnovers being equal. DLS has only played one team in two years that was even capable of winning straight up and that was Long Beach Poly in 2001. Editor Mark Tennis is planning to see this game and a story should be available on the site late Saturday night.

4. No. 7 in the state J.W. North (Riverside) vs. No. 8 in state Div. II Kaiser (Fontana) at Fontana High, Friday. Both teams cruised to victories last Thursday night, although Kaiser's 37-0 romp over Rancho Cucamonga was unexpected. North's 39-3 demolition of Rancho Verde went more according to form. Kaiser had a lot of success running the ball vs. the Cougars and doing that again, ball-control style, would be a good idea vs. the Huskies. If Damon and Dion Morton, Josh Barnett and the rest of the potent North offense is getting too many possessions -- because Kaiser's offense is doing too many three-and-outs -- then it will be a long night for legendary coach Dick Bruich.

5. No. 7 in state Div. II Edison (Fresno) vs. No. 11 in the state Clovis West (Fresno) at Buchanan (Clovis), Friday. There's a lot of local interest in this game and a huge crowd and tremendous atmosphere should greet the players. It's a battle of perhaps the two top teams in town -- Clovis High is in that mix as well -- and between two highly-publicized new head coaches -- former NFL star Tim McDonald at Edison and former Santa Margarita High coach Jim Hartigan at Clovis West. It's also one of those games that could gain in significance later in the season, especially if Edison goes on to win the CIF Central Section Yosemite Division Small crown and Clovis West goes on to win the Yosemite Division Large title.

6. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) at No. 3 in the state Mission Viejo, Friday. This would have been the state's top game this week if the Monarchs, who were No. 5 in the preseason top 20, had not lost by 35-14 to Orange Lutheran. That performance, though, would be completely forgotten by Mater Dei if it were to beat Mission Viejo and snap the Diablos' winning streak at 29 games. That almost happened last week as Mission Viejo had to hold on for 14-13 win over Fountain Valley. The score of this game a year ago was 21-19 for Mission and it probably won't even be that high-scoring this time.

7. Venice vs. No. 8 in the state Loyola (Los Angeles) at Santa Monica College, Friday. Loyola has had difficulty in these types of games with L.A. City Section schools in the past. A recent loss to Crenshaw comes to mind. This would be a huge win for Venice and would almost certainly vault the Gondoliers into the state rankings themselves. They posted an impressive win of 35-14 last week over Carson and quarterback Beau Davis did not throw for a ton of yards. The running game was mixed in well and all of Venice's gifted receivers -- Ryan Graves, James Lewis and Gerard Rodriguez -- were utilized. Loyola has always had the defense to slow down any offense and the Cubs also should have the edge up front, led by All-State tackle Mark Gray.

8. No. 8 in NorCal St. Francis (Mountain View) at No. 15 in NorCal Los Gatos, Friday. Two of the top 20 teams in Northern California collide here and it could be the end of the state's second-longest current unbeaten streak. The Wildcats upped that mark to 39-0-1 last week with a 22-7 win over Aragon of San Mateo, but many in the area regard them as underdogs against St. Francis. The Lancers bolted out to five touchdowns the first five times they had the ball in last week's game against Oak Grove of San Jose before holding on for a 42-35 win. These two teams played in last year's CCS Div. III final and the result was a 21-21 tie.

9. No. 1 in state Div. III La Habra at No. 6 in state Div. II Los Altos (Hacienda Heights), Friday. Unlike the Highlanders' upcoming matchup against state No. 2 Los Alamitos, this is one game they may have to win to stay No. 1 in their division. La Habra QB Daniel Morales had nearly 300 yards of rushing and passing in the season-opening win over Downey and it'll be interesting to see how he responds to the Los Altos pass rush, led by All-State Brigham Harwell.

10. No. 7 in state Div. III Oakdale at Yosemite (Oakhurst), Friday. The Mustangs head south after defeating Turlock, 21-16, in their first game. It will be the second game for Yosemite, which is the defending Central Section Sequoia Division Large champion and is No. 1 in the section's Sequoia-Sierra Division rankings. Oakdale also comes in as the No. 1 team in the Stanislaus District by the Modesto Bee.

11. Vista at No. 9 in state Div. II Helix (La Mesa), Friday. Vista hasn't played in two weeks since it opened with a 17-7 win over Bishop Amat of La Puente, a result that later became a forfeit win for Amat due to the use of an ineligible player. These are two of the top programs in the San Diego Section in recent years. Vista has stayed that way despite head coaching changes and has an excellent defense this year, headed up by linebacker Russell Allen. Helix was impressive last week in a 27-9 win over Fallbrook.

12. James Logan (Union City) at Skyline (Oakland), Friday. Here's a safe prediction: Somebody wearing red-and-black is going to win. Logan took on an Oakland team last week, McClymonds, and rolled to a 47-19 win. Skyline lost its opener two weeks ago to Serra of San Mateo and then beat Bethel of Vallejo last week, 35-15. If Skyline wins, that makes Serra look better. If Logan wins, then we now have another solid contender in the NCS 4A division to go with Foothill and Pittsburg. Two of the top track athletes in America will be in this game, too, with Angelo Jeffrey, a triple jumper, at running back for Logan, and Kenny O'Neil, a sprinter, at wide receiver for Skyline.

13. No. 2 in state Div. IV Escalon at Manteca, Friday. Escalon's toughest game last year was against the Buffaloes and the result was a tie. The defending Sac-Joaquin Section Div. IV champs look like they'll be a terrific two-pronged running team with Jesse Miguel and Tony Reis. Manteca, which won the section Div. III title two years ago and felt it got robbed by a bad call in last year's final against Colfax, enters this game after a 20-7 triumph over Ceres. Editor Mark Tennis is planning to attend this game.

14. Righetti (Santa Maria) at No. 3 in state Div. III Lompoc, Friday. After wiping out Ayala of Chino Hills 62-28 in its first game, Righetti stayed red-hot with a 52-0 blanking last week of Santa Maria High. Ryan Mole already has 510 yards rushing and nine TDs on the season. Lompoc beat Dos Pueblos of Goleta in its opener, 30-14, but the Braves were down 14-7 and only made three first downs on offense. If Lompoc doesn't pick it up on offense, it could be another big night for Holy Mole and company at Huyck Stadium. Note: Righetti was on the bubble this week for Div. II and from an overall standpoint would be higher-ranked than Lompoc.

15. St. Monica (Santa Monica) vs. El Segundo at St. Bernard (Playa del Rey), Saturday. Get out your calculators for what could be a passing derby. St. Monica's Mitch Smith unlimbered his arm for 46 throws and completed 23 passes for 330 yards and four TDs in last week's win over Artesia of Lakewood. It sure helped that Smith has standout WR Michael Dunn to throw to. He caught 12 passes for 207 yards and all four scores. For El Segundo, Tyson Hawley has kept up the pace set the last three years by Matt Engle. He went 21 for 28 last week for 315 yards and five TDs in the Eagles' 38-35 triumph vs. Mary Star of San Pedro.


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