The day after Thanksgiving usually provides local prep football fans some great games. One of the best games this weekend will take place in the Inland Division of the CIF SS playoffs. Number two seeded Centennial (Corona, Calif.) will take on number three seed Upland (Upland, Calif.) with a trip to the finals on the line.
Centennial, champions of the Big VIII League, comes in with an 11-1 record with its only loss coming to St. Bonaventure, a Pac 5 semifinalist, in the opening week of the season. Since that five point loss, the Huskies have won every game by an average of 35 points, although there was a one-point victory over rival Norco and a four-point victory over Alemany.
The Huskies are led by junior QB Robert Webber and his 31 touchdowns against only one interception. Webber is averaging 230 yards passing a game in the spread option attack used by head coach Matt Logan. The offensive line is led by 6'4" Cameron Hunt, a Cal commit and four-star recruit, according to Rivals.com.
Webber has a very good trio of wide receivers to throw to led by junior Barry Ware who is third on the team with 39 receptions and leads the team with nine touchdowns. Seniors Ryan Pascarella and Chase Krivashei provide Webber with great outlet options as well.
On the ground for the Huskies, Tre Watson and Austin Renken have combined for over 1,300 yards rushing and 35 of the teams 51 rushing touchdowns.
The defense, which is giving up 26 ppg, is led by seniors Anthonee Yim, Garrett Hughes and Miquan Johnson.
Yim, the do-everything linebacker, leads the team with 108 tackles while Johnson, an Orange Lutheran transfer, was voted a captain before the season and has responded with 81 tackles from his cornerback position. Hughes, a Cal commit, anchors the defensive line from his end position.
The Baseline League Champion Upland Highlanders come into this game riding the tails of an undefeated regular season and two completely different playoff games. In the postseason opener, Upland had no trouble beating Great Oak (Temecula, Calif.) 35-6. Last week the Highlanders struggled a bit but were never threatened in a 28-14 defeat of Redlands (Redlands, Calif.).
Coach Tim Salter has what he's called his best all-around QB in senior Nate Romine who comes in with 2,435 yards passing and 965 yards rushing with 32 total touchdowns. The offense is averaging 45 ppg behind Romine and running backs Adonis Harrison and Tyler Bratton, who have combined for over 1,000 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.
James Johnson, an Arizona State commit, Trevor Wright, and Anthony Romero lead an effective, if not, solid group of wide receivers. The trio has combined for over 1,700 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns for the Highlanders.
The defense is led by Joe Mathis, a four-star recruit according to Rivals.com. The senior defensive lineman is only third on the team in tackles with 64, but much of that is due to teams running away from his side of the ball.
Linebackers Delvin Batiste, a San Diego State commit, and Taloa Otuafi have been the beneficiaries of all the attention Mathis draws as both have been outstanding performers. Batiste was moved from cornerback to outside linebacker after Jeff Farrar, a Cathedral (Los Angeles, Calif.) transfer, proved to be to good to keep off the field.
The secondary is led by Johnson, Farrar, and Wright. The trio has combined for 15 interceptions and has been part of a defensive unit that has allowed only five opponents to pass for more than 200 yards in a game.
This game has all the trappings of a great matchup and is a rematch of a 2010 playoff game which saw Centennial come away with a 52-23 victory en route to an appearance in a state bowl game.
Both teams have very effective offensive lines and stout defenses.
Centennial can score quickly and in bunches, while their defense is more bend-but-don't-break.
Upland is a little more methodical in their approach and can wear down a defense with their running game, but can score quickly if necessary.
On paper this is strength against strength. Centennials passing attack against one of the best secondaries in the region. Uplands grinding offense against a defense littered with quality players.
This game should come down to which team has the most success running and taking care of the football.
The winner of this game faces the winner of the Vista Murrieta - Rancho Cucamonga in the Inland Division Finals with a potential State Bowl bid on the line.
Before either team can dream of playing at the Home Depot Center, they must first take care of business this Friday.
Fans and players hope the Thanksgiving effect has worn off by kickoff.