Championship Week Preview

It’s do-or-die week in the CIF Southern Section. Some teams are almost guaranteed a championship banner while some face a more difficult road. Here’s a look at the tight championship races in the Southern Section this weekend.
 
Serra League
There is currently a traffic jam at the top of the Serra League standings right now with No. 14 Alemany, No. 15 Bishop Amat and Notre Dame all sitting at 2-1 in league play. Early in the season, it was Alemany and Notre Dame that were the favorites while Bishop Amat became a surprise leader in the league after a season-opening win over Servite and another a few weeks later when the Lancers (7-1-1) defeated Charter Oak. Bishop Amat might have the best overall record in the League but it’s Alemany (7-2) who has the upper hand: The Warriors handed the Lancers their only Serra League loss this season and face Loyola, who is winless in the league, in the regular season finale.
 
Notre Dame (6-3), who has come on strong as of late after suffering losses to Chaminade and Alemany, will clash with the Lancers Friday night, in La Puente for a share of the league title. Notre Dame running back Khalfani Muhammad and quarterback Kelly Hilinski have excelled all season behind one of the toughest offensive lines in the Serra. Alemany will be the favorite over Loyola but caution will surely be exercised as the Cubs do own a 6-3 record with solid wins over Harvard-Westlake, West Covina and Valencia.
 
Big VIII League
Corona Santiago (6-3, 4-0) has won its last four straight and has now put together consecutive strong seasons but is still looking for that signature win to truly announce its arrival. The Sharks have not been able to get it this season, falling to big opponents Santa Margarita and Upland. Santiago will have one last chance this week when they host No. 5 Corona Centennial (8-1, 4-0).
 
The Sharks like to start fast and play physical, but they will have to contend with a defensive line known for creating turnovers. Quarterback Michael Darr recently told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that he feels the Sharks are playing as a complete team and they will need to continue to do so in all facet’s of Friday night’s game against the traditional area powerhouse.
 
Citrus Belt
Redlands East Valley (4-4, 3-1) has been as determined as ever to put its non-league losses behind. Since suffering three straight losses to top-10 opponents St. Bonaventure, Vista Murrieta and Mission Viejo, the Wildcats have won three of four and kept Rialto Eisenhower from a win that would have clinched at least a share of the Citrus Belt title. REV is now tied with Eisenhower (6-2, 3-1) and Redlands (7-2, 3-1) and a win would get them a share of the title and into the playoffs. The Wildcats will still be without the aid of defensive end Kyle Fitts, a USC commit, but would have him back should they make the playoffs.
 
Redlands, who topped REV in the Smudge Pot game 41-37, showed its vulnerability after a 28-24 loss to Yucaipa last week. However, last week the Terriers were without star running back Craig Lee, and head coach Jim Walker recently confirmed that Lee will return Friday against Eisenhower. Lee, who has rushed for 1,382 yards and 17 touchdowns this season, will be key to a Terrier offense against that is only giving up 12.25 points per game.
 
Trinity League
No. 4 Bellflower St. John Bosco (5-4, 4-0) is on the verge of its first-ever Trinity League Championship. Sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen has proved mature beyond his years, leading his team to nine-straight wins (four of which were forfeited). Santa Margarita quarterback Johnny Stanton’s knee injury has now been well-documented but one loss aside, the ninth-ranked Eagles are far from lacking in the offensive weapons department. From running back Ryan Wolpin to the versatile River Cracraft and the supporting cast of Duncan Hume and Connor O’Brien, the Eagles are still formidable.
 
While the game between the new power and the old is expected to be the Trinity League title game, No. 8 Mater Dei also has a chance to earn a share of the title with a win over Servite.
 
Coaching Shakeup
Tesoro head coach Brian Barnes, son of legendary Los Alamitos head coach John Barnes, has been released of his duties, according to OCVaristy.com. Assistant coach John Hall will take over the 17th-ranked team in the Southern Section as they finish out the season against Chula Vista of the San Diego Section.
 
Controversy has followed Tesoro recently after a district investigation of Riverside County players allegedly being recruited to attend the district’s new online school. Recently, a video of an extremely hard hit on an El Toro kicker by a Tesoro player put the program under fire.