A league share is at stake
Either Saugus or Valencia will likely clinch an unexpected piece of the title
By Cary Osborne
Signal Sports Editor
Two teams who came into the season as unlikely Foothill League champions are each a win away from the title.
And both teams meet tonight at 7:30 p.m. at College of the Canyons when Valencia (5-4, 3-1) plays Saugus (6-3, 3-1) in each team’s regular season finale.
“I really try not to get wrapped up in this stuff,” said Saugus head coach Jason Bornn. “It doesn’t mean we don’t play intense or with passion. If you’re not motivated at this point, there’s nothing I can say or do to get you fired up.”
Said Valencia head coach Larry Muir: “We haven’t talked a lot about (the title). It’s more about finishing the league off the right way. For us, we still have something to prove.”
Let’s get scenarios out of the way first.
If Valencia wins, it will share the Foothill League title with Canyon.
But the Vikings would be the top seed for the Northern Division playoffs from the Foothill League because they defeated the Cowboys 34-7 on Oct. 21.
A loss could make Valencia the fourth-place team in the league, meaning the Vikings have to hope for an at-large bid.
If Saugus wins, it shares the league title with Canyon, but is the No. 2 seed because of a 51-28 loss to the Cowboys on Oct. 14.
A loss puts the Centurions in third place in league, assuring a first-round playoff game on the road.
Now to the game itself.
This has the potential of being an ugly one — which is not so ugly in Bornn’s eyes.
He looks back to last Saturday’s LSU-Alabama college game — a 9-6 LSU overtime victory — as a beautiful ugly game.
This Saugus-Valencia matchup could be a lot of running, a lot of defense, not a lot of passing yards and a field-position battle that comes down to who takes better care of the ball.
This is the sort of game that plays into Saugus’ favor because the Centurions are so adept at eating clock and keeping the ball out of the other team’s hands. Valencia has needed every bit of the clock to score points this year, having struggled for much of the season to succeed because of a lack of a consistent big-play threat.
Yet Saugus will run the ball against a Valencia front seven that is the strength of the Vikings team.
Muir said he’s not concerned about that running game wearing the Vikings’ defense out.
Yet he points to one player who could give Valencia fits.
“The issue is Jared Carbajal,” Muir said of the Saugus quarterback who has ran for 1,010 yards this season. “He is the one that has big-play potential. He can move the chains. He’s the one who makes things go. If he’s in a rhythm running the offense, it’s going to be a rough going for us.”
If Carbajal is forced to pass, Saugus might be in trouble because he has completed just 46 percent of his passes this season.
Bornn is not worried because he said Carbajal has developed “touch,” meaning he knows how hard or what kind of ball he needs to throw in which situation.
Likewise, Valencia doesn’t want quarterback Sean Murphy to try and play like University of Houston gunslinger Case Keenum.
They want him to manage the game.
So for Saugus and Valencia, the other guys on offense become X-factors.
For Saugus, that’s guys like running back Colton Jackson, who ran for 109 yards in last Friday’s 35-14 win over West Ranch, or bruising running back Tyler Watt, who can give the Centurions a lot or a little on offense.
For Valencia, it’s a receiver like Tedric Thompson, who has the ability to be a big-play target, or the Vikings’ offensive line, which Muir has pointed to as a unit that needs to have a big game.
On defense, Saugus is getting better and better and Bornn said the key lately has been nose tackle Denley Rodriguez, who Bornn described as being dominant last week.
For Valencia, it could be the linebackers and safeties who need to make sure that if Carbajal or someone else gets past the defensive line that he doesn’t get any farther.
It’s a big one.
And few people thought it would be this way.
Saugus was thought of as a good team, not a great team coming into the season because of a void of superstars.
“Because there are no superstars, there are no egos, no drama,” Bornn said. “It’s a team for all intents and purposes that’s just that.”
Valencia wasn’t supposed to be a league champion because it lost its superstars from last year to graduation.
One of these teams will be a champion by day’s end.