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PREP FOOTBALL: CIF SS semifinals capsules

03/04/2013, 1:44pm PST
By The Californian



Upland (12-0) at Vista Murrieta (7-5)

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.

Internet: foxsportswest.com/prepzone

Last meeting: First meeting

At a glance: Both Vista Murrieta ---- which has five forfeited wins ---- and Upland are undefeated on the field and ranked among the top teams in the state. Vista Murrieta remained No. 5 in the state rankings at calhisports.com after dispatching Riverside North, 58-14, last week. The Highlanders, meanwhile, jumped from No. 15 to No. 6 after topping Covina Charter Oak, 51-13, last week. ... Vista Murrieta is vying for its third straight trip to the Inland Division title game. Upland is looking for its first after falling to Corona Centennial, 52-23, last year in the quarterfinals. ... Three like-opponents ---- Etiwanda, Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos and Murrieta Valley ---- help frame this year's matchup between Vista Murrieta and Upland. The Broncos beat those teams, respectively, by scores of 31-28, 30-21 and 23-14. The Highlanders won by scores of 24-17, 49-21 and 59-21, respectively ... The Highlanders are loaded with top-notch talent on both sides of the ball. WR Kenny Lawler is a four-star recruit drawing interest throughout the Pac-12, according to rivals.com. The 6-foot-3 receiver leads his team with 46 catches for 1,151 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he also has three interceptions on defense. ... With RB Donta Abron Jr. rushing for 1,668 yards and 32 touchdowns and junior QB Nate Romine throwing for 21 TDs against three interceptions, the Broncos' defense ---- led by DL Jeremy Castro (9 sacks), LB Bryce Smith (160 tackles), LB Su'a Cravens (75 tackles, 7 sacks, 3 interceptions) and DB Darion Williams (105 tackles, 2 interceptions) ---- will have its hands full at every level. ... On defense, Upland is led by DL Christian Powell (14 sacks, 86 tackles). ... Broncos QB Nick Stevens is in the midst of a breakout season in his first year as a starter. He has thrown for 1,333 yards, 14 TDs and 4 interceptions, while rushing for 756 yards and seven scores. Two other Broncos ---- RB Aaron Piecukonis (756) and Cravens (734) ---- have topped 700 yards rushing. Cravens is also the team's leading receiver with 250 yards and three scores. ... The winner will advance to the finals next Friday to play the Corona Centennial-Rancho Cucamonga winner.

Prediction: Upland 30, Vista Murrieta 27

---- Jeff Sanders


Citrus Hill (12-0) at Heritage (11-1)

Kickoff: 7 p.m.

Last meeting: First meeting

At a glance: Heritage makes its first appearance in a semifinal after breaking through with a 42-14 victory over Fontana Kaiser last week. That set up this showdown between the Sunbelt League-champion Patriots and the Mountain Pass League-champ Hawks. ... Heritage has won eight consecutive games, but Citrus Hill — a two-time section champion — has re-established itself as a premier program after early playoff exits in each of the last two years. No one has even come close to the Hawks this season — a 23-12 victory over Riverside Poly was their closest margin of victory; other than that, the Hawks have won each game by 20 points or more. ... In the past, Citrus Hill has been a running-game machine, but the Hawks have mixed it up more this year under coach Eric Zomalt . Junior QB Trevor Hodge has completed 116-of-186 passes for 1,876 yards, 14 TDs and four interceptions. That includes a five-TD performance against San Jacinto three weeks ago. Senior RB Davien Payne , a three-star recruit according to rivals.com who has already committed to Colorado, has accounted for more than 1,600 yards ---- he has 1,457 rushing yards and 28 TDs; he has also caught eight passes for 182 yards. ... Senior LB Darnell Murray and senior DE Roosevelt Pearson anchor a Citrus Hill defense that's held five opponents to single digits. ... Heritage and its vaunted ground game continues to pound opponents into submission, and last week's win over Kaiser may have been the Patriots' most impressive victory in school history. They scored 35 second-half points and rushed for 279 yards against a good Kaiser team. The 1-2 punch of Jamal Morrow (1,574 yards rushing) and Toni Hifo (729 yards on the ground) continue to pace this club. ... The scores for the three common opponents between these two are strikingly similar. Citrus Hill defeated Beaumont (45-7), Hemet (49-7) and San Jacinto (44-16); Heritage's victorties over those clubs came by counts of 34-9, 41-7 and 45-21. ... The winner of this game advances to face the Fontana Summit-Phelan Serrano winner in next week's Eastern Division championship game.

Prediction: Citrus Hill 31, Heritage 24

---- Landon Negri

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