Davonte Murphy carries the ball in San Marcos’ triumph over Granite Hills in the semifinals that vaulted the Knights into the section Division III championship game against Christian.
San Marcos vs. Christian
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Mesa College.
Preview: As a product of the new division lineups, pitting a school with an enrollment of 380 (Christian) against one with 2,500 (San Marcos) is causing quite a stir. San Marcos has struggled in recent years in DI while Christian consistently put up 10-win seasons in IV and V, creating an interesting contrast. San Marcos has the enviable choice of two good quarterbacks plus one of the section’s best receivers in Isiah Hennie. Will Freed (68 of 99, 1,271 yards, 11 TDs) quarterbacked the club the first four games of the season, but after going down with an injury did not return until last week when he didn’t miss a beat, going 11 of 15 for 99 yards and a score. In Freed’s absence, junior James Harwell (143 of 230, 1,612 yards, 12 TDs) gained valuable experience. Christian, meanwhile, has no such dilemma at quarterback as Michael Carrillo has been the player behind center the entire season. He has glittering numbers that include completing 133 of 204 passes for 2,440 yards and 31 touchdowns. But the key statistic is he has suffered just one interception all season — off a tipped ball. The Patriots also have the East County’s top rusher in Paris Miller, who needs only 23 yards to crack 1,000 for the season.
Prediction: San Marcos 28, Christian 21.
Coach: Jason Texler, 2nd year.
Players to watch: WR Hennie is the kind of player who breaks open games, and both quarterbacks do not hesitate to get him the ball. He needs just two catches to reach 100 and has 1,483 yards and 9 TDs receiving. The key to the defense is 6-2, 280-pound lineman Khris Alvarez.
Season highlight: Though seeded fifth, the Knights got a bit of a break in the quarterfinals when Granite Hills upset No. 1 Francis Parker while San Marcos was edging Santa Fe Christian 3-0. Texler’s team was hitting on all cylinders in the 28-17 win over Granite Hills in the semis.
Quotable: “We’re excited,” said Texler. “There’s a sense of pride on campus — this is something that hasn’t happened here in a long time.”
Championship past: The Knights are 1-1-1 in title games. The lone win came in 1966 when the 10-0 Bob Woodhouse-coached Knights were declared the winner in the 1A Division. The tie came in 1987 against San Pasqual, and the loss was a 22-18 setback to Lincoln in 1979.
Little-known fact: When San Marcos was co-champion with San Pasqual in 1987, the starting center for San Pasqual was Jeff Meyer, who is now the athletic director at San Marcos. His son, Cody, is the center on this year’s Knights team.
Coach: Matt Oliver, 15th year.
Players to watch: Tight end-linebacker Trent Sauls; tight end-linebacker Sebastian Swift, the Central League Defensive Player of the Year; defensive end Zane Coffman; receivers Kai Arvan and Trevor Howell; and RB Paris Miller, the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.
Season highlight: Many thought Christian would be in trouble right out of the gate facing large-enrollment, tradition-rich Morse in the playoff opener. The Patriots won 42-14, rushing for 311 yards and compiling 510 yards overall.
Quotable: “Our first 11 on both sides of the ball can play with anyone in the county,” said Oliver, “but that’s the trouble — it’s basically the same 11 players.”
Championship past: The Patriots are in familiar territory, having won titles in 2011, 2006, 2002, 1995, 1994, 1993, 1975 and 1972. They have lost in the final four times.
Little-known fact: San Marcos has more students in its senior class than the Patriots have in the entire school.
Court update: No decision was reached Friday in Christian’s lawsuit regarding which division it might be considered for a SoCal Regional playoff berth. Should the Patriots win today, the CIF says Christian will be considered for a berth in Division II. Christian maintains it should be considered for Division IV. A court hearing will be held at 9 a.m. Monday if the Patriots win.