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October 9, 2012

Midseason Three Up, Three Down for the Southern Section

Three Up

1.) St. John Bosco

Just how do the Braves make it to the top of this list after four forfeits? It's simple really: Bosco is really, really good. Those four defeats stemmed from head coach Jason Negro unknowingly using an ineligible player. That's in the past now, and with Santa Margarita's injuries, the road to a state title game is wide open for the Braves. It's tough to figure out just how St. John Bosco reached this point in only two-and-a-half seasons under Negro, but the Braves have arrived as serious players in the Trinity League, and they don't look like they're going anywhere anytime soon.

2.) Mission Viejo

Another team with a bit of fortune on its side, Mission Viejo is undefeated and has looked very good doing so. You can't say the same for the Diablos' South Coast League rivals, as Tesoro has played in several tight games against lesser opponents this season. Many were ready to hand the torch from Mission Viejo to the Titans in what's shaping up to be one of the fiercest league battles inside the Southern Section, but the Diablos have responded emphatically. It's their league to lose now, and ambitions are clearly greater than that at Mission Viejo this season.

3.) Vista Murrieta

Sporting a perfect record, an easy remaining regular season schedule and perhaps the best two-way player in California in Su'a Cravens, the Broncos are sitting pretty midway through the season. The offense has been very good, and the defense has been even better, having only surrendered 78 points in six games this season. Cravens is one the top safety prospects in the country, and has a huge impact on opposing running and passing games. He's also being utilized more and more on offense, where his playmaking ability is an asset for head coach Coley Candaele. Vista Murrieta faces a few opponents with quality records over the next few weeks, but none can match the Broncos' wealth of talent. Expect this team to enter postseason play undefeated, with a real chance to play for an Open Division State Championship.

Three Down

1.) Santa Margarita's National Title Hopes

The Eagles remain a dangerous team, but they're no longer in the conversation as the best high school football team in the country; not without star quarterback Johnny Stanton, anyways. Replacement quarterbacks Josh Canty and Kyle Sweet had some success and some hiccups. Canty threw a pair of interceptions, while Sweet is only a sophomore (though he showed some promise in the second half last week). Regardless, this isn't the time to have a full-fledged quarterback controversy, and while SM may yet eke out a Trinity League title, anything beyond that would a surprise given what Stanton meant to this team.

2.) Servite

It's hard to figure exactly what the heck happened to the Friars' football program this season. Coming into this season, Servite sported a 38-4 record since 2009. This season, the Friars have already dropped four games, and have all but ceded Trinity League supremacy to Santa Margarita and St. John Bosco. The greatest Concern has to be the offense; Servite has been shut out in three of its past four games, and has struggled mightily to find any kind of consistency. Even in past years, the Friars lacked star power on offense, but got the job done with discipline and guile. This year, that's out the window, and it remains to be seen if Servite can even manage a .500 record. With a killer league schedule quickly approaching, an even season looks doubtful.

3.) Westlake

In seasons past, the Warriors featured a game-changing offense to go with a very average defense that made big plays but also gave them up. This year, the offense has regressed, and the defense hasn't gotten any better. New quarterback Neil Uskali doesn't have the same type of mobility that previous signal-callers Nick Isham and Justine Moore did, and because of that, the field isn't quite as open in the passing game as it had been in recent years. Uskali has thrown for a good chunk of yardage, but he's also been picked off seven times. To put that in perspective, previous Westlake quarterbacks were picked 16 total times in the last three seasons. Uskali's carelessness with the football and his inability to run with the football hasn't allowed the Warrior offense to run on all cylinders, and at this point in the season, it's fair to wonder if the Westlake will even be a factor in the playoffs.

Send feedback, recruiting updates and story suggestions to kevin@sectionsports.net.


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