Locals set for playoffs

After Coach Mike Bargas led Estancia High to its first outright football league title in 21 years, he left it up to his assistants to predict who the Eagles might see in the playoffs.

They guessed wrong.

While the other three local programs in the CIF Southern Section playoffs are not as familiar with their respective first-round opponents, Estancia clearly knows the team it plays Friday at 7 p.m. The Eagles open Southern Division play against Beckman, a team that beat them, 31-0, last month.

The Orange Coast League champion Eagles get no easy first-round home game, which most teams winning a league crown usually earn. Bargas said he was disappointed with the section pairing Estancia with Beckman on Sunday, when the CIF released its playoff brackets.

"We didn't expect to play those guys again," Bargas said. "They didn't do us any favors.

"But we get a second opportunity to play them. They're a different team [since the first meeting] and so are we."

The Eagles (6-4) have won five straight games since losing to Beckman (5-5), an at at-large entry from the Pacific Coast League.

Newport Harbor, Corona del Mar and Sage Hill each enter the postseason on winning streaks as well.

The Sailors (6-4) hit the road to Mission Hills to play fourth-seeded Alemany (10-0), the Serra League champion, in a Pac-5 Division contest set for 7:30 p.m. Newport Harbor, a third-place team from the Sunset League, will try to win its third straight and end the Warriors' perfect season.

The Sea Kings (8-1-1), unbeaten in their last six games, received the Southern Division's No. 2 seed. The Pacific Coast League champions play host to Ocean View (7-3) at Newport Harbor High at 7 p.m. The Seahawks are the Golden West League's No. 3 entry.

The Lightning (8-2) travel the farthest, having to go 138 miles to reach Twentynine Palms for an East Valley Division game at 7 p.m. Sage Hill, the Academy League runner-up, has won back-to-back games, while the Wildcats (7-3), who split the De Anza League title, saw their five-game winning streak end last week.

The only streak that matters now is which team can make a run in the playoffs. Three of the local teams in the postseason did not experience much success advancing out of the first round last year.

Estancia, Newport and Sage Hill went one and out last year.

CdM is making its first playoff appearance since 2008, when it reached the semifinals in Coach Jason Hitchens' first year in charge. The Sea Kings have a great shot to go far due to their seed, who they might play in the following rounds, and how well they are performing down the stretch.

A section final appearance by CdM is not farfetched. The last time CdM played for a section championship was in 1989, when it completed back-to-back championships.

The Sea Kings have turned things around. After going winless in league last year, CdM went unbeaten in league this season at 4-0-1. Much of the success is due to the team's large number of seniors, which includes quarterback Mitch Gardner, running back/receiver Clay Reinhardt, linebacker Preston Risser and center Max Priestley.

Estancia is the other area team that did not drop a league game this year. The Eagles capped their first 5-0 league season since 1989 with a blowout win Friday against rival Costa Mesa. The 1989 Eagles lost in the first round, which could happen to the current Estancia squad.

Beckman ran the ball well against Estancia, gaining 261 yards in the first meeting and it slowed down tailback Robert Murtha, Estancia's sophomore sensation. Murtha recorded only 68 yards on 24 carries against the Patriots, 89 yards fewer than his per-game average.

Bargas expects Beckman to stack the line again to stop Murtha, who has rushed for 1,570 yards and 19 touchdowns.

"We're going to have to throw the ball a little more, spread them out," Bargas said.

The odds are against Estancia, which last won a first-round playoff game 30 years ago. The Eagles have gone 0-9 in the playoffs since.

Newport Harbor, under Coach Jeff Brinkley, has enjoyed the most postseason success locally with three section titles and 33 playoff victories since 1986.

The Sailors have upset on their minds against another Serra League team. Newport Harbor pulled one off in the first round in 2007, when it won, 7-3, at Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks.

That playoff victory was the Sailors' last. Newport Harbor is getting healthy at the right time. Junior Buzzy Yokoyama is running like he did at the start of the season before a knee injury sidelined the tailback for three games. In the Sailors' playoff-clinching win against Fountain Valley on Friday, Yokoyama gained 221 yards, his third 200-yard game of the season

Quarterback Austin Rios is back on track after suffering a concussion in the middle of the season.

Sage Hill should be prepared for its second straight postseason berth with Coach J.R. Tolver at the helm.

The Lightning lost at home last year to Grace Brethren, its third straight first-round exit.

Senior Taylor Ross leads Sage Hill with a school-record 1,766 yards and 25 touchdowns rushing this season.

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