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Orange Lutheran ends slide with win over Santa Margarita — Top 10 SoCal high school football games roundup (10/6/2023)

TJ Lateef makes big plays, lifting Lancers to 28-21 victory; Mater Dei, St. John Bosco win handily to set up Titanic tilt; Big wins for Vista Murrieta, Burroughs, St. Francis, Newbury Park, Valencia, Rancho Cucamonga, Damien and Dymally

Here's a rundown of results from the Top 10 Southern California games SBLive/Sports Illustrated picked to start the week for games Oct. 5-7.  



10. Vista Murrieta 31, Chaparral 24

vista murrieta football

Vista Murrieta celebrates another score (file photo)

Bryson Beaver opened the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Sean McCullough and the Broncos were on their way to a hard-fought win. Alexander Vega (1-yard run), a Beaver 25-yard strike to Brody Guinn and 49-yard pass to McCullough were the other touchdowns for the Broncos, who improved to 6-1. 

Pregame: Last season, Chaparral came alive during league play like few other teams in SoCal, turning heads with a second place finish in the Big West - Upper. After Murrieta Valley's Week Five upset of San Clemente, the only team to beat Chaparral this season besides Corona Centennial, Chaparral is no longer the incumbent favorite to win second place. But the Pumas still have a solid chance to do what they did last regular season – finish on a four-game tear – for a silver medal.

However, beating Vista Murrieta (5-1) will likely be a harder task than last year, when Chaparral pulled out a 28-20 win. This time, the Pumas have home field advantage, but Vista Murrieta is resurgent coming off a 49-27 win over Norco. On paper, the Broncos are in a good position to have the type of run Chaparral had last year, and it would have to start with an upset on the road this Friday.

9. Burroughs 32, Muir 27

The visiting Bears outscored Muir 19-6 in the second half to take the highly competitive contest. A Chris Kulikov touchdown pass to Ryan Hernandez gave Burroughs a 25-21 lead late in the third quarter. The Bears would never relinquish it, though Christian Bozeman scored on a 23-yard run with seven minutes to go to close to 32-27. Muir got the ball one more time to take the lead, getting the ball to the Burroughs 1. But Muir turned the ball over on downs to end it. 

Pregame: In 2022, Burroughs and Muir both finished second in the Pacific - Upper rankings with a 3-2 league record. Burroughs upset Muir 35-25 in Week Eight to snap a five-game skid in the matchup, but took an upset of its own in Week 10 with a 30-27 loss to Burbank. This time, reigning league champion Pasadena is not a factor after last week's 62-0 bludgeoning by Burroughs, which means this game is likely a league title match. Muir is coming off an outstanding league debut itself, a 34-6 rout of Crescent Valley, and would be called the favorite by many despite last year's loss. Either way, both teams have reasons to like their chances to earn a Pacific League title this week.

8. St. Francis (La Cañada) 28, Paraclete 21 (2 OT)

As good as advertised, a 1-yard sneak by John Sanders gave St. Francis a 28-21 lead in the second overtime. The Golden Knights recovered a fumble on Paraclete's possession to end it. 

Pregame: There's a strong argument to make that St. Francis stands alone as the team to beat in the Angelus League after last week's 26-21 win against Loyola. St. Francis, Loyola, and St. Paul tied for first in the conference at 4-1 apiece last season, and St. Paul looks like an underdog to repeat despite last week's beatdown of Crespi because star quarterback Andrew Maushardt is reportedly out for the season due to a recent injury. That means St. Francis can come fairly close to clinching a league title this week, which would effectively secure a promotion to the prestigious Mission League.

But don't count out unbeaten Paraclete, a clear underdog but a potent one. The Spirits went 1-9 last season (1-4 in league play) but have turned a new leaf, holding opponents to under nine points per game in their 6-0 start. Upsetting St. Francis would be a tall task, but if they can score a couple of times early in the game, there's a real chance. And that would vault Paraclete straight to the top of the conference title race.

7. Mater Dei 42, JSerra 0

Nothing was going to slow Mater Dei, which got four touchdown passes from Elijah Brown (20 of 22, 329 yards) and TD runs from 4-star backs Jordon Davison (20 yards) and Nate Frazier (57 yards), to win going away. The Mater Dei defense did the rest while improving to 7-0 and 2-0 in Trinity League. See story

Pregame: On paper, Mater Dei is such a heavy favorite that this matchup wouldn't usually make the countdown. But last regular season, JSerra became one of the only teams in the country besides St. John Bosco to give the Monarchs a run for their money in recent years, ultimately losing a defensive duel 21-13 at home. The teams met again in the CIFSS Division 1 quarterfinals with Mater Dei holding home field advantage, and the Monarchs made a statement with a 54-14 win.

This time, Mater Dei is again at home, and it knows just what kind of a threat JSerra poses if Mater Dei gives its foe life. JSerra is coming off a monumental 24-14 win over Orange Lutheran, making it a good time to take another shot at the top team in not only the conference but the country. Look for both teams to come out extra motivated to make a statement after last year's pair of outcomes.

6. Newbury Park 35, Agoura 14

Shane Rosenthal had three touchdown catches and two interceptions leading the Panthers to a three touchdown victory. 

Pregame: Very few teams outside of the Trinity League make the countdown three weeks in a row during any given season, so Newbury Park, welcome to the club. The Panthers entered 2023 as the Canyon League favorite and outdueled rival Thousand Oaks 54-42 in Week Five. But their conference title hopes took a massive hit last week as they fell to Moorpark in a light upset, which sets up a particularly intriguing match against unbeaten upstart Agoura, which is now 6-0 (2-0) following a 1-9 (0-6) campaign in 2022.

Agoura is still an underdog this week despite beating Camarillo 34-27 and Oak Park 46-19, but no one can count out the Chargers. If Agoura does win, it still has Moorpark and Thousand Oaks on the schedule, but a victory here would cement Agoura as a conference title contender – and one of the best stories of the year no matter how those games go.

5. Valencia 42, West Ranch 14

A 65-yard pick 6 by Isaac Shin started a 28-0 run in the first quarter for Valencia, which cruised from there. Mason Bitting added a 65-yard touchdown reception and Brady Bretthauer a 2-yard TD run to go up 28-0. Another defensive touchdown, a 65-yard scoop and score by Nick Seymour made it 35-0. 

Pregame: Whereas most of the games on this list merely have league title "implications", this one is almost certainly a clear-cut league championship. And it features two programs who're quite used to facing each other with a league title on the line. West Ranch is coming off an undefeated regular season in which Valencia was one of just two teams to play the Wildcats down to one score. They found themselves in dire straits last week, trailing 17-0 at halftime to Hart, before winning the third quarter 28-0 and the game 42-25. West Ranch will be the heavy underdog to resurgent Valencia, but history says it wouldn't be a year of Foothill League action without at least one big upset.

4. Rancho Cucamonga 35, Etiwanda 7

Etiwanda and Rancho Cucamonga shake hands before last season's game. 

Etiwanda and Rancho Cucamonga shake hands before last season's game. 

Trey Wilson rushed for touchdowns of 5 and 6 yards and Tahj Crutchfield added a 15-yard scoop-and-score to lift Rancho Cucamonga to a 21-0 lead early in the third quarter. Etiwanda could never recover. Jonah Dawson added a 25-yard touchdown run Wilson added his third rushing TD, an 11-yarder, as the host Cougars improved to 7-0 while Etiwanda dropped to 6-1. 

Pregame: In recent years, these teams haven't often been evenly matched, as Etiwanda's 2021 league title was its first since 2009. But when Etiwanda is good enough to pose a real threat to its crosstown nemesis – which it currently is – this ends up being one of the best league rivalry games in the Southern Section. Etiwanda's 2021 title win, 30-28 in a thriller, was a great example of that, with the atmosphere to accompany it.

Rancho Cucamonga responded last year with a 21-6 win and a clean sweep of the Baseline League, and is the favorite to repeat. But expect Etiwanda to bring its A-game. Especially after picking up its first loss of the season last week to Chino Hills, which means another loss ends its league title hopes.

3. Damien 34, Chino Hills 7

The perfect season for the Spartans continue as they scored the final 34 points of the game after Chino Hills took a 7-0 lead. A 15-yard TD pass from Aaron Escarcega to Isaiah Arriaza tied the score midway through the first and then a 2-yard TD run by Zachary Eguia put the Spartans up for good early in the second quarter. Escarcega showed off his versatility with a 22-yard pick 6 to make it 21-7. Two field goals by Preston Yado and an 80-yard TD run by Jordan Young put the icing on the proverbial cake. 

Pregame: Staying in the bloodbath known as the Baseline League, this game is not one that anyone would've pegged as a potential title game six weeks ago. But there's a chance that's what's happening here, as Chino Hills (5-2) stunned Etiwanda in overtime last week and Damien enters 7-0. If last week was a fluke, Chino Hills is probably in for a tough time, but Week Six is often the week when late bloomers emerge as legitimate. If that's the case for the 2023 Huskies, then this one should come down to the wire.

2. Dymally 36, Crenshaw 27

Dymally football's (L-R) Milton Catching, Tramonte Lowe, Bryant Collins, Jermaine Whiten.

Dymally football's (L-R) Milton Catching, Tramonte Lowe, Bryant Collins, Jermaine Whiten.

A 61-yard touchdown pass from Jermaine Whiten to Travon Jackson gave Dymally a 21-14 lead, before Donce' Lewis fired a 5-yard TD pass to Roberto Salazar to tie the game 21-21 at halftime. From there, the Challengers took control getting a field goal just before the half. A lewis to Dion Odom TD pass gave Crenshaw a 27-24 lead, but 14-yard rushing touchdown by Bryan Collins late in the third quarter gave Dymally the lead for good. Whiten to Jackson, this one a 16-yard touchdown, put on the finishing touches. Dymally improved to 6-1, 2-0 while Crenshaw dropped to 5-2 and 1-1. 

Pregame: Even in 2021, when Dymally broke out for a program-defining 9-1 campaign, practically no one would've guessed that they'd be entrenched in the spotlight within two years. But that's what's happening, as the Challengers (5-1) make the countdown for the second time in three weeks looking to make City Section history, having a real chance at a title in their first year in the Coliseum League. To do it, they'll need to beat one of the longest-established LACS powerhouses, Crenshaw, which is also 5-1 with a close loss to another City Section Open Division contender. It's anyone's game on Friday, and for all the marbles.

1. Orange Lutheran 28, Santa Margarita 21

TJ Lateef

TJ Lateef made all the big plays leading Orange Lutheran to a big win over Santa Margarita on Friday.

After three straight losses, Orange Lutheran (4-3, 1-1 Trinity League) found its footing, as TJ Lateef threw two touchdown passes and Steve Chavez added a 35-yard touchdown jaunt to go up 28-7 late in the third quarter. Santa Margarita made a game of it as Trent Mosley scored on a 2-yard run just before the end of the third quarter and John Gazzaniga, who was on Orange Lutheran's team to start the season, scored on a 14-yard run. That cut the lead to 28-21 with 3:10 remaining. But a long pass from Lateef to Logan Gutierrez helped put the game away. 

Pregame:  In a Trinity League contest at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, one would be hard-pressed to name a matchup that will produce a thriller than this. 

The last time Santa Margarita and Orange Lutheran played that the game was not tightly contested was 2016, when Santa Margarita won 23-7. Since then — not including a forfeit/cancellation in 2020-21 due to COVID-19 in which Santa Margarita was credited with a win — the final scores have been 38-31, 39-37, 28-14, 35-28, and 28-26, with Orange Lutheran winning three out of five. The 35-28 game was likely the best of the bunch, as Santa Margarita overcame a 21-7 deficit to win in the final minutes. Even the lone two-score game of that bunch essentially came down to the wire, as Santa Margarita nearly tied the game at 21-21 in the fourth quarter of its 2019 loss before getting stopped at the goal line and giving up a touchdown shortly before time expired.

Last year's battle was epic, and proved to be a big part of OLu's coming out party of a season, as the Lancers held off a two-point conversion with 17 seconds left to win 28-26. And the teams look evenly-matched again in 2023. Both are coming off stinging losses, as Orange Lutheran fell 24-14 to JSerra and Santa Margarita got obliterated 42-7 by St. John Bosco in a game some thought would be less lopsided. This game isn't for a league title, but it's still one of the biggest of the year for both contestants. You know what that means – get your popcorn.

– Lance Smith |