The regular season is now a memory and playoff football has begun.
Mira Costa and Redondo Union football teams have both qualified and will face teams Friday, Nov. 8 in Division 6 that are among the best in Southern California’s Southern Section.
While anything can happen in the playoffs, the Mustangs and Sea Hawks face tough competitors in their first-round games. Both Oxnard Pacifica and Kaiser are playoff tested from a year ago. They have won the majority of their games the past two seasons and will be playing on their home fields.
The combined records of the two teams Mira Costa and Redondo Union will face in the playoffs are 19-1 this year and 44-5 over the last two years.
Costa's spirits high
Mira Costa recently defeated Redondo Union 35-14 in the Battle of the Beach. They finished second in the Bay League with a 4-1 mark and 7-3 overall. The Mustangs travel to take on Oxnard Pacifica.
The Tritons, who are coached by Mike Moon, are 9-1 overall. They finished in second place in the Pacific View League behind Oxnard. They are 20-3 the last two years and last year lost in the semifinals to South Hills, which went on to win the Division 6 title.
Mira Costa is prepared as they come off victory over their rivals.
“We’ve been working hard all season and now it’s finally time for the playoffs,” said Mira Costa senior Jackson Fischer. “We’re looking to take advantage of all the things we’ve learned throughout the season and put it to use in the playoffs. We’re coming off a big win against Redondo and our team spirits are high. We’re looking to bring this energy into our big game against Pacifica.”
Pacifica is a scoring machine and their defense is just as good.
They scored more than 60 points in a game five times and were held to less than 40 points all season just twice. Their lowest offensive output was 36 points as they scored 530 points on the season.
On defense, they had their league’s best allowing just 97 points. They had two shutouts and held opponents to seven points or less in seven of their 10 games. Only one team scored more than 14 points against them.
Costa's offensive lineman Hank Dunlap said the team's energy is the highest he's seen all season.
“We’ve already started analyzing Pacifica’s film and preparing for the first round," said Dunlap. "It’s going to be really important this week for us to be able to come out with energy after the long bus ride up to Oxnard, but I have no doubt we’ll be able to go up there and get it done.”
Quarterback Sam Whitney will be starting in his first postseason game.
“It was a great way to finish off the season and go into the playoffs with some momentum," said Whitney. "It will be a challenge playing on the road against Oxnard Pacifica, but we will prepare all week in practice and be ready.”
The winner will play Citrus Valley or Silverado in the quarterfinals the following week. The Division 6 championship is set for Nov. 29.
Redondo Union’s challenge might be even more daunting. The Sea Hawks, who finished 6-4 overall and in third place in the Bay League, will face unbeaten Kaiser, which is 10-0 and 24-2 over the last two seasons under head coach Bill Cardosi.
They were Division 8 champions last year and lost in the CIF-State Football Championships 3-A title game to Wilcox 41-27.
“This week we need to focus in getting back together and making plays when we need to and getting healthy for (tomorrow),” said Redondo Union senior Drew Wilson.
The Cats as they are called were Sunkist League champions and are impressive on offense and defense. Among teams in their league, they were tops in defense and one point behind the leading team on offense with 374 points for and 97 points against. They scored 40 or more points in five games. On defense, they had three shutouts and held opponents to a touchdown or less in seven games.
“Improving from last year is a step in the right direction," said Wilson, "but as a team we had higher expectations for ourselves.”
The Sea Hawks are going into their playoff game without their starting quarterback Daniel Webb, who suffered a concussion against Mira Costa.
Webb, a senior, said the Sea Hawks have been resilient despite multiple injuries suffered by various players.
"There have been so many players who have been forced into major roles on our football team," said Webb. "I couldn’t be more proud to have played with these guys this regular season.”
Alex Wunderli, junior, will likely be Webb’s replacement for the playoff game.
“We’ll lick our wounds and have to rebound quickly as we head into the first round of CIF playoffs,” said Redondo Union head coach Matt Ballard. “It’s week to week from now on, and we look forward to the challenge of playoff football.”
The winner will play San Jacinto or Apple Valley in the quarterfinals.