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CIF Southern Section 2019 Division 3 football bracket, quarterfinals preview

The CIF Southern Section Division 3 football quarterfinals kick off Friday. Here’s an inside look at the matchups.

The CIF Southern Section Division 3 football quarterfinals kick off Friday, Nov. 15. Here’s a look at the matchups:

Corona del Mar vs. Cajon

CdM keeps inching closer to the finish line of the dream season without any close calls. The Sea Kings haven’t faced anyone world class, but they’ve seen some outstanding teams in Palos Verdes, San Clemente, and Edison, and breezed by all of them. Cajon is going to be one of the best teams they’ve faced all year, but if they didn’t struggle with San Clemente, it’s hard to see Cajon giving them any trouble, as strong as the Cowboys are. Corona del Mar has one of the best passing attacks in the country with QB Ethan Garbers, WRs John Humphreys and Bradley Schlom, and TE Mark Redman, good for 3,711 total passing/receiving yards on the season.

Saying Cajon has very little chance isn’t much of a knock on them. They’re 9-2 with their only losses coming to nationally elite teams in Helix and Servite. It took a bit for the Cowboys’ offense to get off the ground, but QB Jonathan Calderon has really come on strong, and they have one of Division 3’s top rushing threats in sophomore RB Freddy Fletcher. Their defense has been excellent all year. Cajon is more than good enough to punish Corona del Mar if they take their feet off the gas, but they haven’t done that once this season and probably aren’t about to let up. 

Lawndale vs. Grace Brethren

While Corona del Mar is the heavy favorite to win Division 3, Grace Brethren is firmly in the discussion. Before they can start thinking about the likes of CdM, first they have to get through Lawndale, which is no small task. Lawndale is only a year removed from winning Division 3 and a state title. This isn’t the same Cardinals squad, but Grace Brethren better be ready for a fast team with a confusing wishbone offense and a hard-hitting defense.

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That said, Grace Brethren has the tools to match up. Between dual-threat QB Mikey Zele, star RB Josh Henderson, and a top WR in Nate Bennett, they’ve put points up on the board all season. The Lancers have a lot of size, both on the offensive line and in their tough front seven led by Soane Toia, who also plays some fullback. Lawndale will have their hands full, but still has the talent, athleticism, and championship pedigree to hope for an upset.

Alemany vs. Tesoro

Tesoro has had a strong year at 9-2, and it seems to be pretty clear who they are. In addition to a very strong defense, they feature a balanced offense led by steady QB Sean Lindgren, elite RB Zach Wran, and a great receiver in Justin Schafer. They don’t have the firepower to compete with top dogs like Mission Viejo and San Clemente, but they’ll take care of business against pretty much everyone else, including beating some solid teams by noticeable margins like San Juan Hills, Capistrano Valley, and last week, Cathedral.

However, Alemany is on the level of San Clemente, and is a clear step up from every team the Titans have beaten this season. Alemany is led by star QB Miller Moss, RB Floyd Chalk, and WR Kevin Green Jr. Is this the year for young Alemany to go all the way? Probably not, because they likely don’t have the defensive seasoning to match up with CdM if both teams win this week. First, the Warriors will have to get through Tesoro, against whom they’ll be the clear favorites, but Tesoro has a reasonable chance. 

La Habra vs. Edison

La Habra lost their third and fourth games of the season to Mission Viejo and Calabasas, in which there’s no shame, as neither were blowouts. Other than that, they’ve been spotless all year, with their best win coming on opening day against Upland. The only knock against them is that they play in a league filled with teams who couldn’t beat them in their wildest dreams. Edison will be the best team they’ve seen in months.

They should be up for the task though. The Highlanders are led by star QB and Penn-commit Ryan Zanelli, who’s thrown over 3,100 yards this season on an astounding 41 touchdowns to two interceptions. Kristopher Koontz and Brandon Vasquez form an excellent receiving tandem. La Habra also has a very strong defense, with a lot of quickness and great execution, led by one of the best defensive backs in the country in Clark Phillips.

Of course, Edison is a great team themselves, and they take on preseasons that include Orange Lutheran and San Clemente with postseason upsets like this in mind. Plus, they already have to see Corona del Mar in league every year, so there’s not much to be afraid of. Balance is the key for the Chargers, who have two rotation quarterbacks, a number of solid running backs, big front lines, and some speed in their secondary. Do they have enough firepower to upset La Habra? Probably not, but it wouldn’t be the most shocking thing ever.