Regular season are one thing, but playoffs are a different beast. A team can be great during the year, then fizzle out when it really counts. Christian would have none of that. The #1 seed Christian Patriots are leaving their first playoff game the same way they left their last league game, undefeated. The Patriots moved to (11-0) after their 50-27 win over the #9 seed Hilltop Lancers. Christian will face #4 seed Lincoln next, fresh off the Hornet's wild victory against Santa Fe Christian.
Christian came out and executed their game plan against the Hilltop Lancers. All week the Lancers prepared for Joey Morones, but it was a combo of Tshombre Carter and Theo Goodwin that did them in. Goodwin needed only four grabs to do his damage, averaging over 25 yards per reception. Not only did Goodwin break the 100 yard thresh mark but also accounted for a touchdown.
Joey Morones was limited in the game plan as far as carries (eight), but still found the end zone twice. Morones lost in the PPR Silver Pigskin fan vote this week, but surely he will take team accolades over personal. Coach Matt Oliver has his team fixated on staying undefeated and ending #2 seed Bishop's undefeated season en route to a CIF Championship. Christian must first not overlook a dangerous Lincoln Hornet team with plenty of weapons of their own.
Hilltop had a great season and capped it off with a valiant effort in their last game of the 2016 season. The Lancers will finish (7-5) in what will be deemed a successful season, the first under new Coach Drew Westling. Gus Ferreira has established himself as the biggest threat in green and black. After a 1,000 yard season of double digit receiving touchdowns, Hilltop fans can't wait to see Ferreira's encore in 2017. They should however take a second to appreciate what they have accomplished in the first step in the next era of Hilltop football.
Here comes that age old question, is a bye week good or bad? For the undefeated #1 seed Christian Patriots it was great. Nothing is more grueling than a 10-game schedule, especially when a target has been upon them and their record for some weeks now. But, will the (10-0) Patriots come out rusty after having a week off? Well one thing is for sure, their opponent won't. The #9 seed Hilltop Lancers upset #8 seed Patrick Henry 41-14 last week to earn this Friday's matchup with the Christian Patriots. Hilltop (7-4) is in the midst of a three game win streak and looks like they would love to keep sending teams home early to think about turkey and pie for Thanksgiving instead of CIF playoffs.
Hilltop has not had the greatest history against the Christian Patriots. In two all time meetings the Lancers have fallen short on both occasions, the last a particularly lopsided 63-7 affair. That matchup was back in 2014.
Hilltop's offense has been near unstoppable at times this season. The Lancer's attack is so balanced it causes nightmares for defensive coordinators. In their win against Patrick Henry quarterback Alex Tejada had 281-yards passing while the team rushed for 242 total yards on the ground. Having a ground game led by Domonic Esparza and his 10 touchdowns has enabled Tejada to have the type of season he's having in 2016. Plain and simple, the Lancers feature something not many teams at this level do, balance.
A big reason why the Hilltop Lancers are on a 3 game win streak has been their defensive play as of late. The offense has been consistently good and produced this season but the defense has really picked up and has led Hilltop to outscore its opponents 117-37 during the streak. In their wins this season only one team has scored over 21 points. In other words, if you want to beat Hilltop you better put points on the board in bunches.
New England doesn't have the only Patriots who know how to get it done in big games. All time the Christian Patriots have a 19-7 playoff record (73% win percentage), that's pretty good folks. Christian High may not have Tom Brady, but they could very well have the high school equivalent of Bill Belichick in Coach Matt Oliver. Since 2004 the worst a Patriots team has done is 6-6. Beside five of those seasons being 2 losses or less, he won not one, not two, but three Championships (thanks Lebron). The word you're searching for right now is consistency. Oliver like Belichick is the definition.
Christian's offense has an identity and it's coming right for you, literally. Ground and pound is an understatement when you have a Silver Pigskin hopeful named Joey Morones in the backfield. Morones who has been a staple in the Patriot backfield for a couple years now has out done himself this season with 941-yards on 136 carries, that's 6.9 yards-per-carry. His biggest stat however is 22 touchdowns in 10 games and that has put him in Silver Pigskin conversations everywhere.
The Patriots offense is not all run all the time though. It would be a tremendous mistake to not account for dangerous wideout Theo Goodwin. Goodwin who is Odell Beckham-esque in his play can go to the house at anytime with the ball in his hands. The talented wideout has pulled in 48 receptions this year and turned those into 913-yards. In 10 games this season Goodwin has 11 touchdowns so like Odell Beckham, everyone is waiting to see what he can do in the playoffs.
Matchup of the Week: Hilltop passing game vs. Christian Patriots defense
Christian will focus on stopping the run game of the Hilltop Lancers and Domonic Esparza. That leaves the pressure squarely on Hilltop's passing game, namely team leader Alex Tejada. Tejada is having an amazing season accounting for 2,537 passing yards while completing 65% of his attempts. The Christian defense led by the quick pass rushing DE Garrett Rosenthal must make Tejada uncomfortable to try and force turnovers. Even with all the pressure in the world, Tejada is a great decision maker. Tejada boasts a 23 touchdown to 3 interception ratio, so don't expect him to start being reckless any time soon.