By Steve Breazeale
The stage is set for one of the most anticipated small-school duels in the county to take place tonight at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School.
The Tartans, the reigning CIF-SS East Valley Division champions, will host crosstown rival Saddleback Valley Christian in the second round of the playoffs at 7 p.m.
The Capistrano Dispatch will be live tweeting the game from our Twitter account, @SouthOCsports.
Tonight’s game will serve as a re-match of the 2014 East Valley Division semifinals, when the Tartans prevailed over the Warriors 28-7 en route to claiming the CIF-SS title.
This year’s game has the potential to be a much closer contest.
The Warriors (11-0) are on a roll under first-year head coach Brendan Chambers’ guidance. The SVC offense is averaging just over 49 points per game and the defense is limiting opponents to an average of 15 points per game.
SVC touts a pair of dynamic running backs in Dalton Lohman and David Molina, who accounted for three touchdowns in the Warriors first-round win over Santa Paula. Quarterback Cade Henjum kept the offense humming and recorded five total touchdowns, four passing and one rushing, in the win.
The Tartans, who entered the playoffs as an at-large team, have a prolific offense of their own. St. Margaret’s quarterback George Krantz leads Orange County in passing touchdowns (41) and is averaging 297 yards per game through the air.
Krantz is surrounded by playmakers like senior receiver Nick Shanks, who is tied for the county lead in touchdown receptions with 18. Shanks has proven to be a versatile offensive weapon and also has 11 rushing touchdowns on the season.
In 2014, St. Margaret’s went undefeated on their way to the CIF-SS East Valley title, the CIF State Regional Division 4 Championship and an appearance in the CIF State Division 4 Championship. This year, the Tartans suffered two losses in the regular season and, after losing a coin flip that determined playoff seeding, had to face tougher competition in the first round of the playoffs. The Tartans’ road to the second round has been filled with more bumps than in years past.
The Warriors had a similar run in 2014, going undefeated until they ran into the Tartans in the semifinals. This year, they have followed the same winning blueprint that has put them in the spotlight with their crosstown rival.
The storylines may be slightly different this time around, but tonight’s re-match has all the makings to be a classic.