Starting the high school football week in Orange County with notes, comments and observations …

1. The “other” game of the week. Yes, Friday’s CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals look delicious. Los Alamitos, with its Malachi Nelson-led offense, against national No. 1 Mater Dei; red-hot Mission Viejo against national No. 2 St. John Bosco.

Corona del Mar vs. Yorba Linda in Division 3 might be more fun, and more competitively balanced, than any semifinals game this week.

Corona del Mar is 9-3 and No. 11 in the Orange County Top 25. Yorba Linda is 12-0 and No. 8 in the rankings.

That matchup of public school standouts is, as they say in boxing, a contrast of styles. Corona del Mar has a pass-first offense, Yorba Linda tends to favor keeping the ball on the ground.

Corona del Mar wide receiver Jack Loucks hauls in a pass in the first quarter against Ayala in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 3 football playoffs at Newport Harbor HS in Newport Beach on Thursday, November 3, 2022. (Sam Gangwer, Contributing Photographer)

“We have more of a balanced attack,” said Yorba Linda coach Jeff  Bailey. “We’re playing physical football and we’ve got a bend-don’t-break defense. Corona del Mar is more aggressive on defense and they throw it around pretty good.”

Corona del Mar coach Dan O’Shea said of Yorba Linda, “They have a 1990s-style of offense, and I mean that as a compliment.”

2. They have a better chance than most might think. Los Alamitos and Mission Viejo are capable of creating major upsets.

Los Alamitos can beat Mater Dei if the Griffins get some turnovers and give Nelson that extra half-second needed to get his receivers open. They have to match touchdowns with Mater Dei, which of course nobody has done yet.

Mission Viejo can pull the upset over St. John Bosco if the Diablos can take an early lead. Reduce Bosco’s confidence and then start attacking on defense to go in for the kill.

3. Win it for Rollo. For Mater Dei players, the rival school is St. John Bosco. But because they know how much beating Servite means to coach Bruce Rollinson, the Monarchs do get fired up to play the Friars.

The talent on the Mater Dei roster is enough to win another CIF championship; last week’s announcement that this is Rollinson’s final season provide a bonus infusion of motivation.

4. OC strong. Last season’s CIF-SS football semifinals included 11 Orange County teams. This year the county has 13 teams in the semis: Corona del Mar, Cypress, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Los Alamitos, Mater Dei, Mission Viejo, Newport Harbor, Northwood, Orange, Western, Whittier Christian and Yorba Linda.

5. They can win a close game. Western went 5-0 in the Orange League with an average margin of victory of 52 points. That did not soften the Pioneers. Their two closest wins of the season have been in the Division 7 playoffs. They had to grind out a 21-20 win over Buena in the Division 7 first round before getting a 26-14 win over ML King in the second round.

6. Pounding the Panther Pride. Orange averages 211 yards rushing a game. The Panthers rushed for 356 yards in last week’s 31-18 win over San Juan Hills in a Division 6 quarterfinal.

7. Northwood, again. The Timberwolves won the Division 12 championship last season. They are in the Division 8 semifinals this week. Northwood is not a county Top 25 team, but the Timberwolves do beat teams of their ilk. That’s why it is fine to have 14 football playoff divisions. Being the champion of your category is worth celebrating.

8. Hand it to Harper. Northwood senior running back Adam Harper averages 179 yards rushing a game and 8 yards a carry. He has carried the ball 242 times and has lost only one fumble. He probably was handing the ball to the ref too soon.

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9. He finds a way. Cypress senior quarterback Aidan Houston has passed for 2,739 yards and 26 touchdowns. He has rushed for 995 yards and 19 touchdowns. Houston might not get the spotlight as often as the Centurions spectacular-play guys Matt Morrell at receiver and Trevor Monteleone at receiver and safety, but Houston is the most valuable player on that team.

10. Working up an appetite. Teams that win this week will practice the morning of Nov. 24. A thankful Thanksgiving, indeed.