A look at two of the top high school football playoff games in the Southland this week:
Lake Balboa Birmingham (5-5) at Venice (8-2), 7 p.m. Birmingham, the two-time defending City Section Open Division champs, hasn’t lost to a City Section opponent since 2017 to Fairfax. The Patriots are the underdog against a senior-dominated Venice team that has the City’s best quarterback in Paul Kessler and a strong defense that will try to slow down the Patriots’ rushing attack. The pick: Venice.
Los Alamitos (8-2) vs. Long Beach Poly (10-0) at Veterans Stadium, 7:30 p.m. The most anticipated Division 1 playoff game matches two exceptional offenses. Los Alamitos’ speed will be tested by a Poly defense that has recorded five consecutive shutouts. Running back Damian Henderson will be key to creating opportunities for quarterback Malachi Nelson. Poly quarterback Darius Curry gets to be in the spotlight with his terrific collection of receivers. The pick: Poly.
Mission Viejo (9-1) at Corona Centennial (9-1), 7 p.m. Mission Viejo needs to protect quarterback Kaden Semonza against an underrated Centennial defense. The game could turn into a shootout, and the Huskies don’t usually lose high-scoring games. The pick: Centennial.