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CIF Playoff Preview: Vista Murrieta Takes on Damien Spartans

The Broncos (5-5) meet the Damien Spartans (7-3) for a first-round playoff game at 7 p.m. Friday at home.

The Broncos bring their 5-5 record and undefeated season into the this Friday.

Vista Murrieta’s Coach Coley Candaele runs one of the best high school football programs in the state and is looking to bring the CIF championship home. First up: the Spartans from Damien High School in La Verne.  

The Spartans finished the regular season with a record of 7-3 and are ranked 121st in the state. They averaged 32 points, 136 yards passing and 185 yards rushing per game.  

Damien is an all-boy’s Catholic school and the team is coached by Greg Gano.   Damien’s offense is led by quarterback Gage Pucci who threw for 1,279 yards and 15 touch downs this year. His favorite receivers are Josh Sage and Andy Sherwood. Running back Jalen Castle ran for 1,181 yards for the Spartans.  

On defense, look for Alex Hernandez to give the Broncos trouble. He led the Spartans with five sacks. 

Other standouts are Travion Boykins who had 42 tackles while Alex Arevalo had three picks and 42 tackles.  

Coach Candaele’s Broncos have averaged 33 points per game. They have passed for 116 yards and run for 213 yards per game. Quarterback Nick Stevens threw for 1,036 yards and 10 touchdowns during the regular season. He also ran for 580 yards.

Vista Murrieta is blessed with outstanding running backs: Su’a Cravens ran for 354 yards and seven touchdowns while Aaron Piecukonis added 554. Junior Kei-Ron Long also rushed for 178 yards.  

The Broncos have one of the toughest defenses in Southern California. Ten defensive players contributed to 16 interceptions that resulted in 248 yards returned.  

Vista Murrieta also had 30 sacks, half of them contributed by Bryce Smith, Jeremy Castro and Tyler Cook with 5 each.  

Defensive back Darion Williams rounds out a very quick and talented defensive unit.  

Game time is 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at Vista Murrieta High School. Get there early as the CIF games are usually packed. Come out and support the Broncos in their bid for the CIF Championship.

--Contributed by Charles Mckee

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