El Cajon, CA
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Articles by Phillip Brents

The 2016-17 NFL playoffs have kicked off and the initial 12-team field has been reduced to eight teams – four teams in each of the NFC and AFC playoff brackets – following last weekend’s wild card round.

Two divisional playoff games will be played on Saturday, Jan. 14, and two more on Sunday, Jan. 15, to further reduce the field to four teams.

Santana High School senior football player Devan Henselmeier received the 2016 Dr Pepper Most Inspirational Player Award during the recent National Funding Holiday Bowl. Henselmeier was presented with a $2,000 scholarship on the field during the college bowl game Dec. 27 at Qualcomm Stadium.

He was selected from a pool of San Diego county student-athletes to receive the award. The presentation took place during the first half of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers’ 17-12 upset win over the Washington State Cougars.

Exciting finishes are usually reserved for the National Funding Holiday Bowl but the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl upstaged its older sibling for once.

Wednesday evening, Dec. 21, at Qualcomm Stadium, the Brigham Young University Cougars held off the University of Wyoming Cowboys, 24-21, on an interception by BYU’s Kai Nacua after the Cowboys had driven to the Cougar 30-yard line in the dying moments of the game played before 28,114 fans.

The Washington State University Cougars and the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers will meet in the 39th National Funding Holiday Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 27. Kick-off is 4 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium.

Both teams are 8-4 on the season. The game will be televised by ESPN.

Washington State has seven San Diego County players listed on its roster, including four from East County.

A total of 12 East County wrestlers earned place-finishes at last weekend’s 46th annual El Cajon Invitational tournament. The event took place Dec. 16-17 at Eastlake High School in Chula Vista.

Steele Canyon Gerardo Jaime finished 4-1 to place second in his 220-pound weight class while Cougar teammate David Lipscomb finished 5-1 to place third in his 160-pound weight class.

Patrick Henry High School’s first-year roller hockey team was just a dream in early September but on Nov. 30, that dream became a reality as the Patriots skated in their first CIF-Metro Conference game against the defending Kiwanis Cup champion Westview Wolverines.

The Wolverines won 13-1 but head coach Chuck Russell felt his team had still earned a victory in its own right.

Valhalla High School alumnus Nick Kurtz will represent Brigham Young University when the Cougars collide with the Wyoming Cowboys in this year’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, set for a 6 p.m. kick-off Wednesday, Dec. 21, at Qualcomm Stadium.

BYU brings in an 8-4 overall record while Wyoming, runners-up to San Diego State University in this year’s Mountain West championship game, is 8-5.

Kurtz appeared in 10 games for the Norsemen in 2010 with 23 catches for 247 yards.

The Santana High School football team was making its first appearance in the San Diego Section football championships since 2011 and expectations were high, especially after the third-seeded Sultans roared to leads of 7-0 and 14-7 in the first quarter.

But the fourth-seeded La Jolla County Day Torreys and their record-setting quarterback Braxton Burmeister had other ideas as they rallied with 24 unanswered points to defeat the Sultans, 35-24, last Friday at Southwestern College’s DeVore Stadium.

The San Diego Section will hold its divisional football championship games this weekend at Southwestern College’s DeVore Stadium in Chula Vista. Among the 10 teams vying for titles are three East County squads: the Helix Highlanders (Open Division), Christian Patriots (Division III) and Santana Sultans (Division IV).

Third-seeded Santana (8-4) will take on the fifth-seeded La Jolla Country Day Torreys (10-3) and record-setting quarterback Braxton Burmeister on Friday, Dec. 2, at 3 p.m.

Helix High School alum Alex Smith’s stock had to rise considerably with the NFL Kansas City Chiefs following the Chiefs’ dramatic 30-27 overtime victory against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos in a key AFC West contest on NBC-TV’s national broadcast of “Sunday Night Football” on Nov. 27.

The win kept Kansas City (8-3) within one game of the division-leading Oakland Raiders (9-2) and promoted the Chiefs to the No. 1 wild card slot among AFC teams. Denver fell to 7-4 in the AFC West standings.