As is our tradition, we go through each of the 13 upcoming CIF state football championship games and provide a predicted final score. We think a lot of NorCal teams will be successful on the road and perhaps one of the biggest underdogs is team with six state titles in the last seven years.
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St. John Bosco 40, De La Salle 24
Since the first few weeks of the season, it’s been somewhat obvious of the wide gap between the Braves, league rival Mater Dei, CIF Southern Section rival Corona Centennial and everybody else in the state. The Spartans struggled early, losing once to an unbeaten eventual state champ from Utah and winning by only one point over Anaheim Servite and San Ramon Valley, but have looked great in last three wins. Has the improvement been enough? Probably not. Bosco just won by 14 over a Monarch team that in person was more impressive than DLS team we saw in person beat Monte Vista of Danville.
St. Mary’s (Stockton) 35,
Cathedral Catholic 28
Fans at Cathedral Catholic know this score very well because it was 35-28 when the Dons beat Narbonne last week, it was 35-27 when they beat Helix for the San Diego Open Division title and 35-28 when they beat Helix in the regular season. While there are concerns about the health of St. Mary’s receiver/secondary corps and the Rams can’t afford to play as sloppy as they did last week against Freedom (five turnovers), we think they’ll play more like they did the last time at Sac State (beat Folsom 56-25) and if they do they should win school’s first CIF state football title.
San Clemente 33, Del Oro 30
Yes, we know that the Golden Eagles have had an almost magical quality playing at Sac State (like last year when they took apart unbeaten Camarillo in the D2-AA state final), but this is a higher division and we just really like the road that the Tritons have taken to get this far. Del Oro has played teams as good and one team (Folsom) probably better than San Clemente, but hasn’t gone through a gauntlet like Heritage of Menifee (11-0 at the time), Valencia (has a 48-9 win over Bakersfield), Murrieta Valley (No. 10 in the state at the time) and Huntington Beach Edison (No. 11 in the state at the time).
Madison 29, Valley Christian (San Jose) 24
This one caused a lot of disagreement among us at the Stockton office. Reasons to like VC include wins over three teams still going for state titles (Campolindo, Pleasant Valley, San Mateo Serra) and a defense that gave no more than 14 points twice all year. But none of those teams are explosive Calabasas, the team Madison beat to win the SoCal crown. There’s also got to be good reasons why so many in San Diego thought the Warhawks were the top team around until they played Cathedral Catholic late in the regular season.
Serra (San Mateo) 42, Sierra Canyon 34
While it’s a battle of a four-loss Padres team against an undefeated Trailblazers team we will give the nod to the team from the super tough West Catholic Athletic League. Sierra Canyon actually will be playing a team currently ranked in the State Top 25 for the first time this season. Since opening the season 0-4 against some of the top teams in the state, including De La Salle of Concord, Valley Christian of San Jose and St. Mary’s of Stockton who will also both be in Sacramento this weekend, the Padres have won 10 straight led by dual-threat quarterback Sitaleki Nunn and we think he will be the difference in a high-scoring shootout.
Paraclete (Lancaster) 28, Menlo-Atherton 21
Playing at home at Antelope Valley College and having head coach Dean Herrington at the helm with all of his big-game experience plus how well the Spirits have been playing gives them the edge. Their win over a Mater Dei Catholic team that has been in the top five overall in San Diego and their win in the CIFSS D6 final over previous 13-0 Los Altos (Hacienda Heights) are both good signs as well. M-A had a lot of success against Manteca running the ball with Jordan Mims and Aajon Johnson. Since the Spirits just faced C.J. Verdell (going to Oregon), they should be well-prepared.
Oakdale 28, Bishop’s (La Jolla) 21
When the four teams north and south were slotted for this bracket, Oakdale stood out as a favorite since the other three teams were going to have to step up more to Oakdale’s usual level of competition than the other way around. Both teams are led by players in the middle of great seasons – RB Will Semone of the Mustangs and QB Jeffrey Jackson of the Knights. Bishop’s is basically playing at home and is unbeaten, but Oakdale just knocked off 13-0 Sutter and has a win over Central Catholic of Modesto, which basically won the state division that Bishop’s was in the last four seasons.
Campolindo 35, Bakersfield Christian 19
With the CIF Central Section down a bit this season we will once again go with the more battle tested team from the Bay Area despite the Cougars having to go on the road to Bakersfield for this game on Saturday night. In fact, one local historian tweeted it’s the first state final to be held in Bakersfield since 1923. Junior Braden Wingle has had a nice postseason and has now passed for over 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns this season but he will be tested by a Cougars defense that has not allowed more than 21 points in a game the last three weeks and has already faced several state finalists including Valley Christian of San Jose and Oakdale. Scoring at least 40 points in their three wins before last week’s 30-21 road win at Palma we see them breaking the 30 point mark once again with their defense again doing enough to get the win.
Pleasant Valley (Chico) 22, St. Anthony (Long Beach) 21
It’s going to help the visiting Vikings a lot that they got to play Milpitas coming into this game because St. Anthony has a lot of the same kind of speed that ordinarily isn’t seen in the CIF Northern Section. Two of PV’s losses are to teams still going – Valley Christian of San Jose and Del Oro and the VC contest was just 17-14. Saints QB John Buksa enters with 2,800 yards passing and 1,500 rushing with 51 combo TDs. Pleasant Valley QB Kyle Lindquist doesn’t have those kind of stats, but we’ve seen him and he’s got D1 possibilities. This looks like a toss-up with the X-factor perhaps being St. Anthony WR/DB B.J. Busbee. He can score on returns, pick sixes and on long pass plays.
Bishop O’Dowd (Oakland) 34, Valley View (Moreno Valley) 27
If the Dragons play like they did in their 27-7 win over Marin Catholic in the NCS D3 final, they might be okay even on the road against the Eagles. The problem is their second half against Capital Christian last week was questionable and their NCS semifinal win vs. Rancho Cotate needed a last-second field goal. Still, while Valley View has lit it up in the post-season behind QB Jacob Barlage (son of head coach Daniel Barlage) and RB Justin Keeling (2,000 yards), O’Dowd is a team with some legit D1 college talent. Jordan Jackson and Cooper Hagmaier at defensive end are beasts and Alijah Vera-Tucker is one of the state’s top offensive linemen. RB Austin Jones of O’Dowd also is one of the state’s top sophomores.
La Jolla Country Day 55, McClymonds (Oakland) 48
This looks like it could be the most high-scoring of the weekend state finals. The Mack offense will bring a lot of speed to San Diego County, led by junior QB Emoreea Fountain and senior RB Jerrell Alberty, but may not have faced the kind of offense that the Torreys have and the Warriors will have to do it 500 miles from home. QB Braxton Burmeister will head to the University of Arizona almost right after the game and will add on to his season rush-pass totals of 5,693 yards and 78 TDs.
Amador 27, Rancho Christian 22
It’s a ride of more than 400 miles for the Buffaloes, but it was even longer last year in this division when St. Bernard’s of Eureka went to Saddleback Valley Christian and won. Rancho Christian has home area advantage and has a head coach in Jim Kunau who’s won at the highest levels, including 2006 CIF D2 state title at Orange Lutheran. We’re not sure that’ll be enough against a foe that has slugged it out in a tougher league and has knocked off two unbeaten teams in its last three outings.
St. Patrick-St. Vincent 36, Strathmore 20
It’s not the two regional games that favor the Bruins, but some of the games beforehand, such as SPSV’s wins over Berean Christian and Fort Bragg in the North Coast Section and Strathmore’s 26-20 close call vs. Riverdale in the Central Section. If Spartans’ RB Joseph Garcia goes off again (he had 421 yds, 7 TDs last week), however, all bets are off.
Paul Muyskens contributed to this post. Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports