No, this isn’t a list of the biggest games during the first few weeks of the 2019 high school football season in the state. We go over all of those in the weekly rankings. This is a look at those games in which we’ll be attending for Cal-Hi Sports.
Where we go (or more specifically myself sometimes with a photographer, sometimes not) is always a hard choice. We have to consider travel costs, if it’s a game between two teams from different CIF sections, whether it’s a game that can be partnered with another game or if it’s a game that can be matched with a trip for a family or personal reason. We also look at the impact a game might have on the state rankings (both overall at the top with the big dogs and then later for possible CIF bowl matchups). We don’t go to very many of the much-hyped matchups that would impact national rankings because on those nights we’d rather be covering two California teams against each other.
For the first few weeks of this season, here’s where you might find an old dude with glasses wearing a black polo shirt with the CalHiSports.com logo on the front:
Friday, Aug. 23 — Centennial (Corona) at Mater Dei (Santa Ana). This one could set the tone for the rest of the season. If the Monarchs, ranked No. 1 in the state and going for a third straight CIF Open Division state title, win comfortably over the Huskies (ranked fourth in the state and the last public school to be State Team of the Year back in 2008) then we’re probably in for the third straight season of Mater Dei and St. John Bosco rolling over everyone in Southern California (other than when playing each other) with the winner of the CIF Southern Section Division I title (doesn’t matter which one) then being a big favorite probably over De La Salle of Concord once again for the state title. If Centennial gets close or wins, then obviously that will be a big development from a competitive equity standpoint. Unless Bosco turns out to be much better than either one. It also was attractive to hit this game on the opening weekend because of a second game (see below) that could be seen the next night on the way back to our NorCal home base in Stockton. Finally, we just haven’t seen Centennial in a couple of years and that’s too long.
Saturday, Aug. 24 — Narbonne (Harbor City) at Buchanan (Clovis). What did we say about intersectional matchups? You can’t get better than the preseason No. 1 from the L.A. City Section — Narbonne — playing at the preseason No. 1 (at least according to our rankings) from the Central Section — Buchanan. We also have visiting Gauchos at No. 5 in the state to start with the host Bears at No. 12. Narbonne is a team loaded on defense and in the skill positions with D1 college prospects similar to Mater Dei or St. John Bosco. There is an L.A. Unified investigation hanging overhead, though, and it’ll be interesting to see up close who’s playing, who’s not, and how it all might effect the players. Buchanan will counter with a great home crowd and perhaps the No. 1 running back in the nation, Kendall Milton, who has committed to Georgia. That Narbonne defense isn’t going to let Kendall do that much, so the key to the game will be if Buchanan’s other players can come up with something.
Friday, Aug. 30 — Corona del Mar (Newport Beach) at St. Francis (Mountain View). For this day, another intersectional matchup caught our attention. We weren’t going to go to SoCal two weeks in a row, but one of the top SoCal teams (Corona del Mar of Newport Beach) is coming up to the Bay Area on this night to play at St. Francis. Corona del Mar has some record-breaking players that would be great to see in person, especially receiver John Humphreys and quarterback Ethan Garbers. St. Francis has some major rebuilding to do after last year but does still have some physical beasts up front (preseason all-state Mose Vavao among them) and could have success against CdM by just pounding it all night with a ball control attack. Humphreys is going to college at Stanford (known for the Tree) so he better check out the one at St. Francis’ home field because he’ll never play in front of one like that again.
Saturday, Aug. 31 — Pittsburg at Serra (San Mateo). This is one is still a maybe because Pitt is playing on Friday of this week at St. Mary’s of Stockton. The Pirates have a lot of holes to fill while St. Mary’s has a lot of returning talent. Still, Pitt won 48-7 when these two played last year. If Pitt wins, we’d clearly be going to Serra the next day after St. Francis vs. Corona del Mar (and would likely book a room near St. Francis). But if Pitt loses, it’s possible we might skip the overnight stay and trip.
Friday, Sept. 6 — Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) at Placer (Auburn). We knew the highlight of this weekend was going to be the three games played on Saturday at James Logan High in Union City as part of the annual Honor Bowl. Anyone who likes high school football at all should go to the Honor Bowl at least once. You’ll get a lump in your throat at some point (or more) guaranteed. The problem was where to go the night before. Another overnight trip wasn’t going to be in the cards so we had to search a bit. The one we settled on was the Cardinals at the Hillmen. Two of the top teams from what we’d call “medium schools” in Northern California. Always love to see what Newman head coach Paul Cronin has cooked up when he has a dual-threat QB like Jackson Pavitt. Placer will counter with a big, strong offensive line plus 6-foot-3, 230-pound running back Hans Grassman. Want to see Hans and where he might play at next level.
Saturday, Sept. 7 — Three games at the Honor Bowl (James Logan High, Union City). The tripleheader begins at 12 noon with Campolindo (Moraga) vs. Amador Valley (Pleasanton). The next game will be the host Colts playing Heritage (Brentwood). The capper also is the big one. Preseason state No. 14 Liberty (Brentwood) meeting a Clayton Valley (Concord) squad that is always among the best in the East Bay. The Ugly Eagles can really be great with a top running back and they have one in Mehki Gervais.
Friday, Sept. 13 — De La Salle (Concord) at Folsom. It’s not going to matter what happens when the Spartans host St. Thomas Aquinas of Florida in first game. This is still perhaps the best chance of the team’s legendary unbeaten streak against teams north of Fresno (some call that NorCal, but we don’t) to come to an end this season. This also makes it possible for us to see No. 1, No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, No. 8, No. 12 and No. 14 in the first few weeks of the season. No. 2 St. John Bosco will have to be missed until we think about going down to the first its two likely games vs. Mater Dei.
Friday, Sept. 27 — De La Salle (Concord) at St. Mary’s (Stockton). Notice that we don’t have any other games listed after the 13th. That’s because we have a pending closure of our Stockton office space that is supposed to be completed on the 14th. Don’t worry, we’re fine. Other issues have caused this decision and as just about any free-lance journalists will tell you working at home or remotely can be fun. We are listing DLS at St. Mary’s, though, because we always take advantage of the Spartans basically playing down the street. By seeing DLS at Folsom and at St. Mary’s, this also means we almost for sure won’t be going to a game this season at Owen Owens Field in Concord.
Enjoy the first weekend, everyone.