We still have five CIF sections to finish the regular season (Central Coast, North Coast, Northern, SF & Oakland), but it’s not too early to start thinking about potential matchups for this year’s CIF Northern California and Southern California regional football championships. It’s almost boring at the top with the way that Mater Dei, St. John Bosco and De La Salle are rolling so the real fun part is down below. That’s especially true now that a bunch of potential SoCal championship teams are all moving up with Narbonne of Harbor City no longer in the CIF L.A. City Section playoffs.
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Note: For these bowl projections, we are using the team that is either seeded first or ranked highest in our own state rankings as the placeholder for that section’s playoff champion. This year, the CIF will no longer be considering runner-ups in a so-called Open Division. This has a much bigger impact in the north than in the south since the sections sending Open Division runner-ups were from the CCS and NCS (although L.A. City also was doing it). Only section champions are eligible to be in a CIF regional championship. The CIF also has the option of using any three teams from the CIF Central Section in the north or south. We used the same distribution as last year for these possible matchups but it could be different.
Mater Dei of Santa Ana (CIFSS D1) 10-0 vs. De La Salle of Concord (NCS D1) 9-1
Comment: No brainer choice that would only switch in the case of Mater Dei losing in the CIFSS D1 final to St. John Bosco. Both of those teams heavily favored to get that rematch. De La Salle, which owns a win over Folsom, might even be more heavily favored to win its section title.
Folsom (SJS D1) 9-1 vs. Central of Fresno (Central Sec D1) 10-0
Helix of La Mesa (SD Open) 9-1 vs. Corona del Mar of Newport Beach (CIFSS D3) 10-0
Comment: Folsom is two-time defending state champ in this division. If both Central and Serra of San Mateo are unbeaten section champions, that’s a tough choice to see which one plays Folsom (a big favorite in its section). Narbonne of Harbor City pretty clearly would have been this high if it hadn’t been removed from the L.A. City Section Open Division. Helix or whichever team wins San Diego Open is likely D1-AA. We’re listing CdM because if it wins out and gets to 14-0 we think it has played a strong enough schedule to be ranked higher than Sierra Canyon (top seed for CIFSS D2) even though it would be winning in D3.
Serra of San Mateo (CCS D1) 9-0 vs. Rocklin (SJS D2) 7-3
Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth (CIFSS D2) vs. Culver City (CIFSS D5) 10-0
Comment: The team in the CCS D1 vs. Central Sec D1 choice that isn’t in D1-AA would be next in D1-A. Choosing the next team might be the toughest selection for the entire NorCal board. We just don’t think McClymonds should be moved all the way to D1-A from D4-A last year. Rocklin has played Folsom (42-20 loss) and beat Oak Ridge on its best showings. We’d assume the Thunder would have to play like that to win the SJS D2 title so we’re putting them higher than Mack and higher than the next team in line from the Central Section. This might be too high for Culver City, but in our rankings we have them ahead of Palos Verdes (head-to-head win) and we are currently listing Palos Verdes from CIFSS D4. Win over Lawndale also is big for the Centaurs since Lawndale has a win over San Diego Section Open Division team Carlsbad.
McClymonds of Oakland (Oak) 8-0 vs. Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa (NCS D4) 8-1
Steele Canyon of Spring Valley (SD D1) 9-1 vs. Palos Verdes of PV Estates (CIFSS D4) 8-2
Comment: This one might have to get tweaked if Marin Catholic won the NCS D4 title instead of Newman since Mack already has a solid win over the Wildcats. Steele Canyon has lost only to Helix in a game it led 21-7 at halftime. If a team other than Palos Verdes wins CIFSS D4 title (Paramount is top seed) then it probably would be D1-A with CIFSS D5 winner moving down.
Hanford (Central Sec D2) 10-0 vs. Kingsburg (Central Sec D3) 10-0
Ayala of Chino Hills (CIFSS D6) 10-0 vs. San Pedro (LA City Open) 9-1
Comment: It seemed to work well for the CIF last year with two unbeaten Central Section teams playing each other in this division — San Joaquin Memorial and Tulare. Hanford and Kingsburg may give the CIF the opportunity to do it again. San Pedro is the top seed for the division that was going to be dominated by Narbonne. The Pirates’ only loss is to Narbonne. If another team wins the L.A. City Open, it probably wouldn’t be as high on the SoCal board as San Pedro.
Capital Christian of Sacramento (SJS D3) 8-2 vs. Campolindo of Moraga (NCS D2) 8-2
Bishop’s of La Jolla (SD D2) 10-0 vs. Serrano of Phelan (CIFSS D7) 10-0
Comments: Capital Christian is going for a repeat title in SJS D3 and would project one division higher than last year (mainly due to all of the CCS Open teams not being there this year). The Cougars may have to play Placer again in the final. In Campo’s NCS division, watch out for 5-5 Clayton Valley, which has lost its games to D1 opponents and still looks like a threat in that playoff grouping. Bishop’s features one of the top junior QBs in the nation, Tyler Buchner, but should have its hands full in its section bracket. Serrano is one of several CIFSS teams that could be 14-0 after the section playoffs. Hard to say which ones are best, so just going by the higher division numbers makes the most sense.
CCS D2 champion (Los Gatos 9th) vs. Oakdale (SJS D4) 7-3
Foothill of Tustin (CIFSS D9) 10-0 vs. Scripps Ranch of San Diego (SD D3) 10-0
Comments: With the new way that the CCS is going to put teams in divisions and do seedings (1 through 48, in order with hard cutoff lines) we’ve decided to grab the 9th team in section rankings and just use that team as a guide as to where the CCS champion in that division lands. Oakdale is not the top seed in SJS D4 (2018 CIF D5-AA champion Rio Linda is) but we would have put the Mustangs first after their win over Central Catholic of Modesto last Friday. If you’re looking to be inspired, a team to root for is Scripps Ranch. Head coach Marlon Gardinera has been battling an incurable disease for more than 10 years and his son, Nicholas, is one of the running backs on this year’s team. This division or D4-AA could be a good spot for Coach Gardinera and his team in the CIF state playoffs.
Las Lomas of Walnut Creek (NCS D3) 9-1 vs. Center of Antelope (SJS D5) 10-0
Oak Park (CIFSS D12) 10-0 vs. Crescenta Valley of La Crescenta (CIFSS D10) 10-0
Comments: Oak Park may be in a division lower in the CIFSS than Beaumont (D11) or Sunny Hills (D8) but we really like some of its wins (especially Simi Valley). And the CIF having the chance to choose a potential 14-0 vs. 14-0 matchup between schools not that far apart would be hard to pass up. Note that Oak Park isn’t even top seed in CIFSS D12 (El Monte).
West Valley of Cottonwood (Northern Sec D3) 10-0 vs. CCS D3 champion (Aptos 17th)
Washington of Easton (Central Sec D4) 9-1 vs. Sunny Hills of Fullerton (CIFSS D8) 8-2
Comments: West Valley and Paradise are both 10-0, but Paradise actually needs Sutter to beat Orland this week to clinch a section playoff spot. Sutter is a big favorite so we’d expect to see those three all in that bracket. Sutter (only loss to Cardinal Newman) also has a 40-0 win over Chico (favored in Northern Sec D2) so winner of this bracket will be highest on the NorCal board from that section. Like last year, we’d put the top three teams from CIF Central Section in the north and the next three in the south. Washington’s only loss is 20-13 to 10-0 Kingsburg (see above) and it has a 35-7 win over Yosemite of Oakhurst (that team’s only loss). Sunny Hills is from the same league (Freeway) as La Habra, which is one of the top seeded teams in CIFSS D2.
Encinal of Alameda (NCS D5) 9-1 vs. Chico (Northern Sec D2) 8-1
Beaumont (CIFSS D11) 9-1 vs. Santana of Santee (SD D4) 9-1
Comments: Encinal’s only loss is to McClymonds and the Jets just beat Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland 10-7 to win the West Alameda County Foothill League title. Second-year head coach Keith Minor (previously at St. Mary’s of Berkeley) just lost his mother so we were glad to see that. Speaking of second-year coaches, Jeff Steinberg at Beaumont falls into that category. He was previously at Rancho Verde and led the Cougars to their first 9-1 regular season since 1990.
Escalon (SJS D6) 9-1 vs. CCS D4 champion (Mountain View 25th)
Eagle Rock (LA City D1) 7-3 vs. Alhambra (CIFSS D13) 10-0
Comments: By falling down to D6 instead of D5, Escalon might have improved its NorCal and state title chances. Still, D6 in the SJS isn’t going to be that easy. In looking over the lineup of teams, we noticed that Alhambra and Eagle Rock are close competitively and geographically so matching them up would be a good idea for the CIF.
Kennedy of Richmond (NCS D6) 8-1 vs. CCS D5 champion (Santa Cruz 33rd)
Caruthers (Central Sec D5) 9-1 vs. Franklin of Los Angeles (LA City D2) 8-2
Comments: Kennedy just beat Salesian of Richmond 23-21 and its only loss is to El Cerrito (a team that Salesian beat). In the NCS expansion to seven divisions, the Eagles are one team that seems to have benefitted.
East Nicolaus of Nicolaus (Northern Sec D4) 8-1 vs. Salesian of Richmond (NCS D7) 8-2
St. Pius X-St. Matthias of Downey (CIFSS D14) 9-0 vs. Woodlake (Central Sec D6) 8-2
Comments: East Nic won’t be playing a team like McClymonds from two years ago or Hilmar from last year and should get a more competitive opponent this time around. St. Pius X-St. Matthias is only in its second year of restarting the program (formerly known from Pius X of Downey) and has had a great season so far under head coach Todd Butler.
Denair (SJS D7) 8-2 vs. Biggs (Northern Sec D5) 8-1
Marquez of Huntington Beach (LA City D3) 10-0 vs. Vincent Memorial of Calexico (SD D5) 9-1
Comments: Denair won the CIF D7-AA title last season and may get a chance to defend, except it looks like this time the Coyotes would have to win a NorCal game first. We are listing Biggs from the Northern Section D5 but the championship team in that division has opted out of the CIF bowl games for the past two years. Biggs could decide to play, though, if it wins that section title. The L.A. City D3 team traveled to Calexico to play Vincent Memorial last year for D6-A so if that matchup materialized again we’d think the L.A. City team would host this time.
Lincoln of San Francisco (SF) 6-1 TBD
Comments: The Mustangs don’t seem to be as strong as last year when they were 12-0* and beat Orange Glen (Escondido) in the D6-A state final. We have counted 28 possible section champs from the north and 27 from the south. If one of the 28 from the north opts out (like the last two years), we’d have an even number of 27 in both. If that doesn’t happen, then there could be at least one bye in the south.