Friday NorCal/SoCal Regional Finals

Players from Ripon, including senior QB Nico Ilardi (holding plaque), were excited after earning CIF NorCal D4-AA title on Friday in Modesto. Photo: Mark Tennis.


Sierra Canyon impresses in SoCal D1-AA contest against Helix in matchup of top 10 state teams. The NorCal D1-AA matchup was much closer as state top 10 Central of Fresno needed a clutch fourth-down stop to hang on. We also had a battle of No. 1 and No. 2 in state small schools in which No. 2 Ripon was overwhelming against Sutter. Go inside for writeups and quick reactions for all of Friday’s games in the state. The big picture is always in our focus.

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Note: CIF Open Division state championship will be next Saturday at Cerritos College between state No. 1 St. John Bosco (Bellflower) and No. 3 De La Salle (Concord). CIF regional finals for the 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A and 6A divisions will all be played on Saturday. Teams with win-loss records showing an asterisk indicate forfeit wins/losses not included.

State Top 25 Ranked Teams Seasons Complete
No. 2 Mater Dei (Santa Ana); No. 4 Mission Viejo; No. 7 Centennial (Corona); No. 8 Servite (Anaheim); No. 11 JSerra (San Juan Capistrano); No. 12 Bishop Amat (La Puente); No. 14 Calabasas; No. 15 Narbonne (Harbor City); No. 17 Grace Brethren (Simi Valley); No. 18 Monterey Trail (Elk Grove); No. 19 Folsom; No. 20 Rancho Cucamonga; No. 21 Carlsbad; No. 22 Cathedral Catholic (San Diego); No. 23 Buchanan (Clovis); No. 24 Pittsburg; No. 25 St. Augustine (San Diego).

DIVISION 1-AA

North: Central (Fresno) 38, Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 32
After falling short in previous losses to Folsom the past two years in regional finals, the CIF Central Section D14 champions (14-0) got past the host Trojans. Playing without standout running back Quali Conley (ankle), the Grizzlies scored the go-ahead touchdown with six minutes left on a two-yard run by Jacob Jones. Oak Ridge had two chances to take the lead after that. On the second one, with less than a minute left, the Trojans were stopped on a fourth down and inches play at the 47-yard line. Central then ran out the clock. Oak Ridge (10-3*), the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D1 champion, rallied from a 32-21 deficit following a 51-yard interception return TD by Central’s Yebrell Emerson.

South: Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth) 38, Helix (La Mesa) 20
It’s obvious that the way in which the Trailblazers lost in last year’s CIF D1-A state final 19-17 to Liberty of Brentwood (giving up a fourth quarter lead) has left a bad taste in their mouths that only winning another state title this year will fix. They went down to San Diego as the CIF Southern Section D1-AA champions and put on a show against the CIF San Diego Section Open Division titlists. QB Chayden Peery went 16 of 18 passing for 215 yards and one TD while the Sierra Canyon defense gave up no first downs in the second half. The Trailblazers (14-1 and No. 10 in state) broke a 14-14 halftime tie on their first possession of the second half on a 13-yard TD run by sophomore Jason Jones Jr. Helix could only muster an 84-yard kickoff return TD by Christian Washington in the second half. The Highlanders (11-2) were No. 5 in last week’s State Top 25 and will take a big hit in the next rankings.

DIVISION 2-AA

North: Clayton Valley (Concord) 28, Elk Grove 26
This one appeared over when Elk Grove scored on a 22-yard run by Jeremy Crook with 4:54 left to take a 26-12 lead. The host Ugly Eagles, however, overcame the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D2 champs with two scores in the final 2:22. Jake Kern tossed a 40-yard TD pass to Rayshawn Jackson for the first TD and then after the Thundering Herd was stopped on a fourth down on its own 46-yard line in an attempt to run out the clock with first downs, Kern struck again on a 42-yard TD pass to Seth Gwynn. Elk Grove (10-5) still had a minute left, but its last series ended on an interception in the end zone by Clayton Valley’s Charlie Saylor. Both teams had moved into the lower part of the State Top 50 rankings (EG 47, CV 49). The Ugly Eagles (9-5 and the CIF North Coast Section D2 winner) will now be making their third CIF state title game appearance. The first two were losses in 2014 to Redlands East Valley (D2) and Narbonne of Harbor City in 2015 (D1).

South: Aquinas (San Bernardino) 24, San Juan Hills (SJ Capistrano) 10
In a matchup of the CIFSS D5 and D4 champions it was the D5 team that upended the squad from the higher competitive equity division. The Falcons (13-2), who should move up from their No. 45 State Top 50 ranking since they beat the No. 42 Stallions (11-4), received three rushing touchdowns from running back Terayon Sweet, including a huge one with just three seconds left in the first half that gave them a 14-10 lead. Aquinas will be making its first CIF state title game appearance. The Falcons have been to a regional final before, though.

DIVISION 3-AA

North: Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 42, Los Gatos 7
All of the scores from the weekend aren’t yet in, but it was thought when the CIF pairings were put out last Sunday that the Cardinals were too high in 3-AA and should have been higher. At least in their case that was correct. They rolled over the visiting Wildcats and will now look for their first CIF state title. Cardinal Newman (13-1) actually played in the first ever modern CIF state final with the first game in the 2006 finals in D3 against heavily favored Oaks Christian. It took overtime before head coach Paul Cronin’s club was vanquished. The school also fell in a 2008 matchup. Los Gatos (12-2 and the CIF Central Coast Section D2 champion) fell behind o 1-yard and 29-yard TD run by QB Jackson Pavitt. Junior Zack Moran also had a strong night for Newman with 21 carries for 134 yards and one TD. The Cardinals, who had to get a game-winning 34-yard field goal from Ethan Kollenborn to win the NCS D4 title 13-10 over Marin Catholic, were No. 43 in last week’s State Top 50.

South: El Camino (Oceanside) 34, Temecula Valley (Temecula) 18
It was thought that the Golden Bears from the CIFSS D7 playoff division might have an edge since they also come from one of the top leagues in the CIFSS (same one as Vista Murrieta, Murrieta Valley and others). But El Camino’s fury and passion from one of the best high school football cities in the state was too much. The Wildcats (CIF San Diego Section D2 winners) led 27-3 at the half and were ever threatened. Temecula Valley (12-3) only scored twice and both touchdowns were in the fourth quarter. Noah Sega was something else once again for El Camino as he scored on 18-yard and 1-yard runs and had a 71-yard interception return in that first half. The Wildcats (9-6) are known as the one-time long home of one of the winningest coaches in state history (Herb Meyer) and now they’ll try to make a name for themselves as a state champion in their first CIF state appearance.

DIVISION 4-AA

North: Ripon 31, Sutter 14
After the host Indians knocked off Center of Antelope in the CIF SJS D5 final, beating Sutter in a matchup of what we consider the top two small school teams in the state wasn’t that surprising. Even though Sutter had just one loss to Cardinal Newman and is the team that ended the dream season of Paradise (12-0 at the time) in the Northern Section D3 final, the Huskies were no match for Ripon. In next week’s small school rankings, the Indians (13-1) will be No. 1 and Half Moon Bay will move up to No. 2 with Sutter (No. 1 going in) dropping down. “We love being the underdog,” said Ripon senior quarterback Nico Ilardi, who rushed for two TDs and threw a pretty 56-yard TD pass in the first half to senior Brandon Rainer. “Center expected to beat us. It was huge for our confidence to win.” Danny Hernandez, who was our NorCal Defensive Player of the Week for his 12 tackles vs. Center, had 25 carries for 155 yards on offense in this game. Sutter kept things interesting in the first half on a fourth-down 22-yard touchdown run by Daniel Cummings and in the second half on a 85-yard fumble return TD by Kyle Watson. Ripon will be making its first CIF state title appearance. Both Escalon and Hilmar from Ripon’s Trans-Valley League have won state titles in other divisions.

Highland High head coach Richard Lear can be seen holding up trophy in mass of celebrants after team won CIF SoCal D4-AA title. Photo: Twitter.com.


South: Highland (Palmdale) 42, Selma 29
The host Bulldogs, who had to clear their field of snow when they hosted the CIF Southern Section D9 championship last week, held the visiting Bears scoreless in the second half to win a regional title. They improved to 12-3. Selma had won in an upset in its CIF Central Section D4 championship game over Washington of Easton. Its final record will be 11-3. RB Isaiah Creech will be a major headache for Ripon in the state final. Highland, by the way, wouldn’t be considered small school due to its enrollment being too high. This will be the Bulldogs’ first-ever CIF state final appearance.

DIVISION 5-AA

North: Del Norte (Crescent City) 21, The King’s Academy (Sunnyvale) 14
Whenever a team from the far north coast region of the state like the Warriors win a regional title, getting out the map for potential trips is always one of the first tasks. On Friday night, first year head coach Nick White took the Del Norte team to the Bay Area, but next week it will be El Monte going on an approximate 750-mile trek to play in the Humboldt-Del Norte region. The Warriors (13-1 and champions of the NCS D5 playoffs) went home this week very happy. They pulled ahead of the Knights early in the fourth quarter and their defense did the rest. TKA was only able to rush for 32 yards, but did have some success throwing the ball. Del Norte rushed for nearly 250 yards with Levi Cox Cooley going for 161 and one TD. Head coach Pete Lavorato’s squad from Sunnyvale ended 11-4.

South: El Monte 30, Serra (San Diego) 18
Yes, it does rain a lot up in Crescent City, but if Del Norte wants to get into running battle with the Lions that may be right up their alley. The way that El Monte chewed up the turf in their own version of a mud bowl on Friday showed that any rain next week way up north may not matter. The Lions (CIFSS D12 champions) moved to 13-0 and were led once again by senior Davon Booth. With the game he had against Serra — 36 carries for 314 yards and three TDs — and with one game still to go it’s obvious he’ll be the state’s leading rusher and scorer for this season. Also running well was teammate Abel Cueva with 16 carries for 119 yards and one TD. The Conquistadors, who had a big upset in the CIF San Diego Section D3 title game over previously unbeaten Scripps Ranch, ended with a final record of 11-3.

DIVISION 6-AA

North: St. Bernard (Eureka) 45, East Nicolaus (Nicolaus) 29
Head coach Matt Tomlin’s squad earned a CIF divisional state title in 2015 and will now try to go 2-for-2 next week in what will be a big night in the Humboldt-Del Norte region with Del Norte High also going for a state crown. The Crusaders (10-3) proved to be too dynamic offensively for the Spartans, who entered at 12-1 with their only loss to Paradise. East Nicolaus, the Northern Section D4 champion, actually led 21-14 but St. Bernard then scored 31 straight points. Senior Will Omey led the Crusaders with three rushing TDs in the first half plus 45- and 48-yard TD passes in the second half.

South: South (Torrance) 47, Canoga Park 28
Cade Barger racked up four touchdowns for the Spartans as they led early and got past the visiting Hunters. South, which is going to make its first CIF state title appearance, also got another big outing from Kade Jones. The senior DB picked off his 11th pass of the season and this one he returned for a touchdown. The CIFSS D14 champions improved to 11-4. Canoga Park (12-3) couldn’t duplicate the magic it had in winning the L.A. City D2 title over Franklin.

DIVISION 7-AA

North: Lincoln (San Francisco) 21, Mariposa County (Mariposa) 14
The Mustangs (11-1) will be looking to win a state title in D7-AA next week after taking it in D6-A last season. They have a loss this season compared to being unbeaten last year, but have displayed a toughness in winning close games. No one personifies that more than bruising running back Luis Contreras, who scored on runs of 25 and 22 yards in this game. A win for the San Francisco Section champions next week also would make it three in a row in the lower divisions for that section.

South: Gardena 27, Francis Parker (San Diego) 13
After host Parker took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter, the Lancers were stunned by Gardena’s Kwanta Pugh as he took the ensuing kickoff for the Panthers and raced for a 91-yard touchdown. The L.A. City D3 champs took that momentum all the way and will now make plans to head to San Francisco next week. Pugh also had a big play later in the game with a 52-yard touchdown run. Parker, which won the CIF San Diego Section D5 title, finished 7-6.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle:


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2 Trackbacks

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