NorCal/SoCal Bowl Projections

Players from Escalon (left) celebrate after winning CIF D4-A state title. The Cougars look like they have a shot at that title again (or perhaps D4-AA). At right is RB Devin Samples of historically great power Long Beach Poly scoring in game last spring vs. Serra (Gardena). Jackrabbits won only CIF state title in 1919. Photos: Julian A. Lopez / Modesto Bee & AllinPress / Courtesy school.

It’s been nearly two years since we took a look at possible CIF regional bowl matchups before they’ve happened. We couldn’t do it any earlier this season because more CIF sections, especially the Southern Section, have gone to playoff formats in which it’s not known for sure which divisions all of the teams will be placed. We still have the regular season to get done in the CIF Northern Section, CIF North Coast Section and CIF Central Coast Section, but we did projected No. 1 seeds for them and off we went. The CIF may have a problem in some of the lower divisions. Go inside to see what that might be.

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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 biggest change from two years ago is a new format for the CIF North Coast Section Open/D1 bracket that makes it possible for the second-best NCS team to be able to win a section title and go on to the regionals. It’s a unique situation since De La Salle of Concord has won every NCS top divisional title since 1992 (the streak should reach 30 years this season). Only section champions are eligible to be in a CIF regional championship. The CIF also has the option of using teams from the CIF Central Section in the north or south. It has been three going to each region, but with an extra team in the north compared to last time (NCS No. 2 team) we made it a 2-4 split to even it out.

Mater Dei of Santa Ana (CIFSS D1) 8-0 vs. Serra (San Mateo) 8-0

Comments: Head coach Bruce Rollinson’s team at Mater Dei has beaten both St. John Bosco and Servite and is top seed for the CIF Southern Section’s D1 bracket. The Monarchs last won state in 2018, which came after their first-ever CIF state crown that was won in 2017. Serra is listed in this spot from the north for now since it is ranked higher than league rival St. Francis of Mountain View, which is the team that ended De La Salle’s reign atop the Northern California scene. Serra and St. Francis will play Saturday for the West Catholic Athletic League title and likely will play again for the CIF Central Coast Section D1 title. With the win by St. Francis over De La Salle, it figures to be very difficult for any team other than the eventual CCS D1 winner (Serra or St. Francis) to be going to the Open Division.

De La Salle of Concord (NCS D1/Open) 7-2 vs. Rocklin (SJS D1) 10-0
Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth (CIFSS D2) 5-4 vs. Carlsbad (SD Open) 10-0

Comments: An argument could be make for Rocklin in the Open Division or Rocklin to be getting a home game instead of De La Salle, but that doesn’t take into account the fact that the Spartans have never lost to a Sac-Joaquin team (a span of nearly 40 years). We therefore have Serra & St. Francis battling for the Open with DLS ranked higher than the Thunder. Alemany of Mission Hills is the No. 1 seed for CIFSS D2 ahead of Sierra Canyon, but we have the Trailblazers higher due to a head-to-head win they have over Norco. Carlsbad is the top seed for the four-team CIFSD Open Division and doesn’t start its postseason until next week.

Buchanan of Clovis (Central Sec D1) 9-1 vs. Pittsburg 6-1 (NCS D1)
Etiwanda (CIFSS D3) 10-0 vs. Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista (SD D3) 8-0

Comments: With the first several slots in the south lining up pretty good between the CIFSS winners in D2, D3, D4 and D5 opposite the projected winners from San Diego, it looks likely that the top two teams from the CIF Central Section will remain in the north. The difference is that the second team two years ago, San Joaquin Memorial, was much stronger than the No. 2 will be this season (SJM is now D1 and computer rankings are being used now in that section without predetermined divisions). Pittsburg is projected to be the team that will lose to De La Salle in the NCS Open Division final and then win in the NCS D1 championship the following week. A sample of how that bracket will work can be seen on the NCS web site. Down south, we have Etiwanda ranked higher than top seed Citrus Valley of Redlands for CIFSS D3. Mater Dei Catholic may be D3, but it has been ranked higher locally above the projected D1 or D2 San Diego champions. The Crusaders are the No. 2 seed in their bracket behind Mt. Carmel of San Diego.

Central Catholic of Modesto (SJS D2) 9-1 vs. Bullard of Fresno (Central Sec D2) 5-4
Lincoln of San Diego (SD D1) 6-2 vs. Long Beach Poly (CIFSS D4) 7-3

Comments: Bullard may be too high here, but win over Clovis is hard to ignore and didn’t want to put Central Catholic opposite a team it has played before (San Ramon Valley) and didn’t want to put McClymonds that high after it lost 41-6 in a lower division (D2-A) just two years ago. Central Catholic got the top SJS D2 seed over Granite Bay, which just beat Folsom. We could see a scenario where Granite Bay was placed on the board higher than Pittsburg, but we’re a long way from there. In the south, we’re listing Lincoln for SD D1 based on our own state rankings. That could easily be Madison (which just topped Lincoln 14-10 but also has a couple of early bad losses) or Helix of La Mesa (the top seed). Seeing LB Poly down in D2-AA just feels weird, but the Jackrabbits are in the CIFSS D4 playoffs and are the top seed. If the magic dividing line was just one spot higher, they would have been a No. 16 seed in D3.

Luke Baklenko was an impressive junior lineman seen for Oaks Christian when it played at the Honor Bowl in San Diego. Photo: Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.

McClymonds of Oakland (Oakland Sec) 7-1 vs. San Ramon Valley of Danville (NCS D2) 6-3
Oaks Christian of Westlake Village (CIFSS D5) 4-6 vs. Mira Mesa of San Diego (SD D2) 8-2

Comments: Oaks Christian landing down in D5 for the CIFSS playoffs will be very interesting to track. If the Lions were just a couple of spots higher in the computer, they’d have been in the bottom of D4 (same as LB Poly). They just lost to St. Bonaventure and have other losses to higher-ranked teams. But in this bracket, Oaks Christian clearly can win out in its section and actually could go all the way. Top Ventura County area teams like St. Bonaventure and Simi Valley will likely be hard-pressed to go all the way in CIFSS D2 and beyond. How will they feel if Oaks Christian does in a lower division with six losses? Mira Mesa could be a great story if it won a section title. The Marauders lost their head coach, Chris Thompson, in August from a COVID-related illness. Up north, the concept of matching Mack with the NCS D2 winner (which we’re listing as San Ramon Valley) works well from a travel and local angle.

Windsor (NCS D3) 9-0 vs. Kimball of Tracy (SJS D4) 9-1
Banning of Wilmington (L.A. City D1) vs. Camarillo (CIFSS D6)

Comments: Windsor admittedly could be higher, but the team just doesn’t yet have a real big signature win. Eventually, it might be too hard for the CIF to resist putting Windsor and Oaks Christian in the same division. Current Windsor head coach Paul Cronin was the head coach at Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) in 2006 and lost to Oaks Christian in overtime in the very first CIF state final that was played since the previous state final in 1927. It’s important to note that Kimball would be placed higher as the SJS D4 champion over the projected SJS D3 champion (Oakdale) due to a head-to-head win. For the L.A. City, putting its top team in D3-AA is one division lower than before. Banning is the top seed, but Eric Sondheimer of the L.A. Times this week picked San Pedro to win the title. Camarillo is the top seed in the CIFSS D6 bracket and has some double-digit losses to higher-ranked teams, including Oaks Christian. The CIF makes it a priority to have all 14 of the CIFSS champions play an opponent in the regionals that is from another section (SD, L.A. City or Central). We were able to do that with these projections, but it is not easy.

Oakdale (SJS D3) 8-2 vs. Aptos (CCS D2) 7-1
Patrick Henry of San Diego (SD D4) 7-2 vs. Pasadena (CIFSS D7) 7-2

Comments: It’s a solid resume for Patrick Henry as the No. 1 seed for the San Diego Section D4 playoffs. Pasadena has an elite player, Mekhi Fox, who is close getting up onto the all-time state list for kick return TDs in a career. Up north, Oakdale is being placed in exactly the same spot that Sierra of Manteca was in two years ago. The Mustangs earned the No. 1 seed for the SJS D3 playoffs with an impressive 28-0 victory last week over Manteca. Aptos could actually wind up as a lower seed for the CCS D1 bracket instead of on top in D2. Those brackets don’t come out until Sunday and they could change. Those CCS formulas are complex. We looked at the projections done by and went with them other than just a few spots.

Marin Catholic of Kentfield (NCS D4) 8-1 vs. Sacred Heart Cathedral of SF (CCS D3) 2-7
Muir of Pasadena (CIFSS D8) 7-1 vs. Central Valley Christian of Visalia (Central Sec D3) 6-4

Comments: Here’s a good place to mention where the difference in how most of the sections in the north are doing playoffs compared to how they are done in the south could become a problem for the CIF. In the north, it’s not complete competitive equity seedings. In the south and counting the Central Section in the south since the CIF needs to use teams from that section so that some of the Southern Section teams aren’t playing each other, it’s almost 100 percent. The problem is that the projected NorCal teams in its regional finals from around D-3AA and lower all have a computer ranking of about 100 places in the state higher than in the south. There could be some mismatched state finals and there isn’t much that can be tweaked to change that. Sacred Heart Cathedral being in the CCS D2 playoffs will be intriguing and we think the Irish could win it. After all, they do have a win over Bellarmine even at 2-7. Could Muir or CVC have a win over Bellarmine? That’s what we’re talking about.

Escalon (SJS D4) 9-1 vs. Pleasant Valley of Chico (Northern Sec D2) 6-3
Laguna Beach (CIFSS D9) 9-1 vs. Nipomo (Central Sec D4) 6-3

Comments: Escalon could be higher since a team from its league (Ripon) won the D4-AA state title two years ago and the Cougars won state in this division as well two years ago. We didn’t put them opposite Marin Catholic and frankly don’t think they would be able to get a win against Bellarmine (like SHC). Pleasant Valley has emerged as the top team in the Northern Section after early losses to higher-ranked teams and lost to Escalon in this same game two years ago. Down south, Laguna Beach is top seed in D9 in the CIFSS and is from a solid league. Nipomo started strong this season, but has been losing lately while having done enough to be top seed in the Central Section fourth division.

San Marin players are shown as they enter the field before a recent game. Photo:

San Marin of Novato (NCS D5) 8-1 vs. Sutter (Northern Sec D3) 7-1
Dorsey of Los Angeles (LA City D2) 8-2 vs. Segerstrom of Santa Ana (CIFSS D10) 4-6

Comments: We’re listing San Marin from NCS D5 instead of possible top seed Del Norte (Crescent City). The Mustangs’ recent 14-10 loss to Marin Catholic stands out and they wouldn’t be playing Marin Catholic in the section playoffs. Sutter doesn’t seem to be as strong as it was two years ago when it spoiled the Hollywood finish of the Paradise season, but still seems like a favorite in its section division. Paradise is 6-1 and is higher-ranked by computer. Dorsey being in D5-AA seemed to be a good spot to put the Dons compared to the computer rankings of the various top seeds in the CIFSS divisions. A lot of L.A. City schools have been hit hard by vaccination requirements and COVID issues and we hope Dorsey doesn’t become one of them. Note that Segerstrom has a 27-14 loss to Laguna Beach and now both them have landed in the computer rankings in positions where they are No. 1 seeds in CIFSS divisions.

University Prep of Redding (Northern Sec D4) 9-0 vs. Bradshaw Christian of Sacramento (SJS D6) 9-1
Mission Bay of San Diego (SD D5) 8-2 vs. Village Christian of Sun Valley (CIFSS D11) 8-1

Comments: Uni Prep has been a dominant team up north and is a solid favorite in its division. Bradshaw Christian has one of the leading RBs in the section in Anthony Tornatore (1,402 yds and 18 TDs). We’re listing Mission Bay from SD D5 instead of top seed Palo Verde Valley. Bucs’ QB Clash Orsborn recently threw eight TD passes in one game. Village Christian’s computer ranking isn’t that far off of Segerstrom’s, which indicates the teams from the CIFSS in its D10 and D11 brackets are bunched up close to each other. Lots of “upsets” are likely.

St. Vincent de Paul of Petaluma (NCS D7) 7-1 vs. Santa Teresa of San Jose (CCS D4) 5-4
Immanuel of Reedley (Central Sec D5) 6-3 vs. Compton (CIFSS D12) 5-5

Comments: Note that St. Vincent de Paul has a strong enough resume that it is being placed higher on our board than the NCS projected D6 winner. Terra Nova of Pacifica (4-5) has played a lot of good teams and also looks good in that likely CCS D4 group. Immanuel is starting its section playoffs with a top seed and as many in the CIFSS know that team is now being led by head coach Josh Henderson (previously at Grace Brethren). Compton winning a section title in a lower CIFSS division would be magic to the ears of CIFSS commissioner Rob Wigod, who knows all too well the many years that Compton had no chance to do anything in previous playoff formats coming out of the Moore League.

Lincoln of San Jose (CCS D5) 6-2 vs. Salesian of Richmond (NCS D6) 6-2
Taft (Central Sec D6) 4-4 vs. South Pasadena (CIFSS D13) 5-5

Comments: Lincoln of San Jose is the school that for years bypassed the CCS playoffs in favor of playing its Big Bone Game rivalry vs. San Jose High on Thanksgiving Day. If the Lions were to win in their CCS division (it looks like its D5 right now), they’d have a good chance to go all the way in this projected four-team grouping. It sure would be fun if there was a Taft vs. Taft regional bowl game, but then that would mean the two lowest CIFSS teams playing each other.

Woodland Christian (SJS D7) 8-0 vs. Fall River of McArthur (Northern Sec D5) 8-0
El Camino Real of Woodland Hills (LA City D3) 2-7 vs. Hawthorne (CIFSS D14) 4-5

Comments: We know that Fall River has opted out of recent NorCal bowl games, but we put this year’s team in and opposite a projected SJS team that also is currently unbeaten and maybe not as far away as other teams that Fall River has been projected to play. Down toward the bottom of the board is also where there will likely be a state final between a legit small school team with a great record vs. a large school from the south coming through competitive equity divisions.

Lincoln of San Francisco (SF) 5-3 vs. Taft of Woodland Hills (LA City D3) 3-7

Comment: These will probably be the two weakest of the CIF section champions north and south and by the computer rankings as well. Since we didn’t use any opt outs in our projections, there was one team on each side falling to a D7-A contest. We just matched up the SF & L.A. City teams directly against each other with neither in a play-in game. There may be a lot of teams opting out this year, though, which could be the biggest challenge the CIF will have in filling out these matchups.

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

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  1. raiderlaz18
    Posted November 5, 2021 at 10:48 am | Permalink


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