There’s been a lot of movement on both sides of our board looking ahead to the CIF announcing on Sunday which teams will be playing each other in this year’s regional & state title football games. Plus, we have six new teams listed in the north with a whopping 12 in the south. It still looks good for the D2 through D5 winners in the Southern Section matching up with the top four championship teams from San Diego. The big question in the north is what might happen in the Open Division if San Mateo Serra were to defeat St. Francis of Mountain View in the CCS.
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Notes: 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 reached 29 years this season, with no titles last year, after a win last week vs. Pittsburg). 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 we have a confirmation from associate commissioner Brian Seymour (who runs the football playoffs) that it can be two and four. We’ve done that for this run-through with the extra strong team in the north compared to last time (NCS No. 2 team).
We asked Brian if the CIF has heard anything about perhaps a high number of teams opting out and he said last week that there has been nothing that they know about. There were two opt-outs last time two years ago and it would seem possible that there may be more this time. We hope the schools will say after they win section titles and hope reporters will remember to ask the head coaches.
Mater Dei of Santa Ana (CIFSS D1) 10-0 vs. St. Francis of Mountain View (CCS D1) 11-0
Comments: The big news from last week is that St. John Bosco and Mater Dei will not be playing in the CIF Southern Section D1 final for the sixth straight season. Servite of Anaheim finally broke through with a win over the Braves in last week’s semifinal and plays Mater Dei on Friday at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach. The Friars avenged one of their two losses and will be looking to avenge their other one against their long-time rivals. Despite St. Francis looking vulnerable in the first half for a second straight week (this time vs. Menlo-Atherton), the Lancers owning a head-to-head win over De La Salle is still the difference for the NorCal berth. They still have to beat Serra of San Mateo for a second time in Friday’s CCS D1 championship. The Padres won in their semifinal, 41-0, over Bellarmine of San Jose. There is no head-to-head result in play involving a possible choice between Serra and De La Salle. The CIF is well aware of De La Salle’s desire to be in the Open Division, and in its last two Open Games against the SoCal juggernauts they were basically two-score differences (not counting a 96-yard fumble return in one of them). What we’re saying is even if Serra wins and avenges its only loss that it would not be a surprise if DLS is in the Open once again and Serra is in D1-AA.
De La Salle of Concord (NCS D1/Open) 10-2 vs. Rocklin (SJS D1) 12-0
Alemany of Mission Hills (CIFSS D2) 8-3 vs. Cathedral Catholic of San Diego (SD Open)
Comments: De La Salle clinched a bowl berth with its 42-14 victory last Friday over Pittsburg for the NCS Open Division title. The Spartans aren’t playing this week, but Pitt will be going up against Clayton Valley of Concord for the NCS D1 crown. Rocklin is playing Folsom for the SJS D1 title on Friday at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento. Alemany, with losses to higher ranked Mission Viejo, St. John Bosco and Lone Peak of Utah, rolled over previously unbeaten Inglewood in its semifinal and is playing Lutheran of Orange in the CIFSS D2 championship. Cathedral Catholic, meanwhile, has clinched its spot with a 48-19 win over Carlsbad in last week’s CIF San Diego Section Open Division final. The Dons were in the D1-AA state final as recently as 2018 and would match up well against either Alemany or Orange Lutheran. We currently have Alemany 9th, Cathedral Catholic 10th and OLu 12th in our overall state rankings.
Central of Fresno (Central Sec D1) 9-1 vs. Pittsburg 8-2 (NCS D1)
Serra of Gardena (CIFSS D3) 8-4 vs. Lincoln of San Diego (SD D1) 8-2*
Comments: We still think it makes the most sense to keep the Central Section top team in the north and the top team projected in that position for next week has changed after Buchanan of Clovis was upset in the semifinals by Liberty of Bakersfield. Central, the 2019 D1-AA state champions, is now slotted in for the Bears. If Liberty were get another upset, the Patriots would probably not be in D1-AA and definitely wouldn’t be if Clayton Valley were to upset Pitt in the NCS D1 championship. Liberty has an earlier 14-13 loss to the Ugly Eagles and the CIF usually looks to avoid rematches in the regional bowl games. Serra got an overtime win against Etiwanda in the CIFSS D3 semifinals and is meeting Apple Valley in the final. In San Diego, with Lincoln and Helix (La Mesa) securing spots in this week’s D1 final, we have moved Lincoln up from D2-AA and into D1-A. If Lincoln wins, the CIF committee will see that the Hornets lost in a close game to CIFFSS D1 team Los Alamitos so it will have no problem matching up the SD D1 and CIFSS D3 teams in this game. In fact, we think the SD vs CIFSS teams in the south for the four games in D1 and D2 all match up well going down the board.
Central Catholic of Modesto (SJS D2) 11-1 vs. McClymonds of Oakland (Oakland Sec) 9-1
Mater Dei Catholic of San Diego (SD D3) 7-2* vs. Long Beach Poly (CIFSS D4) 10-3
Comments: Central Catholic is meeting Monterey Trail of Elk Grove in its title game on Saturday at Hughes Stadium. McClymonds has moved up into this spot on our board since it is the highest ranked of teams in our top 50. The Warriors have a quality win over Marin Catholic and their only loss is to a Menlo-Atherton team (30-27 in overtime) that was just tied going into the fourth quarter vs. St. Francis. Despite that, putting Mack this high will cause a pause for the CIF and close scrutiny. It could be that Bullard will get this high of a spot, too. The CIF is lucky that Long Beach Poly fell into D4 in the Southern Section since that’s such an all-time great school. The Jackrabbits have been cruising in that bracket so far and play St. Francis of La Canada in the final. Despite not being D2 in the San Diego playoffs, the D3 Crusaders of Mater Dei Catholic clearly should be the next team in line from that section. They are playing Ramona in their section championship. An LB Poly-MD Catholic game would be great for recruiting analysts as well with a number of top players on the field (for Class of 2022 and 2023).
Vanden of Fairfield (SJS D4) 10-2 vs.
Bullard of Fresno (Central Sec D2) 8-4
Oaks Christian of Westlake Village (CIFSS D5) 7-6 vs. Scripps Ranch of San Diego (SD D2) 10-1
Comments: It’s a big move by Vanden into this spot and here’s why. The Vikings are the No. 2 seed in the SJS D4 playoffs and replace No. 1 seed Kimball of Tracy on the board after Kimball lost by one point to Merced in the semifinals. Vanden also owns a head-to-head win over the new team on this board from the NCS Division 2 playoffs, which is 10-2 Foothill of Pleasanton. The Merced team that Vanden is playing this week also only lost by 31-28 to Central Catholic. If Vanden wins and Foothill as well, this definitely is a spot the Vikings might land. Bullard is playing Bakersfield in the Central Section D2 final and won last week, 49-21, over Kingsburg as NorCal Offensive Player of the Week Roland Russo threw for seven TDs. In the south, Oaks Christian marched on in the CIFSS D5 bracket and will now play Valencia (7-4) for the title. Scripps Ranch is facing La Jolla in the SD Section D2 final. La Jolla was the team that knocked out top seed Mira Mesa. The two teams played early in the season with the Falcons winning in a shootout, 52-51. La Jolla had D1 bound QB Jackson Stratton at the time. He’s currently on the injury list.
Foothill of Pleasanton (NCS D2) 10-2 vs. Oakdale 10-2 (SJS D3)
Temecula Valley of Temecula (CIFSS D6) 10-3 vs. Patrick Henry of San Diego 9-2 (SD D4)
Comments: All four teams are different for us in this division compared to last week. Foothill goes in for league rival San Ramon Valley after a big win against Rancho Cotate of Rohnert Park. SRV was upset by Campolindo of Moraga, which is the team Foothill is playing in the final. Oakdale is facing league rival Manteca in its final game and will be looking to defeat the Buffaloes for a second time this season. Oakdale’s losses are both in league: one to Kimball, the other to Central Catholic. Also coming in as a new team in the same spot on the board is Temecula Valley of Temecula. The Golden Bears defeated top seed Camarillo and will now play Newport Harbor of Newport Beach (6-7) in the final. Patrick Henry is not a new team being listed, but has a higher computer ranking than the two L.A. City Section finalists so we decided to match. The Patriots are favored to defeat University City of San Diego in the SD Section D4 championship.
Menlo School of Atherton (CCS D1) 11-0 vs. Marin Catholic of Kentfield 11-1 (NCS D4)
Birmingham of Lake Balboa (LA City Open) 7-5 vs. Aquinas of San Bernardino (CIFSS D7) 9-5
Comments: Marin Catholic (only loss to McClymonds) is higher ranked in the Redwood Empire compared to Windsor so it is now one spot higher on our board. The Wildcats are playing their old friends from Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa (8-3) in this week’s section final. Menlo School goes in for CCS D1 after defeating top seed San Benito of Hollister in the semifinals. The Knights now face Wilcox of Santa Clara for the championship. They also are considered our No. 1 small schools team in the state. In the L.A. City Section, we probably should have just gone ahead and listed Birmingham at the beginning for the Open Division despite its No. 5 seed. The Braves just obliterated top seed Banning of Wilmington, 40-8, and will now play San Pedro in the final. The result to keep in mind for Birmingham is a 44-0 loss to Oaks Christian, so the CIF probably will be thinking not to have Birmingham in a division right below the Lions if both teams win this week. Aquinas is the team that knocked out top seed Pasadena in the CIFSS D7 bracket and has had success in the playoffs in recent years, including a CIFSS D5 title from just two years ago.
Windsor (NCS D3) 10-1 vs. Escalon (SJS D5) 11-1
Buena of Ventura (CIFSS D8) 9-3 vs. Central Valley Christian of Visalia (Central Sec D3) 8-4
Comments: Windsor is one spot lower on our board this week just as a reflection of Marin Catholic being higher in our medium schools breakdown. The Jaguars are playing Benicia in their section championship. Escalon also is one spot higher. This would be the same division that league rival Ripon won state in two years ago and Ripon also is the team the Cougars just beat in the semifinals. They are meeting Hilmar on Saturday in their section final. In the south, Buena and CVC are a rarity in that both won last week and both stayed in the same division on our board. In computer rankings, the two schools also are right next to each other this week so having them play if they both win this week makes even more sense. Buena meets Serrano of Phelan (11-3) while CVC plays Bakersfield Christian (9-3) in those section finals. Two years ago, Bakersfield Christian topped Rancho Cotate to win the CIF D3-A state title.
Sacred Heart Cathedral of SF (CCS D3) 5-7 vs. Chico (Northern Sec D2) 8-3
St. Margaret’s of SJ Capistrano (CIFSS D9) 9-4 vs. Independence of Bakersfield (Central Sec D4) 7-6
Comments: SHC has now beaten both Leigh and Mountain View in its section bracket and is meeting Christopher of Gilroy (7-5) on Saturday for a section crown. We now have the WCAL side opposite Chico of the Northern Section. Previous top seed Pleasant Valley was upset last week by a Foothill of Palo Cedro squad that has gone 0-2 in matchups so far against Chico. Those two will play a third time this week. Independence remains in the projected champion position for its division and up next in the section final will be 8-3 Mendota. For the CIFSS D9 playoffs, St. Margaret’s has been placed on the board after Ventura lost in its semifinal section game to Colony of Ontario.
San Marin of Novato (NCS D5) 11-1 vs. Sutter (Northern Sec D3) 9-1
Venice (LA City D2) 7-3 vs. St. Anthony of Long Beach (CIFSS D10) 10-4
Comments: Both San Marin and Sutter face showdown games in their section finals against No. 2 seed teams in which it wouldn’t be an upset if either of them lost. San Marin is playing Del Norte of Crescent City, while Sutter is going up against Paradise. Venice is the replacement for Dorsey coming out of the L.A. City D2 bracket after Dorsey lost to Canoga Park. The Gondoliers will now try to be the ones to slow down Canoga Park reported state rushing leader Kayden Collins. St. Anthony is new to the board as well. Palmdale was the team that St. Anthony replaced. The Saints are playing 7-6 Northview of Covina in their section final.
University Prep of Redding (Northern Sec D4) 12-0 vs. St. Vincent de Paul of Petaluma (NCS D7) 10-1
Mission Bay of San Diego (SD D5) 10-2 vs. Jordan of Long Beach (CIFSS D11) 8-5
Comments: UPrep’s girls volleyball team just won a CIF state title so the possibility of football getting one adds more intrigue for this possible matchup. The football team is playing Pierce of Arbuckle (8-3) in its section final. We’re moving up St. Vincent de Paul from D6-AA to D5-A, but the Mustangs have a tough section final coming up vs St. Helena, a team they beat by just 14-13 early in the season. Mission Bay’s opponent in the San Diego D5 final is Palo Verde of Blythe. Moving onto the board this week is Jordan of Long Beach, the third from the Moore League (LB Poly, Compton). The Panthers defeated Twentynine Palms (previously listed) in the CIFSS D11 semifinals and will take on 8-5 Northwood of Irvine in the championship.
Rosemont of Sacramento (SJS D6) 11-2 vs. Homestead of Cupertino (CCS D4) 7-5
Righetti of Santa Maria (Central Sec D5) 4-8 vs. Compton (CIFSS D12) 7-5
Comments: Rosemont is the team that took out top seed Bradshaw Christian in the SJS D6 semifinals and is taking on Argonaut of Jackson (9-3) in this week’s final. The Wolverines may have one of the top sophs in Sacramento in RB/DB Michael Cherry. Homestead’s opponent in its section final will be 5-7 Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton. Righetti was put on the board as the highest seed from the D5 bracket in the Central Section, but Liberty of Madera Ranchos (7-5) is the team that beat top seed Immanuel of Reedley and it wouldn’t be an upset if the Hawks won in the final. Compton likewise will have a tough final going up against 8-4 Quartz Hill.
Aragon of San Mateo (CCS D5) 8-4 vs. Salesian of Richmond (NCS D6) 8-2
Taft (Central Sec D6) 7-4 vs. Montclair (CIFSS D13) 9-4
Comments: The only new team among this group is Montclair from the CIFSS D13 bracket. The Cavaliers are the ones who ousted previously listed South Pasadena, 28-21. They are facing 5-8 Arlington (Riverside) in their title game. Taft kept winning in the Central Section and meets Morro Bay (6-6) in the D6 title game. Aragon and Salesian also both kept winning in NorCal. Its section title game opponents, respectively, are St. Francis of Watsonville (9-3) in the CCS and Justin-Siena of Napa (7-5) in the NCS.
Woodland Christian (SJS D7) 11-0* vs. Fall River of McArthur (Northern Sec D5) 10-0
El Camino Real of Woodland Hills (LA City D3) 5-7 vs. Loara of Anaheim (CIFSS D14) 7-6
Comments: Fall River is playing Modoc of Alturas (8-3) in its section final after blasting Biggs, 55-0, in the semis. We are still listing the Bulldogs even though they have opted out of being in the regional games for the last few seasons. The earlier dates on the calendar plus perhaps not having to travel might induce them to give it a try this year. Woodland Christian’s section title game opponent will be 7-5 LeGrand. That game will be Friday afternoon at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento prior to the D1 final at night. Down south, El Camino Real is meeting Hamilton (9-3) in its section championship while Loara is taking on Rialto (7-6).
Lincoln of San Francisco (SF) 8-3 vs.
Taft of Woodland Hills (LA City D3) 5-7
Comment: The annual Turkey Day championship at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco will match Lincoln against Balboa. It was just a 6-0 score when the two teams played earlier. Taft advanced in the bottom L.A. City bracket and will play Panorama of Panorama City (8-5) in the title game.
Again, a reminder that we didn’t use any opt-outs for our projections, but there probably will be one or more on each side north and south. Some teams with the pandemic not yet done may just have had enough after section championships. Because of that, we have one team from each side also falling into a D7-A game and have simply matched the two lowest against each other.