For the first time since the modern day CIF state championships began in 2006, the green-and-silver colors of Concord De La Salle will be missing after the Spartans were upset at home by Folsom in the D1-AA regional final. The Bulldogs will play a familiar foe in next week’s state championship, Cathedral Catholic of San Diego, as the Dons won in the most high scoring (two teams) in CIF regional finals history. Friday’s winners also were Central Catholic (2AA), Mater Dei Catholic (D2AA), Vanden (D3AA), Aquinas (D3AA), Marin Catholic (D4AA), Central Valley Christian (D4AA), San Marin (D5AA), Independence of Bakersfield (D5AA), Argonaut (D6AA), Quartz Hill (D6AA) and Morro Bay (D7AA).
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(Super thanks to Northern California contributing writer Daniel Poulter for doing more than half of these writeups.)
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Note: The only divisions in which there are no regional finals this weekend is the Open Division at the top and Division 7-A at the bottom. Both Serra of San Mateo (12-1) and Mater Dei of Santa Ana (12-0) go directly into that state final, which will be at Saddleback College – Saturday, Dec. 11 at 8:00 p.m. The 7-A final will be next Saturday between host Balboa of San Francisco (8-4) and Taft of Woodland Hills (7-7).
North: Folsom 28, De La Salle (Concord) 27
De La Salle’s 30-year run of dominance against the Bay Area ended earlier this season with a loss to St. Francis of Mountain View and now so has a similar streak against the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section. Folsom also had gone 0-5 in previous meetings against the Spartans, including a 35-14 defeat earlier this season and wins in Open Division regional finals in 2012 and 2013.
Perhaps because this year’s Folsom team overcame adversity to reach this point of the season — the Bulldogs also lost to league rivals Rocklin and Granite Bay after losing to De La Salle but didn’t have No. 1 QB Tyler Tremain in either contest — it didn’t wilt after De La Salle grabbed a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The Bulldogs tied it up at 14-14 at halftime and were leading 21-14 in the third quarter when the game flipped on a 63-yard fumble return touchdown by De La Salle’s Ronald Pierce.
Head coach Paul Doherty’s squad (11-3, No. 11 in state coming in) took a 28-21 lead with a little less than three minutes left in the game on the third TD run of the game by Tremain. De La Salle (10-3, No. 8 in state) came right back on a 42-yard TD pass from Luke Dermon to Zeke Berry (big-time DB who earlier in the day committed to Michigan). There was 1:44 left in the game, but De La Salle head coach Justin Alumbaugh decided to go for two instead of a likely game-tying PAT. Berry took a handoff on a jet sweep and didn’t get in. Folsom then recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock for the historic win.
South: Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 71, Lutheran (Orange) 62
Even after the Dons extended their margin to 71-47 with four minutes left, the Lancers were not done. They added two more touchdowns, which wasn’t just window dressing. In a game like this one was, anything was possible.
Those two final scores, though, did make this the highest scoring game in CIF regional finals history (since 2012 when the regional round was added to the CIF state playoffs). The total of 133 broke the previous high of 132 set in 2018 in the north and in the same division when Folsom defeated Central of Fresno, 84-46. The state record for most points by two teams in any playoff game is 144 when Bloomington topped Artesia of Lakewood, 82-62, in a CIF Southern Section championship.
The yardage totals in this scorefest were equally mind-boggling. According to San Diego Union-Tribune reports, running back Lucky Sutton of Cathedral Catholic blasted away for 435 yards rushing on 27 carries and he scored seven times (six on rushes). That helped the Dons (10-2**, No. 9 in state) amass 746 yards. Orange Lutheran was almost the same with more than 600 yards. The Lancers featured QB Logan Gonzalez (31 of 45 for 433 yards, 5 TDs) and RB Desmin Jackson (14 carries, 229 yds, 3 TDs).
For total offense yards in a state playoff game, Cathedral Catholic’s total was just short of the record of 773 by Corona Centennial in its epic 70-49 loss to St. John Bosco of Bellflower in the 2013 Open Division Southern Regional. For two teams, the Dons and Lancers had 1,392 yards, which is just 14 off the record of 1,406 for a state regional game set by Folsom and Central (Fresno) in 2018.
Folsom’s game with Central in 2018 also pushed the Bulldogs into the D1-AA state final that year where their opponent was: Cathedral Catholic. That game went to overtime where Folsom won and will look to go to 5-0 in state finals next week. That also is Cathedral Catholic’s only loss in a state final compared to wins in 2008 and 2016.
Orange Lutheran (10-5, No. 10 in state) capped a great season under first-year head coach Rod Sherman, who has won state titles coaching in Colorado.
North: Central Catholic (Modesto) 44, Bullard (Fresno) 41
The Raiders of the Sac-Joaquin Section (13-1, No. 29 in the state) raced out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter against Bullard and were in control of the contest for most of the game. Head coach Roger Canepa’s crew allowed 20 points in the fourth quarter and squeezed by the Central Section Division 2 champion. The eventual game winning points for the Raiders came from the foot of Anthony Wildenberg, as the kicker blasted a 32-yard field goal with 4:05 left on the clock to push the Central Catholic lead to 44-34. Aiden Taylor is one half of a quality backfield for Central Catholic and the running back found the end zone four times in this game. Central Catholic will take on Mater Dei Catholic in the Division 2-AA game at Saddleback College next week and will be looking to win its fifth state title. Bullard (No. 48 in state) wrapped up its season at 9-5.
South: Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) 24, Helix (La Mesa) 21
In one of the top battles from the San Diego Section this season, Mater Dei Catholic picked up the win over Helix and advances to take on Central Catholic (Modesto) in the Division 2-AA state game. Helix had the halftime lead 21-17, but the Highlanders were shutout in the second half. Three-star wide receiver prospect Jeremiah Flomo McClure needed every inch of his fingertips to make a stretch out catch that turned into the game winning touchdown. Mater Dei Catholic’s Anthony McMillian had an impressive 56-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that broke tackles from most of the Helix defense. The Crusaders (12-0, No. 24 in the state) stayed undefeated with the victory and had their first close game of the season. Helix (No. 18 in state) ended its season at 9-4.
North: Vanden (Fairfield) 56, Windsor 28
The visitors from Travis AFB jumped on Windsor early and often in a blowout. The Vikings (12-2) took the game over for good just before the halftime break. Windsor pulled within seven points by a score of 14-7, as quarterback Chase Vehmeyer punched in a score on fourth and goal from the one-yard line with just under three minutes remaining in the half. Vanden quarterback Tre Dimes answered back with a 67-yard touchdown pass to Michael Belk. Jamai East then jumped a route and returned a Vehmeyer pass 41-yards for a pick six. Vanden wasn’t done in the first half, either, as it scored on a Dimes 22-yard score to Amarion York to go up 35-7 at the break. Dimes had five touchdowns in the victory. Vanden will now take on Aquinas in the 3-AA state game for its first-ever CIF state finals appearance. Windsor finished 11-2.
South: Aquinas (San Bernardino) 42, Newport Harbor (Newport Beach) 28
For the second straight round of state playoffs (not counting last year when they were cancelled), Aquinas is heading to a state title game. The Falcons used a 20-0 third quarter to turn a close contest against Newport Harbor into a rout. Aquinas was down early 21-7 in the second quarter, but added two scores in the final four minutes of the half to only trail by one at the break. Kaden Willerford started the second half off with a bang, as the Aquinas return man took back a 91-yard kickoff for the score. The Falcons scored 35 straight points from the second quarter to the start of the fourth frame. Jusyis “JoJo’ Solis should be a name to remember for the future, as the freshman had three rushing touchdowns for Aquinas and has over 1,900 rushing yards on the season. Next week the Falcons (10-5) head north to Fairfield to take on Vanden in the 3-AA state contest. In 2019, they played at Cerritos College and lost to Clayton Valley in the D2-AA final. Newport Harbor wound up the season at 7-8.
North: Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 21, Escalon 14
Until there was about five minutes left in the third quarter, not long after Marin Catholic had assumed a 21-0 lead in this game played at San Rafael High, it was impossible not to think about how unfair it was that Escalon was placed in this game against a Marin Catholic team that has played for state titles in higher divisions.
It still may be unfair, but the legit small school Cougars showed what they can do and had a chance to steal a win at the end.
Promising sophomore Charles Williams scored all three Wildcat touchdowns on runs, but several plays by quarterback Michael Ingrassia also accounted for the lead.
Escalon began its comeback after a short punt put the ball at the Marin Catholic 28-yard line. Junior RB Ryker Peters got the Cougars on the scoreboard with a three-yard line.
The rally really got going after a fourth down stop by Escalon early in the fourth quarter. That led to a touchdown catch in the end zone by EJ Lewis on a tipped pass. The Cougars never would have even had a chance for that score had they not gone 38 yards on a hook-and-ladder play on a 4th-and-19 situation.
There was still 5:24 left after Escalon’s second TD. The Cougars then got their chance for a possible game-tying or go-ahead score with a fourth down stop at the Marin Catholic 46. With less than a minute to play, however, Charlie Allen clinched the win for the Wildcats by pulling down an interception. He raced the other way for what appeared to be a touchdown, but a penalty wiped out the return. He probably should have just fallen down instead of doing anything since Marin Catholic only needed to take a knee at that point.
Next week, the Wildcats (13-1) will host Central Valley Christian of Visalia for the state final on Saturday at 1 p.m. They will be looking for their first CIF state title. Escalon ended 12-2, but will still be under consideration for State Small Schools Team of the Year (Marin Catholic is medium).
South: Central Valley Christian (Visalia) 21, Serrano (Phelan) 9
The victorious Cavaliers lost in 2018 in this same division in the state final to Pleasant Valley of Chico. They will take another crack at it against Marin Catholic next Saturday after taking down the Diamondbacks in the regional round. Josh Souza reached the end zone three times for CVC, two on rushes and one on a touchdown pass. The Cavaliers improved o 11-4. Serrano dropped to the same record.
North: San Marin (Novato) 35, Sutter 7
Sutter is known for being the small school that runs over its opponents late in the season, but this year San Marin had the honors over the Northern Section side. The North Coast Section squad jumped out to a 21-0 lead at the halftime break at River Valley High in Yuba City and cruised to a 35-7 victory over the Huskies. Justin Guin had two touchdowns on offense for the Mustangs and the senior also had a pick-six in the fourth quarter to seal the game. San Marin (13-1) will take on Independence (Bakersfield) next Saturday at 6 p.m., which means fans in Marin County can see two teams in the same day play for state titles since Marin Catholic’s game will be a 1 p.m. Sutter ended the season once again in a regional final and finished 11-2. If the Huskies get into it again it will be from the Sac-Joaquin Section since they are switching sections next school year.
South: Independence (Bakersfield) 19,
The Kern County squad came into Friday’s 5-AA contest against Venice with two 1,000 yard rushers in Evan Peaker (1,700) and quarterback Ladon Denmark (1,100). The duo had given Central Section opponents fits this year, but Venice controlled them all night and kept the backfield to a combined 125nyards. The Falcons needed a standout game from their defense and they received that, as D’Monte Moten intercepted a potential game winning pass in the final seconds to give Independence the win. Neither team scored in the fourth quarter, as a late red zone drive for Venice was the closest chance for either team. The Falcons improved to 9-6 while the Gondoliers fell to 8-4.
North: Argonaut (Jackson) 42, St. Vincent de Paul (Petaluma) 12
Dante Antonini took a direct snap 61 yards on the third play of the game for St. Vincent de Paul against Argonaut, but the hosts from Amador County would rally off 21 unanswered points and pull away for the win over the Petaluma based school. St. Vincent de Paul’s top two players in Antonini and Kai Hall were both injured early in the contest and were hampered for the rest of the game. Beau Davis had three touchdown runs for Argonaut, with the tricky Wing T style rushing attack powering the way for the Mustangs. Argonaut (11-3) will host Quartz Hill in the 6-AA state game. The other Mustangs capped their season at 11-2.
South: Quartz Hill 26, Palo Verde (Blythe) 20
Palo Verde had a 14-7 advantage over Quartz Hill at halftime, but the Royals from the Antelope Valley outpaced the Yellow Jackets 20-6 in the second half to pull off the 26-20 victory. The Royals have had a balanced attack this season with quarterback Chalin Crawford throwing for 1,671 passing yards on 115-of-207 passing for 12 touchdowns, while junior running back Ashtin Dupleasis has racked up 1,167 yards on 159 carries. Quartz Hill will now head to Jackson at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountain range to take on Argonaut in next week’s state final. The Yellow Jackets, representing the San Diego Section, finished 11-3.
Le Grand (SJS D7) is 8-5 and will be playing Saturday at Fall River of McArthur (Northern Sec D5), which is 11-0.
South: Morro Bay 35, Loara (Anaheim) 27
The Pirates gained their first CIF state title game appearance and improved to 7-6 with a hard-fought win over the Saxons, who finished 8-7. Dylan Turner rushed for three touchdowns and caught a TD pass for Morro Bay. QB Nicky Johnson had two TD passes. Isaac Malaga gave Loara a lift early in the fourth quarter when he came up with a 36-yard interception return touchdown. A missed PAT, however, still kept Morro Bay in front, 28-27. Turner then scored another touchdown to extend the lead. Loara’s last-gasp drive reached the 16-yard line before it was stopped. The Pirates then ran out the clock for the win.
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