There were no historic scoring shootouts or earth-shaking upsets like on Friday, but plenty of impressive winners, including Liberty (Bakersfield) & Serra (Gardena) in the two D1-A contests. Other NorCal/SoCal champs are Wilcox, Scripps Ranch, McClymonds, Birmingham, Sacred Heart Cathedral of SF, Northview, Sacred Heart Prep, Righetti, Salesian (Richmond), Arlington and those mighty mountain men at Fall River.
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FOR A LOOK AT OUR TOP 10 REGIONAL FINALS GAMES SINCE 2012 (NOT INCLUDING THIS YEAR YET, CLICK HERE.
(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: Liberty (Bakersfield) 35, Pittsburg 7
Winning the top divisional title in the CIF Central Section the way they did — with a convincing win over three-time defending champion Central of Fresno — could be a launching point for the Patriots to win their first state title. They certainly kept up their momentum with a big win over the Pirates at Bakersfield College’s Memorial Stadium.
Liberty (11-2 and No. 25 in the state coming in) led 21-0 at halftime and got the running clock going against the Pirates in the second half. Jason Oliver caught three TD passes from Carson Woods to lead the way. He also set up the first TD with a 46-yard punt return and he recovered a fumble in the end zone.
At the time of that fumble, the Pirates had driven to the Liberty 1-yard line and could have gotten back into the game since they were only down 14-0. Following that miscue, the Patriots instead put up their third score just before halftime.
Jaden Rashada, the junior four-star QB for Pitt, played after sitting out last week’s game. He was limited in running and only had 64 yards passing. Kai Green scored on a 51-yard run for the Pirates’ only score. They ended 9-3 and will drop from their current No. 23 state ranking.
South: Serra (Gardena) 21, Long Beach Poly (Long Beach) 17
For the eighth straight time between these CIFSS rivals, their game came down to a one-score difference. Unfortunately for Poly, it was on the short end of both matchups vs. Serra this season — 28-27 in the regular season and then this one on Saturday night at Serra.
The Jackrabbits (11-4 and No. 22 in the state coming in) grabbed a 17-14 lead with 3:25 left on a 12-yard TD pass from Shea Kuykendall to Titus Bordeaux. It didn’t last long. Serra QB Maalik Murphy (Texas commit) fired a pass to Troy Crozier, who took it the distance for a 75-yard TD and a 21-17 lead with 3:05 remaining. Poly got into position for a possible game-winning score, but with a little more than a minute left freshman Tre Harrison came down with an interception in the end zone to seal it.
Murphy had two other TD passes in the contest while Kuykendall had one.
The Cavaliers improved to 10-4 and will be looking to move up from No. 21 in the Cal-Hi Sports State TOP 50. It also was mentioned by Damian Calhoun of the Daily Breeze after the game that Serra head coach Scott Altenberg won the 200th game of his career.
North: Wilcox (Santa Clara) 35, Manteca 21
The Warriors will try to add a 2021 state title next week to the crown they won in 2018 after winning this game. The difference is that this time it will be in a higher division (2-A compared to 3-A).
Wilcox (11-2 with losses to Los Gatos and Pittsburg) had too much firepower for the Buffaloes. There was a wild sequence of scores in the third quarter, but no scoring in the fourth.
After an 11-yard TD run by Armand Johnson gave the Warriors a 28-14 lead, junior standout Blake Nichelson raced for an 80-yard TD for Manteca (which ended 10-4). Then on just about the next play for Wilcox, Johnson hit on an 84-yard TD pass to Luther Glenn.
According to SportStars Magazine, Glenn was huge all night. He finished with 20 carries or 169 yards and two TDs with three catches for 103 yards and one score. Nichelson was more than equal and and had 31 carries for 341 yards and three TDs.
South: Scripps Ranch (San Diego) 45, Valencia 38
Junior QB Jax Leatherwood had his top outing of the season for the Falcons. According to @DaygoFootball, he connected on 18 of 26 passes for 438 yards and five TDs and will lead Scripps Ranch (12-1) next week as it attempts to win its first state title.
Valencia (10-4) took a 35-31 lead in the third quarter on a touchdown from Ray Hall, but Scripps Ranch made most of the plays over the next few minutes. The Falcons went ahead 35-31 on a TD pass from Leatherwood to Reece Keahey, then they got a stop on defense, which was followed by a TD pass from Leatherwood to Dylan Wenger. Valencia kicked a field goal, but couldn’t come closer in the final seconds. Duhron Goodman caught a pair of TD passes from Trey Erickson for the Vikings.
On Saturday at Saddleback College, both Scripps Ranch’s Marlon Gardinera and San Mateo Serra’s Patrick Walsh will be coaching teams in state finals. They were two of the most prominent head coaches last spring in the statewide efforts that resulted in a spring season. Justin Alumbaugh of De La Salle and Ron Gladnick of San Diego Torrey Pines also would be on that list.
North: McClymonds (Oakland) 40, Campolindo (Moraga) 21
The Warriors are no strangers to state title games and the Oakland based side will be heading back for another piece of hardware after defeating Campolindo on Saturday evening in West Oakland. The Cougars (10-4) from the North Coast Section held tough in the opening quarter and only trailed by five points, but the hosts’ running game was too much.
Jaivian Thomas was the star for the Warriors, as the junior running back picked up 232 yards and scored three times. Thomas only needed nine carries to hit over 200 yards. Head coach Michael Peters’ team (11-1 & No. 46 in state) won its fifth straight NorCal title, but this time in a division two levels lower than in 2019.
South: Birmingham (Lake Balboa) 42, Patrick Henry (San Diego) 35
After starting the season 0-5, the Patriots will be playing for a state title this week after holding off Patrick Henry (also the Patriots). Birmingham jumped out to a 28-7 advantage at the halftime break and seemed on its way to an easy evening, but the Patriots scored 21 points in the third quarter and pulled the contest within seven points heading into the final frame.
The Patriots of L.A. are on a nine game winning streak and Delamonte Barnes scored the game winning touchdown with 5:09 left in the fourth quarter on a three-yard run. Timothy Jackson iced the game with an interception for Birmingham, which will be looking to win its first state title next week up north. Patrick Henry capped a fine 10-3 season.
North: Sacred Heart Cathedral (SF) 31, Chico 7
Maybe it was the long drive from Butte County, but the Panthers from the Northern Section never kicked their offense into gear until it was too late. Sacred Heart Cathedral opened up a 31-0 lead early in the fourth quarter and the Fightin’ Irish breezed to a victory over Chico (9-4) at the historic Kezar Stadium in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
Quarterback Ray-John Spears threw three touchdown passes for the hosts in the rout, but the most impressive touchdown was a Bruce Uperesa 90-yard punt return with just 12 seconds remaining in the first half for Sacred Heart Cathedral. The Fightin’ Irish are the second West Catholic Athletic League side to be playing for a state title this week along with Serra (San Mateo) in the Open Division. Being in that league is why SHC still only has a 6-7 record, but it’s also why its been rolling in these lower competitive equity divisions.
South: Northview (Covina) 27, Colony (Ontario) 26
In this game it was a case of the CIFSS D10 champion beating the team that won the CIFSS title in D9.
Colony (8-7) jumped out to a quick 20-7 lead after Northview scored first in the opening quarter and appeared to have all the momentum in the second half when Bryce Strong returned the opening kickoff 93 yards to put the Titans up 26-7.
This would be the last points Colony scored, however, as Northview scored 20 unanswered points for the stunning last minute comeback victory. Ronal Tebo scored the first three touchdowns for Northview and quarterback James Arellanes had a quarterback keeper from the two-yard line with less than 25 seconds remaining. The go ahead extra point was good for Northview, which improved to 9-6.
North: Sacred Heart Prep (Atherton) 20, University Prep (Redding) 0
Despite the differences in win-loss records — SHP was 6-7 while UPrep was 13-0 coming in — it would have been an upset if the visitors from Redding won. That’s just the difference in opposition that the Gators have played plus there’s the issue of competitive equity that gives them the opportunity to play in a lower section & state division.
The Gators still had to get it done against a UPrep squad that had to go without one of its two best players, QB-DB Payton Henderson, who suffered a knee injury in the first quarter. Henderson had accounted for more than 1,800 yards and had 26 TDs passing and rushing.
The Panthers’ other top player, RB-DB Carter Abel, played his heart out and helped his team drive the ball more than once inside the 10-yard line. UPrep just lacked the explosiveness to get it into the end zone.
Andrew Latu put SHP on the board in the first quarter on a 3-yard run. Then on the team’s third possession, Latu did the ‘ol wheel route out of the backfield, and was hit with a 78-yard touchdown pass from QB Jack Herrell. The 14-0 score stayed put until there was 6:32 left when Anthony Noto swept around the left end for a 9-yard TD. Herrell also had a lot of success throwing the ball to receiver Jack York.
SHP has gone 0-2 in its previous two attempts to win a CIF state title, but those were in higher divisions. This seems to be a much better spot for the first one to be won.
South: Righetti (Santa Maria) 14, Northwood (Irvine) 7
After making history with their first CIF section title, the Warriors (7-8) won their first CIF regional or state game with a ground and pound victory against the Timberwolves in a game played at Irvine High. Righetti led 7-0 at halftime on a 39-yard TD run by Elias Martinez. They extended it to 14-0 with about three minutes left before Northwood (9-6) finally scored to stir up some suspense.
Righetti could certainly change its name to the Road Warriors. After traveling from Santa Maria to Irvine for Saturday’s game, they will hit 101 going up the other direction to Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area for next week’s game.
North: Salesian (Richmond) 36, Aragon (San Mateo) 28
For the second straight week, Salesian (10-2) did enough in the first half to power itself to the next round, as the Pride overcame Aragon of the Central Coast Section. This will be Salesian’s second ever state championship attempt for football, with the school traditionally being a Bay Area basketball power.
Nick Fontanilla threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Marco Turqueza for the lone touchdown in the second half. Max Haro, a 6-3 300 pound lineman for the Pride, scooped up a fumble recovery late in the contest. Another player to watch in the finals will be freshman lineman Delon Craft Jr.
The Dons fought hard throughout and will take a 9-5 record into 2022.
South: Arlington (Riverside) 24, El Camino Real (Woodland Hills) 14
The Lions (7-8) are headed to the first football state championship game in school history after they defeated El Camino Real. Coach Kevin Argumosa opened up the playoff book to start the second quarter in a scoreless contest, as Arlington handed the ball off to 6-4, 300 pound lineman Gregory “Buddha” McDaniel. The fullback called the offensive look, the pound cake formation and the senior scored from five-yards out on the misdirection.
Each side worked the clock well all evening, with both offensive units only having the ball once each in the first quarter. Arlington outpaced the Royals 10-7 after leading 14-7 at the break. El Camino Real finished 6-8.
North: Fall River (McArthur) 42, LeGrand 21
This was one of those games that was broken open by a team scoring late in the second quarter, then getting the ball first to start the second half and scoring again. Fall River did that to LeGrand, extending a 21-14 lead to 36-14 and the Bulldogs coasted in from there. Evan Dobson’s 18-yard run was the TD right before halftime. QB Ryan Osborne got the TD right afterward. He earlier threw a TD pass and scored on another run. LeGrand capped an 8-6 season. Fall River will try to win its first state title next weekend and end a 13-0 season. The Bulldogs had opted out of the CIF games in both 2018 and 2019.
South: Morro Bay 35, Loara (Anaheim) 27
Game played Friday. See Friday recaps for more.
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