CIF San Diego-style Friday State Finals

Head coach John Joyner (left) is surrounded by players from Mater Dei Catholic after team won CIF D2-AA state title. At right, QB Charlie Mirer and RB Lucky Sutton are closest to CIF title plaque after their game in the D1-AA final vs. Folsom. Photos: Mark Tennis/Cal-Hi Sports.

Cathedral Catholic beats Folsom in CIF D1-AA state championship to earn its third overall state title and hand the Bulldogs their first CIF state final loss in their fifth appearance. The Dons also did it a few hours after Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista gave the San Diego Section a win in the CIF D2-AA state final against Central Catholic of Modesto.

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(Thanks to Orange County/Trinity League correspondent Chuck Nan for writing the game story for the D2AA contest)

Longtime California powerhouse De La Salle of Concord may be missing from this year’s CIF state football championships for the first time since the event was re-started in 2006 after a 79-year hiatus, but the grind-it-out approach of the Spartans’ offense was in full view and executed to perfection by Cathedral Catholic of San Diego in Friday’s Division 1-AA title game held at Saddleback College.

With Folsom looking to push the issue in a one-score game, the Dons went on two precise, ball-control drives in the second half to suck the life out of the Bulldogs in a 33-21 triumph.

Victory Johnson was one of the heroes for Cathedral Catholic with a 36-yard interception return touchdown. Photo: Mark Tennis / Cal-Hi Sports.

Cathedral Catholic (11-2 not counting forfeit) came into the night ranked behind Folsom (11-4) in the state rankings since the Bulldogs had avenged an earlier loss to De La Salle in last week’s NorCal regional final and De La Salle still had a head-to-head win against the Dons. Instead of it being Folsom, DLS and then Cathedral Catholic in the final rankings it will have to be Cathedral Catholic, Folsom and then DLS. Those three will also likely finish behind the top five teams from the CIF Southern Section plus Serra (San Mateo) and St. Francis (Mountain View) from the CIF Central Coast Section.

For state championship history, the win was even bigger for the Dons. They won their third state title (others 2008 and 2016) and handed the Bulldogs their first state title losses after wins in 2010, 2014, 2017 and 2018. Folsom’s state title win in 2018, of course, came in overtime against Cathedral Catholic.

“That type of thing is probably more for the kids, but for me a win is a win,” said Cathedral Catholic head coach Sean Doyle when asked if winning a state title against an opponent his team lost to three years ago and by such a difficult manner felt any better. “We played great the last time and lost to them in overtime. We played great this time and it was our turn.”

Folsom head coach Paul Doherty, who himself was in his first CIF state final, said he was hoping Cathedral Catholic was more exhausted from the previous game. The Dons didn’t play a program like De La Salle to reach Friday night, but they had to outlast Lutheran of Orange, 71-62, in a game in which they had 743 yards of offense.

“Our tank was the one that ran on empty,” he said. “I thought our defense would get more stops and against a team like this with a Wing-T or a Veer you have to be really deliberate on your possessions. We weren’t quite there.”

After the teams played to a 13-7 score at halftime with the Dons holding the lead, Folsom gave itself a chance to take the lead early in the third quarter on a defensive stop on Cathedral Catholic’s half-opening possession. On the first play after getting the punt, however, Cathedral Catholic junior linebacker Victory Johnson grabbed an interception and ran it back for a 36-yard touchdown. The Bulldogs were chasing points for the rest of the night.

Cathedral Catholic head coach Sean Doyle and Folsom head coach Paul Doherty greet each other just seconds after the D1-AA state final. Photo: Mark Tennis.

To his credit, Folsom QB Tyler Tremain (who ran for three TDs last week vs. De La Salle) quickly forgot about the pick six and hit on four straight passes to get the Bulldogs back to within six at 20-14. He found Austin McMillan in the end zone from 38 yards out.

Cathedral Catholic then went on its first of two long drives that put the Bulldogs into a more frantic situation. The first one went 10 plays for 80 yards. The touchdown came on a 22-yard pass from Charlie Mirer to Rex Haynes that was set up on nine straight runs with a play-action look.

Folsom once again answered a Dons’ touchdown with one of it own. The Bulldogs went 74 yards in 11 plays, mostly on passes by Tremain, with the TD on a 1-yard plunge by Donovan Maxey-Parler.

At this point of the game, it was the fourth quarter with 10:18 left and the last thing Folsom wanted was another long drive by the Dons. It just didn’t happen. After picking up three first downs (one on a penalty), the Bulldog defense did get to a fourth-and-inches play from the 28-yard line. That’s when Mirer took a sneak to his right, hopped over two players, broke loose and ran for a 28-yard touchdown.

Folsom had to score twice in the last 4:29 of the game to steal the win, but instead was stopped on downs and then it was Cathedral Catholic that ran out the clock.

Lucky Sutton, who had that 435-yard outing for the Dons in their regional final, would be our pick for Game MVP. He only scored once but it was the Dons’ first touchdown on a 73-yard run and set up the two other TDs with his hard-nosed running. He also had 30 carries for 232 yards. Mirer had the TD run plus two TD passes to Haynes.

Tremain went 23 of 35 for 251 yards and two TDs (with two interceptions) for the Bulldogs. He also rushed for 37 yards on five carries. His twin brother, Josh, was Folsom’s leading tackler with 12. Junior Hot 100 recruit Rico Flores Jr. had a great night for Folsom as well. He caught nine passes for 106 yards and was in on six tackles.

Mater Dei Beats Central
In D2-AA Battle of Catholics

In a game that presented a dramatic contrast of offensive styles, the opening minutes of the Mater Dei Catholic (Chula Vista) and Central Catholic (Modesto) CIF D2-AA championship game appeared as if it would be an shootout of grand proportions — 20 points scored in less than four minutes. Predictably, both schools relied on the offensive philosophy that served them best — the Crusaders threw the football while the Raiders pounded it on the ground.

The scoring pace slowed to a manageable degree and thus the final point tally didn’t constitute a shootout at all. However, in the end, the other gaudy numbers such as time of possession and total offense didn’t matter as much as the numeral 13. As they marched to a hard-fought 34-25 victory, MDC also enjoyed a perfect 13-0 season. The effort by the Crusaders also made a case for the theory that speed could triumph over brawn.

MD Catholic’s Tre Edwards led all tacklers in the CIF D2-AA state title game with 9.5 tackles (2 for loss). Photo: Mark Tennis.

The victory was the second state football title for head coach John Joyner with the other state title won in 2015 at the D5-AA level. And with a great cast of returning players, the Crusaders will likely start out near the top of the San Diego Section next season despite not being in the section’s top division (unless a rule is changed about teams moving up more than one division at a time).

“We do have a lot of young guys that return next season, but we’ll think about that later,” Joyner said. “This state title feels the same in some ways, but they’re all unique in their own way. The divisions thing is just up to whatever. It’s just a grind to get here and it’s a great feeling.”

After Nico Mosley scored the first of his three rushing touchdowns for the Crusaders, the Raiders struck quickly themselves on a run from workhorse Aiden Taylor. MDC then put together a quick drive that took less than two minutes and notched another score with an 18-yard gallop by Mosley once again.

The Crusaders closed the first quarter scoring as sophomore standout Isaiah Buxton picked off a Tyler Wentworth pass and scampered 88yards to make it 20-7. The two schools then traded turnovers early in the second quarter. MDC took advantage of its opportunity as quarterback Dominic Nankil found Surahz Buncom on a 33-yard pass play to run the score to 27-7.

Needing to finish the half on a strong note in order to have any opportunity at victory, head coach Roger Canepa’s Raiders strung together a very impressive 13-play, 77-yard drive that took over seven minutes off the clock. CC’s other workhorse, Julian Lopez, scored on a one-yard dive to bring the score to 27-13. The two-point attempted failed and both schools headed to the locker room at halftime.

With momentum on their side, the Raiders received the second half kickoff and orchestrated another long distance drive that spanned 80 yards in four plays. Taylor took the handoff from Wentworth and broke free to rumble 71 yards and CC was back in the game, 27-19. Taylor, a huge part of the CC running arsenal, experienced an eye injury and was forced to the sidelines for the remainder of the game.

The Raiders’ momentum continued as they held MDC on the next drive despite some remarkable plays by the Crusaders’ offense. MDC attempted a field goal that was blocked.

Trailing by eight points, CC looked to spin another long drive to potentially tie the contest. However, Wentworth threw his second interception of the game into the hands of Brian Dukes. As the third quarter wound down, the normally pass-happy Crusaders went to the ground once again and called upon Mosley. The talented junior then took a pitch from Nankil and squeezed past the pylon with his third score to give his team a 34-19 advantage.

The fourth quarter began with a key possession by CC. This protracted possession lasted 17 plays and shaved more than seven and-a-half minutes off the clock. Lopez cut through a hole for a seven-yard touchdown, bringing the Raiders within a 34-25 margin. The two-point conversion attempt was thwarted by MDC.

Julian Lopez has been one of Central Catholic’s top players all season. Photo: Mark Tennis.

CC’s onside kick was recovered by the Crusaders, who were able to run out a big portion of the clock. CC had one last gasp which was extinguished when DB Anthony Lopez’s tackle for loss punctuated the win.

After the dust cleared, both schools combined for 746 yards. The time of possession was dominated by Central Catholic by a two-to-one margin. The Raiders actually ended up out gaining the Crusaders in offensive yardage 382-364.

MDC was led by Cal-Hi Sports’ Game MVP Nankil and his 297 yards passing on 13-of-22 (59.1%) and one touchdown. Mosley gained 50 yards rushing on nine carries, and had three touchdowns totaling 24 yards in distance. Receivers Jerry McClure and Cruz Estrada combined for 212 yards while Bumcom had one touchdown. All-American junior Tre Edwards led the defense with 9 1/2 tackles (2 for loss).

CC’s back tandem of Taylor and Lopez gained 194 and 112 yards respectively and accounted for two touchdowns each.

The Raiders end the campaign at 13-2 with their only other loss to No. 35 Bellarmine (San Jose). They also lost in a state final after four straight wins from 2012 to 2015. Their fist CIF state title game loss in 2007 came in the season just before Canepa took over after the retirement of Mike Glines.

“Yes, it was four in a row for me and no I don’t like it (how this feels),” Canepa said. “I don’t know how much longer it’ll be for me, but I feel I still have some games in me.

“They have good athletes, but I thought we ran the ball well. I just put our QB in a bind a couple of times on throws. It wasn’t our best but we found a way to get back in it.”

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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One Comment

  1. phil60
    Posted December 11, 2021 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Good for CC and MDC, two very good teams. CC would be a fourth or fifth best team in the Trinity League. And MDC should have been in their Open Division.

    The Southern Section has gone to competitive equity, unlike Northern Cal and San Diego. This would have been a logical year for them to have only four teams in their Open. If they had, it is likely to have changed some of the results and even the teams playing yesterday and today.

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