CIF State FB Previews & Picks

Isiah Kendrick (left) celebrates during San Mateo Serra’s win in 2017 in the CIF D2-AA state championship, which is the school’s only state title won so far. At right is St. John Bosco head coach Jason Negro after team won its third CIF Open Division state title since 2013 in 2019. Photos: & Mark Tennis.

Wet weather is forecast for the Saturday games at home sites in Northern California, but it should be okay for the five games being played on Friday and Saturday at Saddleback College. Schools looking to win state titles for the first time are plentiful. Those looking for more include the school tied for the most ever, De La Salle of Concord, plus a school that is 3-0, St. John Bosco of Bellflower. McClymonds of Oakland also going for its fifth in a matchup with a school going for its second in a row.

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Serra of San Mateo (CCS D1) vs. St. John Bosco of Bellflower (CIFSS D1)
Saturday, 8 p.m., Saddleback College

Records, Rankings & History: Serra 13-0 & No. 3 overall in state; Bosco 12-1 & No. 1 overall in state. Serra comes in 1-3 in all-time CIF state title game appearances with a loss in 2019 in D1-A to Corona del Mar, a win 2017 in D2-AA over Cajon of San Bernardino, a loss in 2016 in D2-A to Sierra Canyon and a loss in the Open Division last season to Mater Dei. Bosco enters 3-0 in all-time CIF state title games with wins over De La Salle of Concord in all three and all in the Open Division (2013, 2016, 2019). The Braves were a national champion by a computer ranking in 2013, but in 2019 they were a consensus national champion in all rankings. That will be the case again for 2022 if they win against Serra.

Comments: Last year’s team at Serra came into the game after a big upset of unbeaten St. Francis of Mountain View in the CIF Central Coast Section championship. This year’s team has been in the driver’s seat to get the NorCal slot in the Open Division since its second game, a victory at De La Salle that was the first time the Padres had ever beaten the Spartans and the first time that head coach Patrick Walsh (a Hall of Fame player at DLS himself) had ever gotten a win over his former school. This year’s edition of Padres also is markedly better than last season with great depth in the offensive backfield and in the secondary. QB Maealiuaki Smith also has been one of the best at his position in Northern California. Playing against the lineup that head coach Jason Negro can throw at you, however, is just a entirely different situation. Serra can be better than last year, but it may not matter with a final score compared to 44-7 (which is what the Padres lost to Mater Dei). The two teams that the Braves and Mater Dei beat in the CIFSS semifinals, Los Alamitos and Mission Viejo, were coming off of big wins themselves over Long Beach Poly and Corona Centennial. They lost 52-0 and 48-14. Saying Serra may lose similarly isn’t a knock against the Padres. Other top 25 level teams in the nation would no doubt suffer the same fate. Bruce Rollinson at Mater Dei was fond of saying he created a monster. Well, the model for that monster was created before that by Negro and his monster will have another feeding on Saturday.

Prediction: St. John Bosco 42, Serra 7.

Charles Greer of De La Salle is about to break loose for some big yardage vs. Cathedral Catholic in game last season. Photo: Willie Eashman / Cal-Hi Sports.

De La Salle of Concord (NCS D1) vs. Lincoln of San Diego (SD Open)
Friday, 8 p.m. Saddleback College

Records, Rankings & History: De La Salle 9-3 & No. 8 overall in state; Lincoln 12-1 & No. 9 overall in state. De La Salle has been in more CIF state title games than any other school by a wide margin, but has not won one since 2015 (Open Division over Corona Centennial). The Spartans lost in CIF Open finals in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. The only year since the CIF re-booted state championships in football in 2006 that DLS has not been in it was last season when the Spartans lost in the NorCal D1-AA final to Folsom. They will be looking to win their 8th CIF state title. Bakersfield also has seven CIF state titles, but the CIF counts one for the Drillers in 1916 that was handed to them by a committee and was not won on the field. In our state records, that one doesn’t count. Lincoln doesn’t have history like that, but for having all-time great players and NFL players the Hornets also are near the top. They will be looking for their first CIF state title in school history. Lincoln also is second all-time in the state for having had NFL players (Long Beach Poly is first). All-time NFL great Marcus Allen is of course the school’s most famous of those alums.

Comments: When posting these writeups, it isn’t known what may happen with reports that Lincoln players damaged the locker room after their game at Sierra Canyon last week. Players could be held out or more. And now to what we do know about. It would be easy to say Lincoln by a touchdown in this matchup just looking at Cathedral Catholic of San Diego as a common opponent. De La Salle traveled south to play the Dons in September and won 28-20. Lincoln faced the Dons for a Western League contest and won 31-17. But Lincoln fans know very well just from last week that looking only at results doesn’t tell the whole story. For their team, last week’s 37-14 win over Sierra Canyon for the SoCal D1-AA title doesn’t make sense looking at Lincoln with a 14-7 loss to Alemany and Sierra Canyon having a 42-0 win over Alemany. When DLS played at Cathedral Catholic, it had not yet settled on sophomore Toa Faavae at quarterback and running a more traditional type of DLS offense with the Veer option. That approach is not going to come close in an Open Division setting, but to win a D1-AA state title it might be. We don’t know when writing this whether Spartans’ TE/DE Cooper Flanagan will be available. It looks like a no. The Notre Dame commit did not play vs Folsom. Lincoln has the type of skill players that De La Salle has played this season from Pittsburg, but the Spartans have not faced a running back like Roderick Robinson. Traditionally, DLS shuts down elite running backs in these types of games and the list includes Najee Harris (Antioch) & Kendall Milton (Buchanan). Lincoln’s best chances of winning would appear to be to spread it around to others with the DLS defense keying up to stop Robinson. Lincoln’s defense also has been solid at stopping the run and the DLS offense has not shown it can be very explosive in the passing game like the Hornets.

Prediction: Lincoln 27, De La Salle 24.

Pittsburg (NCS D1) vs. Liberty of Bakersfield (Central Sec D1)
Saturday, 4 p.m. Saddleback College

Records, Rankings & History: Pittsburg 12-2 and No. 19 overall in the state; Liberty 12-2 and No. 18 overall in the state. Neither of these schools has won a CIF state title before, but they played last season in the D1-A NorCal final with Liberty winning 35-7. Pitt also was in the D1-A state final in 2017 when it lost to Narbonne of Harbor City in a game it led 21-0 in the first half. After beating the Pirates last season, the Patriots then lost in the CIF state final to Serra of Gardena.

Comments: Emotions will be riding high on both sidelines as the Pirates want to win badly for head coach Vic Galli, who is stepping down after this season. He has been calling the shots at Pitt for 21 years. For Liberty, there will be determination to win in the same state final in which the team lost just last season. That 35-7 win from last year’s NorCal D1-A final (Liberty was placed in the north last year but was put in the south this year) featured all of the key ingredients that the Patriots employ to win (big special teams plays, grinding down the opponent in the second half and the occasional explosive play passing the ball). Pitt QB Jaden Rashada was limited by an ankle injury in that game and seems close to 100 percent now. Pirates’ fans also have to like how their team battled in its losses to De La Salle and Folsom and in its wins over McClymonds, Manteca and others. Plus, Pitt was on the road in Bakersfield for last year’s game and now both teams will be on the road. Still, when there are teams that played before and the score was 35-7, it’s too hard to pick the losing team when they play again. Plus, Liberty has made this same exact trip before and experience should make it easier.

Prediction: Liberty 27, Pittsburg 24.

McClymonds of Oakland (Oak Sec) vs.
Mater Dei Catholic of Chula Vista (SD D1)
Friday, 4 p.m. Saddleback College

Records, Rankings & History: McClymonds 11-1 (plus one win by forfeit) and No. 32 overall in the state; Mater Dei Catholic 10-4 and No. 24 overall in the state. Both schools have won CIF state titles before. Mack clobbered L.A. City Section Open Division champion Birmingham last year in D3-A and also went on a streak of three straight state titles in lower divisions from 2016 to 2018. The Warriors lost in their only other appearance at the state finals above D2-A (which was to Pacifica of Oxnard in 2019). Mater Dei Catholic won its first state title in a lower division and made it 2-0 last year with its triumph in this same divisional state final over Central Catholic of Modesto.

Comments: Head coach John Joyner’s team at MD Catholic was supposed to be one of the very best in the CIF San Diego Section this season and the schedule reflected that with early-season matchups vs. Cathedral Catholic, Carlsbad, Lincoln and out-of-state. The Crusaders were competitive in those early games, except Lincoln, but have come back since then to win the SD Section D1 title (including an avenging win vs Cathedral Catholic). Still, it’s not like the team has been rolling in any of its recent games. Last week’s regional win was by one point over Downey and the D1 section final required a tense officials meeting before it was determined that a pass caught by Jeremiah McClure in the end zone with 18 seconds left was good. McClymonds also has played teams already on the same level as some of the best teams from San Diego, including a 39-21 loss to Pittsburg and wins against San Ramon Valley and Bellarmine. We wish Mack showed more of a passing game, but its dynamic duo of Jaivian Thomas and Ferrari Miller may be just a bit too hard for the Crusaders to contain.

Prediction: McClymonds 35, Mater Dei Catholic 30.

San Ramon Valley of Danville (NCS D2) vs.
Granite Hills of El Cajon (SD D2)
Saturday, 12 noon. Saddleback College

Records, Rankings & History: San Ramon Valley 12-2 and No. 51 overall in the state; Granite Hills 12-2 and No. 44 overall in the state. Both of these schools are making their first ever appearances in a CIF state football championship. SRV’s losses are to McClymonds and Clayton Valley of Concord. Granite Hills’ losses are to Poway and Madison of San Diego.

Comments: You have to give San Ramon Valley a ton of credit for knocking off 12-0 Campolindo of Moraga in its section final and then knocking off 13-0 Marin Catholic of Kentfield in last week’s NorCal championship. The other factor to consider is that Granite Hills has only really had one competitive game since its first two and that was an overtime win over Helix (La Mesa) that earned the Eagles a league title. Have the Eagles played enough strong teams like SRV has to step up in a close game? The CalPreps computer and everyone at Scorebook Live thinks they have, but Luke Baker (3,548 yards passing and 44 TDs) has had success against every defense he’s faced and should keep the Wolves close.

Prediction: San Ramon Valley 35, Granite Hills 34.

Semaj Mafu-Hart makes a move for Grant during last week’s D3-AA NorCal final that the Pacers won against El Cerrito. Photo: Willie Eashman / Cal-Hi Sports.

San Jacinto (CIFSS D6) at Grant of Sacramento (SJS D3)
Saturday, 6 p.m.

Records, Rankings & History: San Jacinto 13-2 & on the State TOP 50 bubble; Grant 11-2 & on the State TOP 50 bubble. This is the Tigers’ first CIF state finals’ appearance. Grant of course made history with a CIF Open Division state title in 2008 with a win over Long Beach Poly. Many had the Pacers the following season in 2009 as No. 1 in the state to start that season, but they were upset in the Sac-Joaquin Section championships by Rocklin. They’ve never been back.

Comments: We can go back to a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section media day in August when some in the room saw Grant being D3 in that section (based on enrollment and on how it has done in recent seasons) and that an expected good team there this season could really do some damage. That has happened and then some. The first clue was a 45-42 loss to Monterey Trail (has been top 25 in the state this season) and then when the Pacers did get into D3 they’ve been fantastic. Last week’s 36-7 win over El Cerrito even though the Gauchos were unbeaten wasn’t that much of a surprise. The key for Grant this week may be to have to win a shootout because the San Jacinto team the Pacers are playing can score often and quickly. QB Dereun Dortch accounted for seven TDs last week and has 3,261 yards passing with more than 500 rushing. He and Grant QB Joseph McCray were this week’s SoCal and NorCal Offensive Players of the Week. Wet weather may impact this game but will likely just keep the score down a bit for both squads.

Prediction: Grant 35, San Jacinto 28

Laguna Hills (CIFSS D7) vs. Bellarmine of San Jose (CCS D2)
Saturday, 6 p.m., San Jose City College

Records, Rankings & History: Laguna Hills 14-1, No. 111 by; Bellarmine 8-6, listed on State TOP 50 bubble. This is the first appearance for Laguna Hills in a CIF state final. For the Bells, they have gone 0-3 in CIF state finals (but all in higher divisions). Bellarmine also is considered the oldest high school in the state due to its roots at Santa Clara Prep (which goes back to 1851).

Comments: The Bells will have the tough task of trying to slow down Laguna Hills’ junior standout Troy Leigber, who will lead the state in scoring this season and has 50 total touchdowns coming into the contest. It’s not like the Bells have not faced elite players this year already, though. They’re from the same West Catholic Athletic League as NorCal Open Division representative Serra of San Mateo. Despite Bellarmine having six losses, it’s recent wins over Wilcox of Santa Clara (10-1 at the time) and Vanden last week (won D3-AA state title last season) shows that the team is playing very well right now.

Predicted Score: Bellarmine Prep 21, Laguna Hills 14

Northwood of Irvine (CIFSS D8) At Escalon (SJS D5)
Saturday, 6 p.m.

Records, Rankings & History: Northwood 14-1, No. 123 by; Escalon 11-3, 120 by This is the first CIF state title game appearance for Northwood. Escalon will be looking to go to 3-0 in state finals. The first one was in an older format when not every team got to play on after section finals in 2011. That was against favored Madison of San Diego in D3 and the Cougars excelled in wet conditions and pulled off a 30-14 upset. Escalon won in 2019 over La Jolla.

Comments: There’s a certain toughness to like about the Timberwolves. They gutted out a 10-7 win last week over Central Section D3 winner Kennedy of Delano and also have a win over D3-A finalist Laguna Hills. The two teams are in the same league. Only beating Kennedy 10-7, though, also shows how hard it may be for Northwood to beat Escalon. One of the Cougars’ most impressive outings was a 41-40 loss in overtime to Buchanan of Clovis, which was a semifinalist in D1 in the same section as Kennedy and had a win early in the season over D1 champion Liberty.

Predicted Score: Escalon 28, Northwood 14

Justin Guin led San Marin of Novato to last year’s CIF D5-AA state championship. Photo: Harold Abend.

Granada Hills (LA City D2) At San Marin of Novato (NCS D5)
Saturday, 6 p.m.

Records, Rankings & History: Granada Hills 12-2 & No. 171 by; San Marin 12-2 & No. 180 by This is the first-ever CIF state title appearance for the Highlanders, who are of course well known for being the alma mater of NFL Hall of Famer John Elway and play at John Elway Stadium. San Marin won its first CIF state title last season in D5-AA with a win against Independence of Bakersfield.

Comments: San Marin is going to be without junior QB Michael Ingrassia, who passed for 2,443 yards and 35 TDs. Our Redwood Empire correspondent and associate editor Harold Abend confirmed that on Wednesday night. Ingrassia has a broken humerus bone. Even with Ingrassia, the thought of picking Granada Hills in an upset was there. The Highlanders may be slowed down by rainy weather and they have speedsters like Dijon and Darrell Stanley who that may impact. But we like how they have played since a one-point loss to Birmingham in the regular season. It would be an upset, too. Granada Hills is the only SoCal team we’re picking this year in one of the games played up north. Last season, none of the SoCal teams were able to win in divisions 3-AA down to 7-A.

Prediction: Granada Hills 29, San Marin 27

Muir of Pasadena (CIFSS D10) At Hughson (SJS D6)
Saturday, 6 p.m.

Records, Rankings & History: Muir 9-6 & 215 by; Hughson 12-2 & 199 by Neither school has won a CIF state title in football before and neither has been there before either. Muir has won state titles in other sports, particularly track and field. It’s also the alma mater of the legendary Jackie Robinson. Hughson is from the same league as D4-AA rep Escalon. In fact, teams from the Trans-Valley League that have won state football titles include Escalon, Ripon, Hilmar and Modesto Christian. Hughson, which has been State Team of the Year before in Division 4 in 1997 in years before the CIF even had state games (2006), will be looking to make some history of its own.

Comments: Muir’s path to get to this game has been perhaps the most filled with adversity. The Mustangs started 0-3 and lost a league game to their rivals from Pasadena at the Rose Bowl in the annual Turkey Tussle Game, 47-0. Once they got into the CIFSS D10 playoffs, though, they took advantage. The defense has been especially tough with just two TDs allowed in the last four games. Having to go 220 miles to Blythe last week and then having to go all the way up to Hughson this week also will be hard to overcome. Hughson has the toughness from playing in the TVL to slug it out with Muir’s defense. The bad weather expected up north also should keep the scoring at a minimum.

Prediction: Hughson 17, Muir 14

Shafter (Central Sec D4) At Orland (Northern Sec D3)
Saturday, 6 p.m.

Records, Rankings & History: Shafter 11-4 & No. 306 by CalPreps; Orland 14-0 & No. 221 by CalPreps. Neither of these teams has ever won a CIF state title in football before. Orland will likely end the season with the best record in the state if it can win and get to 15-0. Serra of San Mateo is unbeaten heading into the CIF Open Division state final, but is a huge underdog. Fall River of McArthur, the CIF Northern Section D5 champion, finished 12-0 and will have the longest winning streak in the state coming into next season at 29 games. That team, however, opted out of the CIF regional games.

Comments: Bad weather, which is expected, could impact Shafter a lot more than Orland. The Generals have a freshman QB, Ezekiel Osborne, who has passed for 3,254 yards and 32 TDs, while the Trojans like to pound it with the run game and have relied on their quarterback, Grant Foster, for most of it. Orland’s other backs, though, have all had games recently with multiple touchdowns. If Shafter’s defense can hang in there, a slippery ball in the rain contributing to Orland fumbles might even things out.

Predicted Score: Orland 22, Shafter 14

Classical Academy of Escondido (SD D5) At
Santa Teresa of San Jose (CCS D4)
Saturday, 6 p.m.

Records, Rankings & History: Classical Academy 9-4 & No. 314 by CalPreps; Santa Teresa 9-5 & No. 270 by CalPreps. Classical Academy just won its first San Diego Section title and will be looking for its first CIF state title after a regional win against Lancaster. Santa Teresa also is going for its first CIF state crown.

Comments: Both teams had victories over one-loss teams en route to winning their section titles. For the Caimans, it was a triumph over top seed Crawford in the SD Section final. For the Saints, they knocked off 11-1 Branham of San Jose in the section final. They had already eliminated top seed Sequoia of Redwood City. Life Pollard of Classical Academy was our SoCal Special Teams/Multipurpose Player of the Week and if his team can pull off the win he will likely have to make a couple of big plays in the return game.

Prediction: Santa Teresa 24, Classical Academy 21

Atascadero was a state medium schools powerhouse in the 1980s and into the 1990s. Photo: Cody Locker/

San Gabriel (CIFSS D13) At Atascadero (Central Sec D5)
Saturday, 6 p.m.

Records, Rankings & History: San Gabriel 12-3 & No. 470 by CalPreps; Atascadero 10-4 & No. 333 by CalPreps. Both of these teams and schools will be aiming to win their first-ever CIF state titles. Like San Gabriel, Atascadero also used to be a member of the CIF Southern Section. The Greyhounds switched to the Central Section four years ago.

Comments: We can vividly recall the days of when Atascadero was coached by Larry Welsh in the 1980s and early 1990s when the Greyhounds were winning CIFSS titles. Welsh, in fact, was State Coach of the Year for 1995 when his team went 14-0. Maybe that’s why the thought of any Atascadero team being down in D6-A just seems odd. The Greyhounds also have won 10 of their last 11 games after an 0-3 start and that loss was by just one point. Senior RB Trey Cooks and junior QB Kane Cooks have been leading the way. For San Gabriel, it’s been Jacob Muniz as a dual-threat QB leading a potent offense in recent weeks.

Prediction: Atascadero 35, San Gabriel 16

One-game final played last Saturday:
Pinole Valley of Pinole (NCS D6) 35, Mendota (Central Sec D6) 21

Crenshaw of Los Angeles (LA City D3) Vs. Lincoln of San Francisco (SF Sec)
Saturday, 1 pm at Kezar Stadium

Records, Rankings & History: Crenshaw 7-7 & No. 651 by CalPreps; Lincoln 9-3 & No. 563 by CalPreps. Both teams have won CIF state titles before. Crenshaw, which lost in the CIF Open Division final in 2009 to De La Salle, made it back in D4-AA in 2017 and won at home over Placer of Auburn. Lincoln won back-to-back championships in the bottom division in 2018 and 2019, but after COVID in 2020 lost to Balboa last year in the SF city final.

Comments: You’re not going to find two coaches who are more dedicated to their kids, especially those from city backgrounds, than Crenshaw’s Robert Garrett and Lincoln’s Phil Ferrigno. Just because of those two, we’d root for a tie if that was possible. It’s not, so the difficulty of Crenshaw having to come up to play the Mustangs in this game probably will be too much, despite the impressive win last week against Whittier Christian.

Prediction: Lincoln 35, Crenshaw 21

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.

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  1. Chris
    Posted December 8, 2022 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    What did Manteca do to the CIF to perennially get hung out to dry in Norcal games?

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted December 8, 2022 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

      Pitt was too high for them, but the CIF for some reason put Liberty in the south and stuck Manteca there. Should have played McClymonds in D2-AA. Think our choice for that was better, more competitive for both divisions. Lemoore vs Granite Hills also would have been better than Etiwanda.

  2. Cal 14
    Posted December 8, 2022 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    The most amazing stat for any of these teams is that Granada Hills has not completed a pass all season. They are 0-7 through the air.

  3. Fumble
    Posted December 8, 2022 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ll repeat, it’s a joke to have Bellarmine playing in such a low division. I understand they are not as strong as the past but their depth and strength of schedule dwarfs a D7SS team. Laguna Hills is more on par with Santa Teresa from CCS.

  4. Chacholibre777
    Posted December 8, 2022 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Just wondering if the two “Cooks” for Atascadero could be the sons or grandsons of Roosevelt Cooks who was a star tailback and All-CIF Southern Section All-Star for Atascadero back in 1975???

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