Recaps: CIF Saturday Finals (NorCal)

Jamelle Newman breaks loose and heads toward the end zone for Lincoln of San Francisco during team’s win at Kezar Stadium on Saturday over Crenshaw. Photo: Willie Eashman.


For all of the games played on a rainy, often muddy night in Northern California on Saturday, two of the teams traveling from SoCal were able to pull off wins — Laguna Hills in D3-A and Classical Academy of Escondido in D-6AA. None of the SoCal teams posted wins in these games last season. The poor weather didn’t prevent Grant of Sacramento and San Jacinto from playing a truly memorable shootout in D3-AA. Escalon and Hughson also won titles for a Sac-Joaquin Section sweep.

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DIVISION 3–AA
San Jacinto at Grant (Sacramento)

In a game that mirrored the crazy ending of Sacramento State vs Incarnate Word from earlier this weekend, Grant’s Kyle Ryan scored in the final 18 seconds to push the Pacers (12-2) to a 36-34 victory over San Jacinto. This is Grant’s first state title since 2008 vs Long Beach Poly. The two programs exploded for 34 combined fourth quarter points. The Pacers bounced back from an 0-9 season last season (counting forfeits) and became the highest rated North representative to win a state title this year. There were issues with the scoreboard for the final three minutes of the contest, which made the ending even more chaotic. Grant stormed back from a 20-8 deficit early in the third quarter. San Jacinto ended its season at 13-3.

DIVISION 3–A
Laguna Hills vs. Bellarmine (San Jose)

When Bellarmine quarterback Nate Escalada connected with Ben Pfaff on a 45-yard touchdown pass across the middle of the field to put the Bells (8-7) up 27-7 over Laguna Hills during the second quarter, it appeared that the Bells were en route to their first football state title. The visitors from Laguna Hills (15-1) had other plans, however, on Saturday evening at San Jose City College, as the Hawks scored 21 unanswered points for the stunning 28-27 victory over the Bells. The comeback started off with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Kaden Austin on the first drive out of the halftime break. The Hawks took the lead for good with 6:51 remaining in the game, as Troy Leigber scored on a 62-yard burst on fourth and two. Laguna Hills instead was the school celebrating its first state title.

Head coach Andrew Beam of Escalon is surrounded by family and friends after the Cougars won 2022 D4-AA state title. Photo: FrontRowPreps.com.

DIVISION 4–AA
Northwood (Irvine) at Escalon

On a flooded field, Escalon pulled away for its third state title, as the Cougars (12-3) notched a 28-7 victory over Northwood (14-2) on Saturday evening. It was tied 7-7 at the halftime break, but Escalon’s ground game was key in the second half. Logan Anderson had the game winning score early in the second half, as Anderson took a 49-yard touchdown back to put the Cougars up 14-7. Escalon’s star running back added a 6-yard touchdown burst with 3:31 remaining to give the hosts some breathing room. The confirmed dagger for Northwood was an Owen Nash 33-yard interception return for a touchdown. This is the second state title for Escalon in the past three seasons (four years counting COVID) and it puts the program on the all-time state list with three overall.

DIVISION 4–A
Granada Hills at San Marin (Novato)

For the second straight season, the Mustangs (13-2) of San Marin of Marin County are state champions, as the small school north of the Golden Gate Bridge corralled the larger Granada Hills Charter (Granada Hills) 32-8 in dominating fashion Saturday evening in Novato. Granada Hills Charter came into the game with one of the top running backs in the state in Utah bound Dijon Stanley and an offense that had not completed a pass all season according to team stats. San Marin dared the Highlanders to beat them by the air, as the Mustangs used an 11-man box of six linemen and five linebackers. The hosts forced three fumbles in the first quarter and quickly took an 18-0 advantage over the Highlanders and the rout was on. Helping lead the Mustangs to the state title was second string quarterback Jimmy Hughes, as the junior stepped in for injured junior quarterback Dominic Ingrassia. San Marin held Stanley to his lowest yardage game of the season, as the senior only had 86 yards. And yes, Granada Hills (12-3) did have a completed pass.

DIVISION 5–AA
Muir (Pasadena) at Hughson

It seems that whenever a Trans Valley League side makes it to a state title, the small school from the southern part of the Sac-Joaquin Section has a good chance of taking home a title. This was the case again this season, as Hughson held on for a 9-6 victory over Muir and the Huskies (13-2) joined Escalon as the second TVL team to pull off a state title this year. It is the first state title for Hughson. In addition to Escalon, Ripon, Hilmar and Modesto Christian of the TVL have won state crowns. Hughson scored the only touchdown it would need just a couple minutes in the contest, as the hosts recovered a fumble on the mud soaked field and Liam Bridgford punched in a five-yard touchdown run for a score. The Huskies would add two more points at the end of the first quarter, as a bad Muir snap forced the Mustangs to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Muir (9-7) added its only score just before the end of the third quarter, as Mahki Clark scored on a keeper.

DIVISION 5–A
Shafter at Orland

There is only one undefeated state champion this season and it’s not St. John Bosco (Bellflower), as Orland outlasted Shafter of the Central Section to secure a 20-7 victory and walk away with a 15-0 perfect season. Shafter head coach has some choice words for the CIF after the game about the field quality, as the field up in the Northern Section did resemble store bought ground beef. With both sides reduced to run only options, the ground focused Trojans were right at home in the mud. Grant Foster did the bulk of the damage for the hosts, as the senior running back had 29 carries for 159 yards and scored two touchdowns for the Trojans. Foster had all three touchdowns for the Trojans, as the two-way star also had a 40-yard pick-six in the second half. The Generals capped an 11-5 season.

DIVISION 6–AA
Classical Academy (Escondido) at Santa Teresa (San Jose)

The Caimans (10-4) from the City of Escondido are one of the few small schools from the South to pick up a state title this season, as Classical Academy held on for a 7-0 victory over hosting Santa Teresa (San Jose) on Saturday evening. A Life Pollard rushing touchdown in the first quarter was all the scoring needed for the Caimans, as the San Diego Section side held the Saints (9-6) scoreless on their home field. Classical Academy used a double tight end double blocking formation to pull off the lone touchdown of the game. The victory by the Caimans also secured a perfect 4-0 weekend for the San Diego Section. Granite Hills of El Cajon had won earlier in the day at Saddleback College. On Friday down south, Mater Dei Catholic and Lincoln (San Diego) earned crowns.

DIVISION 6–A
San Gabriel at Atascadero

Other than the CIF Open Division, there was no bigger shutout this weekend than Atascadero’s 41-0 blasting of San Gabriel on a mud soaked field on Saturday evening. Maybe it was fate, as Atascadero (11-4) loosely translated from Spanish means a muddy place. Trey Cooks had the first four touchdowns of the game for the Greyhounds, as the senior would finish with five total scores in his final high school game. This is the first state title for Atascadero after the Greyhounds secured their first section title since 1996. San Gabriel finished its season at 12-4.

DIVISION 7–A
Crenshaw (LA) vs. Lincoln (San Francisco)

Lincoln was right at home at historic Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, as the Mustangs used eight rushing touchdowns to breeze past Crenshaw 54-6 in the fifth largest margin of victory in a CIF State Bowl game. This is the third state title in Lincoln school history and the Mustangs have secured victories in each state title appearance. Ricky Underwood had three of the first four touchdowns for Lincoln (11-3) in the blowout, as the running back had the team high on the day. Crenshaw (7-8) struggled with the wet conditions on the grass field inside Kezar Stadium.

Note: Pinole Valley of Pinole won its first CIF state title last weekend in D7-AA with a 35-21 victory last Friday at Mendota. In that bracket, the two teams went straight to a final with no regional ahead of time. Lincoln of San Francisco also had a bye in D7-A. The one CIF section champion that opted out of the bowl games was Fall River of McArthur (12-0), which would have been no higher than D7-AA.

Daniel Poulter is a free-lance writer based in Windsor, Calif. He also currently does work for the Napa Valley Register. Follow him @DanielJPoulter.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports


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