Here’s our first run-through for all of the most likely scenarios for the CIF NorCal and SoCal regional bowl games, which will lead up to the CIF state football championships on Dec. 8-9 at three junior colleges in Southern California. We’ll do another one next week prior to the CIF section championships and will offer reactions when the CIF announces its regional lineup of games on Sunday, Dec. 3.
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Before going through all of the possible matchups, there are several major, important reminders for all to consider.
First, there are always upsets in section playoffs in which the top seeded team in a bracket is knocked off in a section final. Each team listed in the projections is either the highest seeded team remaining in that bracket or it’s the team with the highest MaxPreps/CalPreps computer ranking.
For teams that are ranked in our own Cal-Hi Sports State TOP 50 or have been in our medium/small schools state rankings we are listing those teams in the same order as those rankings and not the computer. There are no medium/small schools rankings this week and there won’t be next week, either. We’ll return to those for the weeks leading into the regional games, then the state finals and then there will be final medium/small plus our final five division format that goes back to 1975.
Second, teams can opt out of participating in the CIF regional/state championships. There haven’t been any in a division higher than D4 but there have been in the lower divisions, especially small schools from rural Northern California. The CIF will know which teams are opting out this year well before the section championships, but it’s not known if it will release the names of any of those schools and they may not need to. Some of those that have said they’re opting out won’t win in their section finals and for a team to be eligible for a regional game it has to win a section title.
The CIF has a lot of flexibility in moving teams from the CIF Central Section to the north or south brackets. Two years ago, Liberty of Bakersfield (the section’s D1 champion) was placed in the north and had a home game in D1-A against Pittsburg. But last year, after the Patriots won their title again, they were placed in the south and had a road game in D1-A at Yorba Linda. There are going to be six Central Section champions and due to the higher number of teams in the north than in the south it’s probably going to be a 4-2 or 5-1 split of Central Section teams going to the south instead of the north. We did a 4-2 split for our run-through with one bye in the south. The CIF could do 3-3 and have a bye in the north.
Travel is a big priority for the CIF in some of the matchups and they do tend to not want to have teams that have already played each other playing again in a regional matchup. There also is a preference for teams from the same section not playing each other, but that is unavoidable in the south where there are 14 teams from the Southern Section. And in some cases, teams from the same section playing each other become obvious and besides sometimes it’s a case in which local bragging rights will mean a good attendance number. The CIF usually doesn’t admit that more dollars coming in from a bigger gate is a factor in some of these decisions, but it just has to be a factor and it has been in the past.
Each CIF section provides its own list of teams to the CIF after its section finals are complete and in a recommended order of placement. The CIF doesn’t have to go by that order, but in most cases it does. The section commissioners are already talking to Brian Seymour of the CIF (who runs the state football events) about its various teams and they will have gone over a lot of the sticking points before the commissioners even meet up on that Sunday morning to make the final selections.
We hope every team listed below ends up on the board and good luck to all of them in the upcoming weekend.
St. John Bosco of Bellflower (CIFSS D1) 9-1 vs.
Serra of San Mateo (CCS Open) 11-0
Comments: Bosco’s spot also would be the same one for whichever of the four semifinalists in the CIFSS D1 eventually wins the title. The Braves or Mater Dei of Santa Ana have won every Open Division state title since 2016 (not counting COVID year). Serra only has to defeat Wilcox of Santa Clara on Friday in the CCS Open Division final to clinch its spot in this game for the third straight year. Technically, the CIF could consider Clovis North for the Open Division if it were to finish 13-0 and win the CIF Central Section D1 title, but Serra is the higher ranked team and no one at Clovis North is going to feel slighted at all for being lower (and not having to potentially face Mater Dei or St. John Bosco).
De La Salle of Concord (NCS D1/Open) 9-2 vs. Clovis North of Fresno (Central Sec D1) 11-0
Serra of Gardena (CIFSS D2) 9-3 vs. Lincoln of San Diego (SD Open) 11-0
Comments: DLS is facing San Ramon Valley on Friday at Dublin High for the NCS Open title. The Spartans have head-to-head wins over Folsom and St. Mary’s (Stockton). If SRV wins, it would avenge its only loss and would just slide into this same spot on the NorCal board. The biggest choice for the CIF that will impact both the north and south boards is whether Clovis North (if it wins out in the Central Section) goes to the north or the south. From a competitive equity standpoint, it’s probably better for the balance between the two sides of the board if Clovis North were in the south. But the next team in line in the south after the CIFSS D1 clearly is going to come from San Diego Open. That’s going to be Lincoln or Granite Hills and the winner is going to not only be unbeaten but will have the longest winning streak in the state. Clovis North to San Diego or a San Diego team to Clovis North from a travel perspective, however, would be really difficult. The CIF would get skewered for sending either team on such a long road trip and it would be deserved. Clovis North should be in the north and a possible matchup involving Clovis North vs De La Salle also would be heavily attended at Veterans Stadium (where the CIF state track finals are held). If Clovis North doesn’t win out, Liberty of Bakersfield would probably go to the south like last year but other two teams left in the Central Section D1 playoffs also are from the Fresno area and likely would be in the north (but not higher ranked than Folsom). It also should be pointed out that DLS was on the road for the regionals last year at Folsom so it may be its turn to be at home this time. Down south, the San Diego Open winner has played the CIFSS D2 winner in recent seasons and there’s nothing that would seem to go against the same from happening again. Lincoln was on the road for its game last year vs Sierra Canyon and if it wins this week probably should be at home for the regionals this season.
Folsom (Sac-Joaquin D1) 9-2 vs. Pittsburg/San Ramon Valley 10-1, 11-0 (NCS D1)
St. Bonaventure of Ventura (CIFSS D3) 9-3 vs. La Serna of Whittier (CIFSS D4) 9-3
Comments: Folsom has played De La Salle in the regionals the last two seasons and it could happen again, but probably only because DLS loses to San Ramon Valley and then beats Pittsburg for the NCS D1 title. Pittsburg was the No. 3 seed in that NCS split bracket (Open and D1) and can still win a state title by beating the DLS/SRV loser to win the NCS D1 title and then winning regional/state games. The CIFSS D3 team has tended to be in D1-A and that looks likely again no matter which team it ends up being. We currently have La Serna higher ranked than any others in CIFSS D4 and higher than San Diego D1 so it would be next in line and therefore up in D1-A instead of D2-AA, which would probably be more to its liking.
St. Mary’s of Stockton (SJS D2) 11-1 vs. Grant of Sacramento (SJS D3) 9-2
Mission Hills of San Marcos (SD D1) 8-3 vs. Central Valley Christian of Visalia (Central Sec D2) 11-1
Comments: As one starts to go through all of the teams and looking at the north and south side by side, you can see why Clovis North at the top is going to cause some problems as a lot of highly ranked NorCal teams are sliding down a division. St. Mary’s/Rocklin or Grant, for example, would be a pretty solid favorite over SD D1 or Central Sec D2 in a title game. To us, the board doesn’t start to even out until a bit lower down. We actually were thinking St. Francis of Mountain View would be opposite of St. Mary’s/Rocklin for D2-AA but the Lancers were upset in the CCS Open/D1 playoffs by Wilcox of Santa Clara. Mission Hills and CVC are a bit far apart geographically but they are reasonably close according to computer rankings.
Los Gatos (CCS D1) 9-2 vs. McClymonds of Oakland (Oakland) 7-2
Newbury Park (CIFSS D5) 9-3 vs. Del Norte of San Diego (SD D2) 9-2
Comments: Los Gatos has a recent win over Wilcox (team that beat St. Francis) so it becomes the pick to win this week vs St. Ignatius in the CCS D1 semifinals and then win in a rematch with Wilcox after it presumably loses to Serra this week. Los Gatos has a loss to Grant and while it was by one point it also was before Grant got two of its best offensive players eligible. We have McClymonds higher ranked than El Cerrito out of the NCS, but it could easily be the other way around if the Gauchos win NCS D2 title. Mack was in the D2-AA final last year. Newbury Park down south has a loss to La Serna and from a travel standpoint a potential game in the regionals between the Panthers and Central Valley Christian of Visalia would not be that bad. Del Norte has been one of the top teams among many that have been jockeying around in the San Diego Section rankings after the top four but is the only one that is D2.
El Cerrito (NCS D2) 9-1* vs. Escalon (SJS D4) 10-1
Birmingham of Van Nuys (L.A. City Open) 9-2 vs. Simi Valley (CIFSS D6)
Comments: This could be too high for Birmingham considering the LA City Section has not been doing too well in these regional games, but this year’s team has been dominant in the section and its computer ranking would put it in this range of the south board. A possible matchup with Simi Valley coming out of CIFSS D6 also would be attractive locally in the San Fernando Valley/Ventura region. Escalon in the north has never been this high in the north, but the Cougars also have wins this year over Windsor (considered a co-favorite with El Cerrito in NCS D2) and Buchanan of Clovis. They probably wouldn’t play Windsor again in a rematch but could play McClymonds in D3-AA. Who would have ever thought that small town, small school Escalon could play the LA City Open champion in a state game? True, but enrollments aside this is the level that the Cougars are playing at.
San Marin of Novato (NCS D4) 11-0 vs. Marin Catholic of Kentfield (NCS D3) 10-1
M.L. King of Riverside (CIFSS D7) 6-6 vs. Mt. Miguel of Spring Valley (SD D4) 10-1
Comments: Putting San Marin and Marin Catholic in a rematch game would raise a lot of eyebrows in the Bay Area, but it definitely could happen. The CIF also could put Escalon in San Marin’s spot and move up San Marin to D3-AA. We did it this way because there’s a solid gap in the computer rankings between the two Marin County rivals (San Marin won 13-9 two weeks ago) and the next teams in the north and we really liked the next matchup in D4-AA from a geographical standpoint. A key point to keep in mind down south is that Mt. Miguel has a much higher computer ranking as the top seed from the CIF San Diego D4 playoffs than Mission Bay does from D3. We’re not sure the CIF San Diego Section would give its preferences to the CIF in the same order, but it’s clearly enough for us. M.L. King is from the same league as powerhouse Corona Centennial, but it’s in the Big West lower division and not the higher one.
Twelve Bridges of Lincoln (SJS D5) 11-0 vs. Chico (Northern Sec D2) 10-1
Highland of Palmdale (CIFSS D8) 8-4 vs. Shafter (Central Sec D4) 11-0
Comments: Twelve Bridges is having an incredible season as a new school with its first group of seniors. The Raging Rhinos are in SJS D5 where they still have two tough wins to achieve. Chico already has a 35-0 win over its rivals from Pleasant Valley and has been rolling up north. Looking at the map, having these two play each other really works. Shafter is the team from the Central Section that raised the biggest stink about playing in a mud bowl last season and it’s partly why the CIF has changed things around this season. We also have the unbeaten Generals higher on our board than the Central Section team from its D3 playoffs. Highland just knocked off top seed Brentwood of L.A. in its playoffs and has been a team familiar with the CIF regional playoffs. The Bulldogs went up to Ripon in 2019 and lost there in a state final in the same D4-AA bracket we have them in now.
Soquel (CCS D2) 9-2 vs. Sonora/Sutter (SJS D6) 9-1, 9-1
Rio Hondo Prep of Arcadia (CIFSS D9) 11-1 vs. Mission Prep of San Luis Obispo (Central Sec D3) 8-3
Comments: Rio Hondo Prep and Mission Prep are two similar small private schools that would match up well together. The Kares are used to playing up in the CIFSS playoffs, but they are the top seed in D9 and have won in their first two playoff games. We have Mission Prep (and so does the computer) behind Shafter in the Central Section, but the Royals are the top seed in their bracket. The computer actually had RHP at 249 and MP at 247, respectively, in this week’s listings. Soquel is the No. 2 seed in the CCS D2 bracket and still going after top seed Archbishop Mitty lost last week to Christopher of Gilroy. We’re listing Sonora & Sutter both from the SJS since they are right next to each other in our rankings (Sonora one spot higher) but Sutter is the top seed.
Menlo-Atherton of Atherton (CCS D3) 5-6 vs. Miramonte of Orinda (NCS D5) 7-3
Mission Bay of San Diego (SD D3) 8-3 vs. Torrance (CIFSS D10) 8-4
Comments: Whenever you can match two Bay Area teams one from the CCS and one from the NCS it’s a good thing and we were able to do that here. Torrance has a head-to-head loss to Rio Hondo Prep, but that would just ensure that the two probably wouldn’t play again in the regionals. It is the top-seeded team in its CIFSS division. The CIF also probably would take a close look at a possible Torrance vs Banning matchup for the regionals due to local interest, but we went more by the computer rankings and have Mission Bay next up from the San Diego Section.
Ripon Christian (SJS D7) 10-1 vs. Palo Alto (CCS D4) 6-5
Banning of Wilmington (LA City D1) 6-6 vs. Quartz Hill (SS D11) 9-3
Comments: Ripon Christian is one of the most intriguing teams in the state. The Knights shut out their fifth straight opponent last week, 42-0, over Rio Vista and they have nine for the season. One more and they go onto the all-time state list for most in a season. Last year, they were in D5-AA and lost in a close game in the regionals to Hughson (which later won state title). Where to put them on the board? They definitely have a computer ranking much lower than either M-A or Miramonte and they sure can’t be any lower than D5-A so that is why we put them here. Paly is from the same league as Los Gatos and Wilcox (hence the high number of losses) but may be in a good spot in CCS D4. Banning down in D5-A seems strange given its history at the highest levels, but its computer ranking is below Ripon Christian. Quartz Hill actually has a 21-14 win over Highland of Palmdale, but we don’t think the CIFSS will recommend that its D11 champion be placed higher than D8 if both win out and that it would still recommend that its 14 championship teams all go into the regionals in order.
St. Vincent de Paul of Petaluma (NCS D6) 9-2 vs. Orland (Northern Sec D3) 9-1
Coachella Valley of Thermal (CIFSS D12) 10-2 vs. Vincent Memorial of Calexico (SD D5) 9-3
Comments: Orland won the D5-A state title last season and we have the Trojans one division lower this time based on their computer ranking and those of other teams projected to win section titles. Plus, we didn’t think Palo Alto should be any lower than D5-A. St. Vincent de Paul lost to Clear Lake in the regional final in D5-A last year, but we don’t think that means Clear Lake should be in a higher division this year. Coachella Valley has been scoring lots of points in CIFSS D12 and looking at the map it’s an easy call for the Arabs to potentially face Vincent Memorial. Their computer rankings also are almost the same. Note that in San Diego there is a D5 and D5AA bracket and it’s also written that only the D5 winner is going to the regionals. The D5AA winner is not. Holtville, the top seed and looking good in D5AA, has a win over Vincent Memorial. We are assuming that isn’t going to matter for the regionals and have left out Holtville. It does look like there’s room for both, though, so that’s a decision that could and should be reversed.
Colusa (Northern Sec D4) 10-0 vs. Clear Lake of Lakeport (NCS D7) 9-1
Bishop (Central Sec D5) BYE
Comments: Since Bishop is so far and so difficult for any possible opponent to deal with from a travel perspective and since the Broncos have a higher computer ranking than the next teams in line that we put in the south, we stuck our bye on our board in Bishop’s spot. Both Colusa and Portola are unbeaten in the Northern Section, but Colusa is from a higher division and has a higher computer ranking.
Portola (Northern Sec D5) 10-0 vs. Woodside (CCS D5) 7-4
Desert Hot Springs (CIFSS D13) 9-3 vs. Chatsworth (LA City D2) 6-6
Comments: Woodside is from the lowest division in the CCS (which uses the same competitive equity type of format that the Southern Section does) and despite being a much bigger school than Portola it has a computer ranking that was about 30 spots lower when last checked. Portola also is most likely to opt out considering where it’s located on the map (especially now that winter weather is beginning).
Lincoln of San Francisco (SF) 9-3 vs. Arvin (Central Sec D5) 7-4
Artesia of Lakewood (CIFSS D14) 8-4 vs. Bell (LA City D3) 5-7
Comments: Arvin is the team from the bottom division of the Central Section and actually has a computer ranking close to San Francisco Lincoln. The SF team was at home for last year’s state title game vs Crenshaw of Los Angeles so it may be it’s turn to go on the road this year. Bell is the lowest ranked team from either north or south on this run-through (in the 800s) and Artesia is the only other team in the 700s so them playing each other on the bottom made the most sense.