Mater Dei gains its fourth CIF state title since 2017 with a 35-0 triumph against Serra of San Mateo in the Open Division championship. Other winners in games at Saddleback College were Folsom in D1-A and Acalanes of Lafayette in D3A-A. We also have all winners with highlights/notes from all games at El Camino College & Pasadena City College.
FOR OUR PREVIEWS & PREDICTIONS OF EACH CIF STATE FINAL, CLICK HERE.
FOR FULL GAME WRITEUPS OF GAMES FRIDAY AT SADDLEBACK PLUS RECAPS FROM OTHER FRIDAY CIF STATE FINALS, CLICK HERE.
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(Thanks to Orange County correspondent Chuck Nan for the writeup on Folsom-St. Bonaventure and to Northern California correspondent Daniel Poulter for the recaps on three of the games not played at Saddleback.)
If one remembers at the beginning of practices last summer for the 2023 football season, the Mater Dei of Santa Ana football team was thought to be one of the best ever — not just in California but anywhere — if one were to look over all of the various national recruiting rankings and see where all of the Monarch players were at among certain positions, seniors, juniors and sophomores.
There was that hard-to-explain 28-0 loss to St. John Bosco back in October, but in its last two games of the season Mater Dei certainly had the look of that type of team and completed a dominant run through the postseason with a 35-0 triumph over Serra of San Mateo on Saturday night at Saddleback College.
It is the fourth CIF state title for the Monarchs in just the last seven years, following titles in 2017, 2018 and 2021. Their Trinity League rivals from St. John Bosco also have four CIF state titles for 2013, 2016, 2019 and 2022. The only year since 2016 when any other school even got close to winning a CIF Open Division state title was in 2021 when Servite of Anaheim knocked off Bosco in the CIF Southern Section semifinals.
This is the first state title at Mater Dei for first year head coach Frank McManus, who celebrated this win in a much different post-game atmosphere than in 2021 when former longtime head coach Bruce Rollinson and just about all players did not speak to the media.
“Mission accomplished,” McManus said. “This is the goal. And this is the expectation of the Mater Dei community and our staff and our players. We’re just going to continue to develop the young talent we have and keep working on it.”
Mater Dei (13-1) will officially be named State Team of the Year on Monday along with other State Team of the Year selections for public schools, medium schools and small schools. The Monarchs are not expected to get a national No. 1 honor due to that earlier loss, but when McManus excitedly challenged current national No. 1 Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas he said this week that the earlier comments were more about a scheduled game that was supposed to happen this year against the Gaels not being played than about rankings.
Serra lost in the Open Division state final for the third straight year in a manner in which the game was never in much doubt. The Padres won their only state title in 2017 with a victory in the D2-AA contest over a Cajon of San Bernardino team that featured junior QB Jayden Daniels, who won the Heisman Trophy for LSU earlier on Saturday. Serra wrapped up a 12-1 season and will either stay No. 4 or drop to No. 5 in the final state rankings.
“Nothing is going to tear this group apart,” said Serra head coach Patrick Walsh. “We wish were raising a trophy, but we still have three banners we get to hang in our gym. We’re No. 1 in Northern California for the third straight year and that’s something this group can be very proud of.”
One year after his team was blanked by a defense at St. John Bosco that was regarded as one of the best ever in California history, Walsh was asked about the group his team just faced at Mater Dei.
“That is the best defense I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Better than Bosco last year?
“I think so. They play a different style at Mater Dei. They just play man and get after it.”
Serra only managed 58 yards against that Monarch defense. It was 36 net yards rushing and 50 net yards passing. The only real highlight was a 62-yard kickoff return by senior Jayden Green. Semi Taulanga had five tackles and one sack with Nasir Wyatt getting five tackles and two sacks to lead that unit.
Mater Dei’s usually balanced offense was not balanced in this game as the Padres’ own defense did a good job holding down the Monarchs to just 88 yards rushing on 21 carries. The difference was four-year starter and Stanford commit Elijah Brown having one of his best nights passing. He capped his career by going 17 of 22 for 298 yards and four TDs. He also threw all four TDs to four different receivers.
“I feel like that loss (to St. John Bosco) humbled us,” Brown said. “We had to keep working. Preparation was the key. These last few weeks we’ve had a plan and have been sticking to it.”
The Padres started the game with some exotic formations, but it only seemed to cause Mater Dei to jump offsides or commit other penalties. On the first series, there were 35 yards in penalties and negative yards offense. For the game, Mater Dei had a whopping 16 penalties for 150 yards. Serra had five penalties for 65 yards.
After a roughing the punter penalty kept the drive alive, the Monarchs scored their first touchdown on a 16-yard TD pass from Brown to freshman tight end Mark Bowman.
Serra wasn’t able to do much after that 62-yard kickoff return by Green and also wasn’t successful on a fake field goal attempt. Mater Dei then hit on a 74-yard bomb by Elijah Brown to Marcus Harris and a 14-0 lead.
A blocked punt by sophomore Shaun Scott set up the Monarchs for their third score just before halftime, which came on a 12-yard TD pass from Brown to Jonah Smith. Brown’s final TD pass went from 1-yard out to Michael Shannon.
The victory by the Mater Dei football team in the state final also capped a magical fall sports season at the school. The Monarchs already had won CIF top divisional state titles in the last weeks in girls volleyball and girls tennis. In the annual State School of the Year computations, there are times when the winning school doesn’t get three CIF state titles in one entire school year so do it in one fall season is especially difficult.
In the other games played at Saddleback College:
Folsom 20, St. Bonaventure (Ventura) 14
Late Saturday afternoon at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, a slight wind passed through as the sun bounced off the Santa Ana Mountains. As the sun was setting on the horizon, it also looked like it was setting on Folsom’s state championship hopes.
In the final five minutes of the game, however, the Bulldogs made the plays to overcome a 14-7 deficit, overcome a failed two-point conversion with 2:41 left and collect the school’s fifth CIF state championship trophy.
The Bulldogs moved to third-place on the all-time state list for schools with the most CIF state titles, trailing only De La Salle of Concord with seven and Bakersfield with seven, which won six of them in the early years of CIF state football finals in the 1920s. Folsom won its first state title in 2010 and earned one in 2014, 2017 and 2018. The school’s only loss in a state final was in 2021 in overtime.
“I was on the staff in 2018 and a learned a ton,” said Bulldogs’ head coach Paul Doherty, who won his first state title after taking over for former head coach Kris Richardson in 2019. “There has been a level here to win state championships and now we have one with this group. It makes no difference that it isn’t D1-AA. A state championship is a state championship. We hope to be back here next year in the Open Division.”
Folsom received the opening kickoff and marched down the field in seven plays, covering 64 yards to take a 7-0 advantage. Quarterback Ryder Lyons quickly incorporated his talented cast of offensive weapons into action on the drive. Then the sophomore proceeded to call his own number and sliced four yards up the middle for the lead.
St. Bonaventure fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Folsom took over at the Seraphs’ 16-yard line. However, the Bulldogs couldn’t capitalize and the drive stalled when SB halted Folsom on a fourth down pass that was incomplete.
The remainder of the first quarter and into the second, the two schools struggled for an advantage. Both strung together drives which drained time off the clock while grinding out as much yardage as possible but ended in trading punts. Lyons, known for his dual offense prowess — passing and running — was unable to establish any momentum for Folsom’s normally proficient offense.
One key moment came in the second quarter when the Bulldogs were driving deep into SB territory. Lyons took a low snap that turned into a busted play that saw him escape peril and plough to the goal line. As he attempted to leap into the end zone over defenders, Lyons lost the ball after scoring what looked like his second touchdown of the game. Officials ruled it a fumble and the Seraphs took possession only to be left scoreless. The half ended with Folsom enjoying a slim 7-0 lead.
SB received the second half kickoff and looked energized as talented QB Anthony Wolter utilized his athleticism to lead the club downfield and tie the contest, 7-7. On the 10-play drive, which covered 65 yards, backs Koen Glover and Jayce Franco took turns running inside and outside to accumulate yards. Just when Folsom looked to have thwarted the drive, the Seraphs’ struck success. Looking at a daunting fourth down and 15 yards to go after losing eight on a sack, Wolter threw a pass from 25 yards out to the end zone where Dejon Doss made a remarkable one-handed catch to tie the contest at 7-7.
The Bulldogs had the last full drive of the third quarter which was choppy at best — not amounting to much. They were able get to the 31-yard line and attempt a field goal by kicker Lincoln Phelps. The Seraphs’ Drew Cofield burst through the line and was able to get a hand on the ball to prevent Folsom from taking the lead.
As the fourth quarter commenced, SB was faced with several challenges within a span of just one drive. The Seraphs notched 16 plays in 7:22 to go 85 yards and take the lead. The sequence saw them successfully dig out of deep holes with long distances needed to keep things alive. This included distances of 11, 24 and 26 yards. In addition, SB overcame two personal foul calls (15 yards each).
The key offensive play of the drive was an inside reverse flea-flicker pass that ultimately fell into the hands of Kaden Glover. Brother Koen finished it all off when he wrestled through the line five yards to pay dirt. The Seraphs were finally ahead and looking to claim the title with 5:39 on the clock.
Admittedly not playing up to his self expectation, Lyons took the field poised to spark his club and carry them to victory on his shoulders. On a drive that stretched over 60 yards, Lyons accounted for 54. The last seven yards to the end zone came from the legs of Abram Woodson. It was at this juncture, with 2:41 on the clock, Doherty decided to attempt a possible go-ahead two-pointer. It failed one yard short.
Still trailing 14-13 but with three timeouts, Folsom was able to smother any chance for SB to run out the clock. The defense quickly stopped the Seraphs on three downs while wisely utilizing its three timeouts.
Folsom needed a score — either touchdown or field goal — to win the game. Still in the “zone,” Lyons’ task was to lead his school from the 44-yard line. After a loss of five yards on a poor snap, Lyons connected with Taniela Tupou for two clutch gains. Sophomore Jameson Powell then became an unlikely hero with just 20 seconds left when Lyons tossed a two-yard game-winning pass. The PAT by Phelps was good and the Dogs were moments away from celebration.
SB unable to muster much on a very brief last series.
“We just couldn’t get it done,” said St. Bonaventure head coach Joe Goyeneche. “We had some momentum in the third quarter and took some chances on some throws, but just couldn’t pull it out. We knew they had three timeouts and didn’t want to help them by throwing the ball unless it was a really cautious throw. Their defensive line was very good and did a great job on that series.”
The Bulldogs amassed 317 yards of offense. That included 180 rushing and 137 passing. Lyons was 13-of-21 passing (61.9%). He also toted the pigskin 22 times for 97 yards (4.4 average). Tupou collected four receptions for 68 yards (17.0 average). The defense was led by Mason Kelly with nine tackles. Elijah Gulewich and Lucas Hardeman each shared a sack.
Like Lyons, Powell also is a sophomore who will be a building block for the future.
“That was a designed roll out and saw him get open,” Lyons said of Powell. “We are building chemistry.”
Seraph QB Wolter was 15-of-24 passing for 190 yards (62.5%). Koen Glover rushed for 71 yards on 21 carries (3.4 average). Jack Cunningham led all receivers with five catches for 52 yards (10.1 average). Jeremiah Barrios had seven tackles on defense.
Folsom finishes the season 13-2 and despite the win could still drop some spots in the final state rankings since it has a head-to-head loss to De La Salle of Concord and the Spartans lost in their state final on Friday.
St. Bonaventure completed its campaign with a record of 12-4 and is now 2-1 in state championship games all-time. The Seraphs won in 2007 and 2008.
Acalanes (Lafayette) 35, Birmingham (Lake Balboa) 23
If someone ever wanted to be inspired by grit and vigor, then a great place to start would be the 2023 Acalanes High football team. The grit was from senior QB Sully Bailey, who shook off what at first looked like a serious knee injury to throw two of his four touchdown passes that lifted the Dons to the win. The vigor was from 76-year-old head coach Floyd Burnsed, who we think became the oldest head coach to win a CIF state football title.
When Bailey went out with his injury on a scramble late in the third quarter, the score was tied 21-21. On the next play, a punt snap sailed high over the head of the back-up punter, who tracked down the ball in the end zone but could only get a kick off that went straight up into the air. A Birmingham lineman tried to catch it, but dropped it and the ball rolled back into the end zone for a safety.
The Acalanes defense then stepped up on the ensuing drive by the Patriots to force a punt that was downed at the 7-yard line. Most in the press box assumed Bailey was done for the day, but he trotted out with the offense. On his first pass, he went deep to Cal-bound Trevor Rogers, who made the catch for a 59-yard gain. Then one play after that, Bailey nailed another throw to Rogers, who broke it down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown. The PAT gave Acalanes a 28-23 lead one play into the fourth quarter.
An interception by Paul Kuhner, which was the first of the entire season for Birmingham QB Kingston Tisdell, stopped the next drive for the Patriots. Kuhner also almost ran it back for a pick-six but was tackled at the 30-yard line. Cayden Noble-Chappelle then came through for Birmingham with an interception of his own to keep the game alive. The Dons’ defense, however, then came up with another stop.
Bailey and friends then put the game out of reach for Acalanes with a 52-yard drive that ate up most of the clock and ended on a 10-yard TD pass to Kuhner on a fourth-and-goal play with 31 seconds left. For the game, Bailey completed 23 of 36 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns. Rogers had seven catches for 149 yards and two TDs.
“Nothing was going to keep him out of that game,” Rogers said of his quarterback.
“The adrenaline was going so that was probably taking care of the pain,” Bailey said. “I’ve never had a brutal hit to my knee like that before. I knew I couldn’t do anything, but I also know I’ve got guys with speed and could give them a chance.”
Acalanes (11-4) won its first-ever CIF state title after starting the season 0-3 in a tough schedule that included a matchup with state top 25 San Ramon Valley. The Dons also avenged one of their early losses to San Marin of Novato with a win over the Mustangs in the CIF North Coast Section D4 championship.
Burnsed confirmed that he is 76 years old. “Are you 75?” he was asked. “No, I’m 76, don’t cheat me a year,” he said with a laugh.
In looking over all of the schools that have won CIF state titles since 2006, the oldest coaches on the list seem to be Bruce Rollinson of Santa Ana Mater Dei in 2021 and Bob Johnson from Mission Viejo in 2016 and neither of them were 76. It is not known for sure the ages of coaches from teams in the 1920s, but we don’t think there was one who was older.
“This has been a long time coming,” Burnsed said of the school winning its first state title. “We’ve had three firsts in a row (section, region, state), but we felt last year we had a great team and we had a lot of players back. I also always feel you get better by playing great teams in the preseason.”
Birmingham (12-3) had the edge in the first half and gained a 21-7 lead until 4:45 was left in the second quarter. Dredon Fowles had the team’s first touchdown on a 25-yard run. University of Washington-bound Peyton Waters (and the likely L.A. City Player of the Year for the second straight season) had the other two on 31- and 3-yard TD catches from Tisdell. Waters had eight catches in the game for 98 yards while Tisdell had 208 yards passing on 14 of 23 attempts.
Burnsed was the head coach in the 1990s and into the early 2000s at Miramonte of Orinda where one of the QBs he coached there was NFL offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. He then went to Solano JC and has been at Acalanes for eight years.
In games played Saturday at Pasadena City College:
Central Valley Christian (Visalia) 45, Los Gatos 42
After falling two years ago to Marin Catholic (Kentfield) in the Division 4-AA state title game, the Cavaliers made sure to head back to Visalia in the Central Valley with some hardware, as 15-1 CVC held on for a victory over 12-3 Los Gatos on Saturday evening.
Fresno State commit Bryson Donelson once again proved he is one of the top pure athletes in the state, as the state leader in rushing yards and touchdowns was the key ingredient for the Cavaliers. The senior finished with four touchdowns, as Donelson scored the opening touchdown on a 9-yard run and showed his versatility with a 62-yard receiving touchdown from QB Brent Kroeze.
CVC (placed at No. 50 in the state earlier this week) needed this same deep threat connection from Kroeze to Donelson earlier in the playoffs on the final play of the game against Lemoore to even have a chance at a state title. That said title earned on Saturday is the first in school history.
It appeared that CVC would walk away with a comfortable blowout after heading into the halftime break on a 24-7 lead over Los Gatos, but the Wildcats would have one last burst in them. They were down 17 points heading into the fourth quarter, but A.J. Minyard started the comeback attempt with a 12-yard touchdown with 10 minutes remaining in the contest. Donelson answered with the eventual game winning touchdown on a 10-yard run in the final minutes, as the star running back ended with 195 rushing yards.
With less than four minutes remaining, Max Thomas scored a touchdown for Los Gatos and then Minyard connected on a 24-yard touchdown to Owen Panu. The Wildcats (No. 34 in the state) found themselves only behind three points with a game deciding onside kick to follow. CVS jumped on the onside kick attempt, however, and secured the victory.
Palma (Salinas) 42, Mission Oak (Tulare) 19
This weekend has seen a few firsts for teams from the Central Coast Section and 11-4 Palma added its name to the history books, as the Chieftains picked up the first CIF state football title for Monterey County ever with a commanding victory over 10-6 Mission Oak (Tulare) on Saturday evening.
Palma also became the second team from the Pacific Coast Gabilan League to secure a CIF title this year, as Soquel grabbed a 28-7 victory over Jurupa Hills on Friday afternoon at the same location in Pasadena.
Powering the Chieftains were a future Notre Dame wide receiver and a key showing from an underclassman future star.
With four minutes remaining in the first quarter, Palma took the lead and wouldn’t relinquish it after freshman running back Eli Dukes finished off a 98-yard drive with a 6-yard plunge for a 7-0 lead. The young running back has been peaking in the postseason this season and saved one of his best games for the final game of the year. Dukes ended the game with four touchdowns and a game high 208 yards. In five games this postseason, Dukes grinded out 781 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
Notre Dame bound Logan Saldate had the second touchdown for the Chieftains, as the senior caught a 54-yard touchdown strike from Thomas Nunes with three minutes remaining in the first half. Palma went into the halftime break up 21-0.
Mission Oak (CIF Central Section D3 champion) pulled within two scores with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Gonzalez to Kenny Jackson on the first drive of the second half, but the Hawks weren’t able come within one score after the first quarter.
Strathmore 42, Bell Gardens 7
Gerardo Ruiz had a day to remember for the Spartans as he rushed for 225 yards and scored five touchdowns in a one-sided victory. They won their second CIF state title under head coach Jeromy Blackwell, who had to hospitalized last summer due to a fall. Ruiz also had to pick up the slack since leading rusher Jacob Poole was sidelined with an injury. The CIF Central Section D5 champions won their first CIF state title in 2017 and also went 16-0 that season. Strathmore ended 12-4 this season. Bell Gardens, which won the CIF Southern Section D14 title to get into the regional playoffs, finished 10-6.
In games played Saturday at El Camino College:
Marin Catholic (Kentfield) 38, Mayfair (Lakewood) 18
Marin Catholic may have not been able to secure the final Marin County Athletic League title, but the Redwood Empire traditional juggernaut claimed another CIF state title, as the 14-1 Wildcats picked up the Division 3-A title with a victory over 12-4 Mayfair for their second state title in three years.
The avalanche came early and often for Marin Catholic, as the Wildcats scored on their first offensive play of the game on a Peter Macaulay 21-yard quarterback keeper. Mario Crocitto and the Marin Catholic defense caused chaos from the opening kickoff, as the senior had four sacks for the game and finished the season with a staggering 24.5 sacks on the year. Three-star athlete prospect Braiden Bachich-Dixon was up next with a touchdown pass from Macaulay.
Marin Catholic added a couple of field goals before Mayfair found the end zone on Jeremiah Calvin’s 60-yard strike to Sean James Jones. Marin Catholic had the counter all evening, as Charles Williams had the first of two touchdowns. The three-star recruit scored on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Macaulay.
Mayfair pulled within 12 points on a Ryan Heredia 13-yard rushing score with 3:46 remaining in the first half, but the Monsoons were only be able to force two safeties in the second half on the scoring front. Marin Catholic’s Williams endrf the game with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His first interception was confirmed by the school to give the senior the school record for interceptions in a single season.
Woodland Christian 23,
Banning (Wilmington) 13
Getting past Ripon Christian in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section D7 play-in game for the regional tournament ended up being a catalyst for the Cardinals to win their first CIF state title.
That Ripon Christian team was higher ranked than Woodland Christian all season, but once the team got over that hurdle it was one impressive win over defending state champ Orland last week followed by another one over Banning.
Woodland Christian also notched a 15-0 season record, which will be the best mark for a team in California this season and ensures that the team will take the longest active win streak in the state into next year.
Devin Herrera scored the first and third TDs for the Cardinals on short runs. Gabe Sanchez also had an 8-yard TD pass to Ethan Johns. Banning (9-7) may have lost by 10 points, but it was still a one-score game since Woodland Christian made two two-point conversions while the Pilots missed on one. Steven Perez (3-yard TD run) and Kamari Westley (3-yard TD run) accounted for the two TDs for Banning.
Colusa 33, Sweetwater (National City) 17
Both schools scored twice to start the game, but the Cardinals started to pull away in the second half to claim their first CIF state title. The CIF Northern Section D4 champions were led by Aiden Selover, who rushed for three scores. Head coach Mike Badaluco’s squad also wrapped up a 14-0 perfect season and will take the state’s second-longest current win streak into next season behind Woodland Christian at 15 in a row. Sweetwater (8-7) was looking to become the only CIF San Diego Section team to win a state title. The Red Devils had a 64-yard TD run by Xzavier Crews. His brother, Zaryn, needed 93 yards to reach 1,000 yards and give them four 1,000-yard rushers. He could only get 27 yards on 11 carries.
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