Starting the high school football week in Orange County with notes, comments and observations …
1. The better team won. St. John Bosco beat Mater Dei 24-22 because the Braves were superior in almost every category Friday in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 championship game at the Rose Bowl.
It’s commonly said that football games are won “in the trenches,” that battle zone where offensive and defensive lines engage in hand-to-hand combat. Mater Dei won those battles Oct. 7 when the Monarchs beat Bosco 17-7. St. John Bosco was the victor there Friday.
St. John Bosco’s offensive line allowed zero sacks as Braves quarterback Pierce Clarkson threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Mater Dei quarterback Elijah Brown was sacked twice and his 10 carries, some of the escape-the-pocket variety, were second-most on a team with a deep bunch of running backs.
Blocking breakdowns contributed to two Mater Dei failures to convert fourth-down conversion attempts, and the Monarchs’ inability to score on what would have been a game-tying 2-point conversion.
On the first play of the second quarter, Mater Dei had fourth-and-4 at the St. John Bosco 30-yard line, and Brown was dropped for a 4-yard loss. Later in the quarter, a fourth-and-2 at the Bosco 35, Mater Dei running back Ajon Bryant was stopped for zero yards. Success on those plays probably would have led to points; certainly they were momentum killers.
With 3:08 left in the game, Mater Dei running back Jordan Davison was wrestled down by Bosco’s Vertonio Weatherton a yard short of the goal line on the two-point try.
Mater Dei’s special teams group was fine, but not as superb as past groups. St. John Bosco averaged 40 net yards per kickoff; Mater Dei averaged 26.
Little things mean a lot when a game involves two teams as close in quality as are Mater Dei and St. John Bosco.
Big things, or rather big people, mean a lot, too.
2. The undefeated. Yorba Linda is 14-0 after beating Upland 9-6 in the CIF-SS Division 4 championship game. Reyn Beal is a steady, mistake-free quarterback, running back Will Saucedo runs the ball with ferocity, Yorba’s front seven includes tackling-machine linebackers Wyatt Mosier and Owen Tesch, an excellent safety in Nicco Nicoletti, and the offensive line is terrific including gritty 5-foot-9, 220-pound center Logan Kemp.
3. Too much speed. Cypress lost to Downey 40-7 in the Division 4 final. The Centurions went into that game 13-0 and finally lost because they ran into a team that attacked their offense like no other team did before.
4. Breakers break through. Laguna Beach beat Diamond Bar 36-28 in the Division 9 final. Micah Chavez had a huge game, with three sacks and he blocked a punt that he returned for a touchdown. It’s the first CIF football championship in 76 years at Laguna Beach, and more might be coming soon if 6-foot-3 sophomore quarterback Jackson Kollock plays like he did in the second half of the season.
5. The “other” Laguna. Laguna Hills has not been around as long as Laguna Beach, but the football success at the inland Laguna school continued with the Hawks’ 28-27 win over Golden Valley in the Division 7 championship game. Troy Leigber rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns and blocked an extra-point kick in the one-point game.
6. Hats off to Harper. Northwood running back Adam Harper ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries in the Timberwolves’ 35-14 win over Lakewood in the Division 8 championship game. Harper is not a big guy — listed as 5-11 and 200 pounds — but he runs at full steam every carry, has the speed to get to the corner and round it quickly and possesses the nimble feet of a ballet dancer, all of which makes him a back who could help many college football teams.
7. Remember the Heralds. Whittier Christian gets excluded from Orange County high school sports discussions too often. It’s in La Habra, but the “Whittier” part of the name creates obscurity as does its football membership in the Cottonwood League that includes no other O.C. schools. The Heralds defeated Lynwood 20-7 in the Division 14 final. That’s their fifth CIF football title, only one fewer than a big and famous football school like Edison has won.
8. The center of the Orange County football galaxy. Maybe it’s the Pacific Coast League, which has two CIF football champions this season, Laguna Hills and Northwood. The Trinity League has one, the South Coast League and the Sunset League each have zero.
Orange County football: Schedule for regional championship games, Dec. 2-3
Final Orange County football poll: Mater Dei, Los Alamitos finish 1-2 in Top 25
Yorba Linda, Laguna Beach get home games for CIF regional football championships
Updated schedule for CIF State Regional football bowl games, state championships
Laguna Beach football back on top, after 76 years, as CIF Division 9 champs
9. On to the regionals. Teams that won CIF-SS championships continue their seasons this week with in CIF SoCal Regional championship games. Winners of the Southern and Northern regional games advance to CIF State Championships Dec. 9 and 10; St. John Bosco automatically is slotted into the CIF State Open Division game because it is the CIF-SS Division 1 champion.
10. Too much football. Most of the teams in this week’s CIF SoCal Regional will be playing their 15th games of the season, with a chance for a 16th if they win this week. If we’re trying to reduce concussions in high school football, creating more concussion opportunities might not be the best method. Yes, high school kids want to keep playing; they also want to text and drive at the same time but that doesn’t mean we should let them.