No. 1 St. John Bosco may have gotten an easy draw in the Pac-5 Division, but it doesn’t seem to matter who gets put in front of the Braves this year, Bosco rolls over them. Alemany was a significant step up in competition from Agoura and Tesoro, but the result was inevitably the same. Alemany has speed — Bosco has more speed and much more size. What happens when fast meets bigger and faster? Bigger and faster won handily. The Braves find themselves in a rematch with a resurgent Mater Dei team that Bosco beat 24-2 on Nov. 1.
No. 2 Serra has had two tough games in the last three months, both against St. Francis. Something about the Golden Knights matches up well with Serra. There aren’t many people that are going to think St. Francis is better than Chaminade, but in two games, St. Francis lost by 22 combined points … and Serra beat Chaminade 36-0. If we’re judging Serra by its games against St. Francis, this isn’t the No. 2 team in the Southern Section, but the Cavaliers are sitting at 13-0 and have wiped everyone else out since a 20-13 win over Notre Dame in September. Serra gets a rematch with Chaminade in the Western Finals, but don’t expect another 36-point game.
No. 3 Vista Murrieta took any drama out of the Inland Division semifinal against Norco early and often. The Broncos and former Norco starting quarterback Coltin Gerhard jumped all over Norco, which had come into the game playing extremely well, including a win over Rancho Cucamonga two weeks ago. We mentioned Serra’s matchup problem with St. Francis, and Vista Murrieta has that same problem with Cathedral of San Diego, who played the Broncos tight last year and remains the only team to beat them this year. The Broncos have been crushing opponents since their loss to Cathedral, including three straight blowouts in the Inland Division. No. 4 Mater Dei was ranked No. 2 for much of the season before dropping two straight late in the year. The Monarchs looked like one of the nation’s top teams as they dismantled No. 3 Long Beach Poly. Mater Dei has reestablished themselves as a legit threat to St. John Bosco through the running game. Once Mater Dei decided its identity was a power running game, its run over Oaks Christian, Mission Viejo and Long Beach Poly. The defense has been a strong point for Mater Dei all season, and the Monarchs harassed the Jackrabbits to the tune of 30-0. Mater Dei will need to continue their rebirth of power football to stand a chance against St. John Bosco.
No. 5 Long Beach Poly had been inconsistent on offense virtually the entire season. That inconsistency spelled disaster against arguably the best defense in the Southern Section, Mater Dei. Poly rode two powerful running backs to the Pac-5 championship last season against Mater Dei, but after losing Manu Luuga and Gerard Wicks to graduation, the Jackrabbits could never find a consistent engine to drive their offense. The defense could only hold up for so long against Mater Dei while turnovers and special teams mistakes doomed Poly to a lopsided 30-0 loss to the Monarchs. Poly holds on to the No. 5 spot courtesy of big wins against Corona Centennial, Orange Lutheran and St. Bonaventure among others.
No. 6 Corona Centennial gave up 42, 55, and 56 points this year … in wins. The Huskies gave up a season-high 56 to Upland in the Inland Division semifinals, but Centennial also scored a season-high 86 in a defense optional game that saw 142 points scored. Ironically, Centennial’s basketball team won on Friday night 86-56 as well. Centennial has been clicking on all cylinders since back-to-back losses to Poly and Alemany in September, but Vista Murrieta will be the best team the Huskies have faced, by far, in their current nine-game winning streak.
No. 7 Mission Viejo saw its season ended by Mater Dei last week, and the Diablos had to feel a little better about the outcome of the game after watching Mater Dei decimate Long Beach Poly. It may be of little consolation to Mission Viejo, but it was knocked out by the eventual champion Poly last year, and Mater Dei is in the championship game this year.
No. 8 Alemany found out what the Trinity League already knew, there’s St. John Bosco, and there’s everyone else. Alemany was blown out by the Braves, just like everyone else that has gotten in the way of Bosco this year. Looking ahead, Alemany will have to replace quarterback Alif Grayes, but the Warriors have a good nucleus to build around in juniors Desean Holmes, Okalani Langi and Dominic Davis.
No. 9 Chaminade surprised no one with their win over Lompoc, but it may have even surprised itself with the ease at which it dispatched the Braves. The Eagles jumped on Lompoc early behind the slippery running of do-everything athlete Donovan Lee. Once the Eagles pounced on the one dimensional Braves it was all over. Lompoc isn’t built to come from behind, not that it would have mattered, because they couldn’t stop Chaminade all night. Chaminade gets a rematch with Serra, which humbled the Eagles 36-0 last month. Expect a much closer game the second time around.
No. 10 Valencia sent the Cinderella story Saugus team home convincingly. Saugus entered the playoffs 5-5 before advancing to the Northern semifinals, but the rematch with Valencia tilted heavily in favor of the Vikings in Valencia’s 45-8 win. Valencia went to the ground in its first game against Hart in a 24-19 thrilling win. Hart is playing some of their best ball of the year now as the Indians advanced to the finals with a 42-7 dismantling of West Torrance.