By Brett Manney
The state of California typically produces some of the nation’s best high school football teams and this weekend will be the ultimate showcase for many of them. The California Interscholastic Federation championship features ten teams battling for state championships, with each matchup pitting a northern team against a southern one as determined by the CIF. With future NFL players and Hall of Fame coaches on the field, the games slated for this weekend will certainly be entertaining. The summer of 2009 is months away, but memories can be etched forever at the Home Depot Center in Carson this weekend.
De La Salle Spartans (12-1) vs. Centennial Huskies (14-0), Dec. 19: This rematch of last year’s Division I bowl pins two powerhouses for supremacy in the state. De La Salle won 37-31 last year in which they saw a huge lead disappear in the fourth quarter. Spartans head coach Bob Ladouceur could become the state’s winningest coach with a victory. He tied the record last week with his 344th win when the Spartans defeated Pittsburg, 34-10, in the North Coast Section championship game. QB Blake Wayne heads the Spartans and has compiled 1,520 passing yards, 619 yards rushing and 29 total touchdowns. He hands the ball off to RB Kylan Butler, who has 1,286 yards rushing with 15 touchdowns and is extremely tough to bring down. The Huskies have been waiting a year for a rematch with the Spartans. With an undefeated record and a year of waiting, the Huskies are prepared to win this time. UCLA recruit WR Ricky Maryray is their top playmaker. The athletic receiver has 65 catches for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns. This big-time matchup will surely have everyone in California watching as two powerhouses collide.
St. Marys Rams (10-2) vs. Cathedral Catholic Dons (13-0), Dec. 20: Fireworks will most likely be on display in the Division II championship game. Cathedral Catholic has the unblemished mark and will represent San Diego Section Division III. The Dons rely heavily on RB Tyler Gaffney, who has been the focus of the offense all season. With great speed and elusive moves, Gaffney set section records for points scored (306) and touchdowns (51) this season. Meanwhile, the Rams are looking for some recognition after becoming the first Stockton area team to compete for a state bowl game. The Rams captured the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 championship with a 36-14 victory over Pleasant Grove. Oregon State recruit QB Cody Vaz has a rocket arm and passed for 244 yards to captain the Rams last week. This game will decide who goes home with a championship trophy or eight months of agony.
Cardinal Newman Cardinals (13-0) vs. St. Bonaventure Seraphs (13-1), Dec. 20: This is a much-anticipated matchup of one high-powered offense against an athletic defense that’s one of the state’s best. Cardinal Newman, the North Coast Section champions, are averaging over 40 points a game. The team’s talented offense averages 426 yards a game and is led by QB Randy Wright, who has completed 71 percent of his passes for 2,266 yards and 29 touchdowns. In the backfield, RB Jeff Badger has rushed for 1,342 yards and 13 touchdowns but will not find many holes in the Seraph defense. The Seraphs have only one loss this season and that was to national power Long Beach Poly. The fundamental Seraphs captured their tenth section title last week and eighth in the past ten years. The squad’s stellar defense has allowed only 79 points in their last nine games and 22 in its three playoff games. Cardinal Newman looks to take down the imposing Seraphs in this great matchup of contrasting styles of football.
Grant Pacers (13-0) vs. Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits (14-0), Dec. 20: The Open Division championship is between two undefeated thoroughbreds competing to be king of California. Grant, the surprise pick from California, has been punishing opponents all season, but Poly is no slouch by any means. Grant is the first school from the Sacramento area to play for a state football championship. Under head coach Mike Alberghini, Grant has been a powerhouse in the Sacramento area by winning 15 league championships and six section championships. This year they have defeated state champions from both Idaho and Utah and are led by stud RB Devontae Butler. With explosive moves and speed, Butler has 1,850 yards rushing and 36 touchdowns. Butler will look for any holes that he can find, however small they may be, due to the dominance of the Poly defense. The Jackrabbit defense is considered one of the best in the state because of their ferocious and fast defenders. With multiple Div. I recruits, LB Iuta Tepa stands out for the Jackrabbits and leads the team in tackles (149) and sacks (14). The high-powered offense features a dynamic one-two running attack. RB Melvin Richardson has been the savior in many games and has rushed for 1,439 yards with 23 touchdowns. RB Daveon Barner has 1,131 yards rushing with seven touchdowns to complement Richardson well. Grant can become a household name with a win, but the road to the state championship runs through powerful Poly.
Small School Division
Hamilton Union Braves (10-2) vs. St. Margarets Titans (14-0), Dec. 19: Two schools representing opposite sides of California will clash in Los Angeles for supremacy. St. Margaret’s represents the Southern Section Northeast Division. Lead by head coach Harry Welch, the Tartans are riding the coattails of a 42-game winning streak, which is the longest active streak in the state and currently the fifth-longest in the country. The squad has flat-out destroyed their opponents this season, outscoring them 683 to 62 altogether. The Braves repeated as the Northern Section Division III champions last week to advance to the small school state football championship. The Braves are a tough and physical team with just two losses on their resume. Much like the Tartans, the Braves outscored their opponents by a great margin, 375 to 95. One small team can bring home a big-time trophy and end their season as a state champion.
To contact correspondent Brett Manney, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.