Trabuco Hills High School's running back Taylor Bowie (35) during a home game against San Juan Hills in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Aug. 24, 2022. (Robin Gray Photography)
Now that rampant speculation about possible division placement and potential matchups has come to an end, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section football playoffs can begin.
The section office on Oct. 29 revealed the 216 high school teams that will compete across 14 divisions. All divisions except the eight Division 1 entries, who will start play next week, feature 16 teams apiece and opening-round games Nov. 2–3.
All of this week’s games are Nov. 3 unless noted otherwise.
While top-seeded and unbeaten, St. John Bosco of Bellflower and Mater Dei of Santa Ana have been near the top of state and national rankings all season and are heavy favorites to reach the Division 1 championship game, there is far less predictability in the other divisions.
Five of the six teams in the powerful Trinity League are in the Division 1 bracket, with Orange Lutheran, JSerra of San Juan Capistrano, and Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita joining St. John Bosco and Mater Dei. San Clemente, which faces a daunting opening-round assignment opposite St. John Bosco, Centennial of Corona, and Sierra Canyon of Chatsworth make up the remainder of the bracket.
Servite of Anaheim, the lone Trinity League team not in the Division 1 playoffs, will host Valencia of Valencia in Division 2. The Division 2 bracket also features Edison of Huntington Beach visiting top-seeded Rancho Cucamonga, Los Alamitos facing Upland at Westminster High, and Mission Viejo hosting Palos Verdes, which at 10–0 is the lone unbeaten team in the bracket.
“I think we have a very competitive division in which on any given Friday night, any one of the 16 teams can beat each other,” Mission Viejo Coach Chad Johnson told The Epoch Times. “As a coach, you just want the Johnnys and Joes to be somewhat equal, so that your X’s and O’s matter. I think in this division, everyone’s Johnnys and Joes are in the same ballpark. I’m not so sure that’s the case in the division above us.”
Senior wide receiver Mack Alleyne (R) from Tustin High School in Orange County, California. (Courtesy of Caesar Ocular)
Tustin, the only Orange County team to finish the regular season undefeated at 10–0, will host Warren of Downey in a first-round Division 3 game.
Villa Park will play a Division 3 contest against Millikan of Long Beach at Fred Kelly Stadium in Orange, while San Juan Hills of San Juan Capistrano is top seeded in Division 3 and will entertain St. Francis of La Canada in the first round. Had the Stallions fared one tick better in the computer rankings, however, they would have instead been the 16th-seeded team in Division 2.
“That could have been the case the last two years,” San Juan Hills Coach Rob Frith told The Epoch Times. “Last year, we were the top seed in Division 6. It’s just a cutoff, based on Cal Preps. I don’t really understand it.”
What Mr. Frith does know is that because of the way things worked out, the Stallions are certain to play another game at home.
“I would say it’s advantageous for any team that goes from a potential 16 (seed) to a one,” he said. “Probably the best thing is it’s nice to not have to travel round one of the playoffs. It’s great for our school to get another home game.”
San Juan Hills running back Sullivan Land (22). (Courtesy of San Juan Hills High School)
San Juan Hills will carry a 9–1 overall record into the playoffs, with its only loss a 24–17 decision to Trabuco Hills of Mission Viejo that ultimately determined the Sea View League championship.
Trabuco Hills, 7–3 overall, landed in the Division 4 playoffs and will visit Newport Harbor in an all-Orange County first-round matchup.
The teams did not play each other this season, though they did compete in 7-on-7 action during the summer. They met each of the previous two seasons, with each winning a home game.
“We feel like we know them, and they know us really well,” Trabuco Hills Coach Mark Nolan told The Epoch Times. “We know their staff. They know our staff. It should mean that it’s a great game, and a competitive game.”
Other Division 4 matchups include Corona del Mar of Newport Beach facing Paraclete of Lancaster on Nov. 2 at Newport Harbor High, Yorba Linda hosting Moorpark, and Capistrano Valley of Mission Viejo playing at home against Downey.
In Division 5, Foothill of Santa Ana will host Aquinas of San Bernardino on Nov. 2 at Tustin High, El Modena of Orange will play at Thousand Oaks, and Western of Anaheim will visit Colony of Ontario.
Division 6 games include Dana Hills of Dana Point visiting top-seeded Ontario Christian, Huntington Beach hosting Glendora, and Crean Lutheran of Irvine facing Hart of Newhall at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita. Laguna Hills will visit Murrieta Mesa, La Habra will host West Ranch of Valencia, and Cypress will take on Rio Mesa of Oxnard at Western High in Anaheim.
Trabuco Hills High School's outside linebacker Jalen McDowell (40) during a game at Crean Lutheran in Irvine, Calif., on Sept. 1, 2023. (Robin Gray Photography)
El Dorado of Placentia will visit Laguna Beach in an all-Orange County Division 7 matchup, while Division 8 games include Fountain Valley at top-seeded Brentwood of Los Angeles, Aliso Niguel of Aliso Viejo hosting Lawndale, and Irvine at home against Jurupa Hills of Fontana.
Troy of Fullerton will host Monrovia at Fullerton High in Division 9, while St. Margaret’s of San Juan Capistrano will visit top-seeded Rio Hondo Prep of Arcadia, and Orange will play at Diamond Bar. Marina of Huntington Beach will visit Vista Del Lago of Moreno Valley, Sonora of La Habra will travel to Rancho Mirage, and Santa Ana will be at Santa Monica.
In Division 10, Segerstrom of Santa Ana will face top-seeded Torrance at Zamperini Stadium in Torrance. Brea Olinda will visit Elsinore of Wildomar, Beckman of Irvine will take on Capistrano Valley Christian at Tesoro High in Rancho Santa Margarita, and Kennedy of La Palma will meet Crescenta Valley of La Crescenta at Glover Stadium in Anaheim.
Division 11 games include Esperanza of Anaheim playing Riverside Poly at Yorba Linda High on Nov. 2, and Westminster visiting Schurr of Montebello, while in Division 12, Buena Park will host Arroyo Valley of San Bernardino.
Los Amigos of Fountain Valley will be on the road against top-seeded San Gabriel in Division 13, while Santa Ana Valley will visit Saint Monica Prep of Santa Monica, and Estancia of Costa Mesa will host Baldwin Park.
Division 14 will feature an all-Orange County matchup of Bolsa Grande of Garden Grove at Ocean View of Huntington Beach, while Rancho Alamitos of Garden Grove will visit Santa Rosa Academy of Menifee. Anaheim will play at Hawthorne, and Whittier Christian of La Habra will face Duarte at Whittier College.