Week 9 California Southern Section football preview: Top 20 games to watch

The best week of SoCal high school football has finally arrived. October 25 is the day high school football fans around the country have been looking forward to, and if you don’t know why, you will soon enough. 

Not only is the national game of the year on Friday — Mater Dei vs. St. John Bosco — but this week might have the best slate of games even without it. To celebrate it, this week’s countdown previews 20 games instead of the usual ten.

20. San Jacinto at Citrus Hill, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Citrus Hill hasn’t played a very strong schedule this season, but they’ve beaten everyone in sight outside of a narrow loss to Hemet. They will be hard-pressed to beat San Jacinto, who can wrap up a league title with a win. But they do have enough talent to have a chance. And if the 2-1 Hawks can follow that up with an evenly-matched Beaumont team, the league title is theirs.

If Citrus Hill’s easy preseason schedule doesn’t hurt them at all and they play as well as possible, an upset could be in the cards. But San Jacinto knows what’s at stake.

19. South Hills at Diamond Ranch, Friday @ 7 p.m.

The odds are good that this game determines who wins the Hacienda League, as South Hills and Diamond Ranch are the only unbeaten teams left in league play. South Hills has the two clear best teams in the league left to play with Diamond Ranch and then Los Altos. But they’re in stride right now so it’s not unfathomable.

18. Servite vs. Santa Margarita (at Veterans Stadium), Thursday @ 7 p.m.

On paper, Santa Margarita has no chance of even making a game out of this. That’s because Servite, coming off an enormous win over JSerra, has proven to be one of the best teams in the Southern Section behind Mater Dei and St. John Bosco, whom they nearly beat two weeks ago. But Santa Margarita has a great defense, and just battles relentlessly. Having had one of the hardest schedules in the country already so far this season, they’re always an upset threat even against elite competition, even though Servite will beat them solidly if they take care of business.

17. Capistrano Valley at Tesoro, Friday @ 7 p.m.

They have a decent amount of talent, but Capistrano Valley is 3-5 after a challenging overall season schedule. They’re fighting tooth and nail to just make the Division 3 playoffs. 

At 7-1, Tesoro hasn’t slipped once other than to an even better San Clemente team. They can in fact still win league if San Clemente beats Mission Viejo this week while they take care of business against Capo and then shock Mission Viejo next week, which is very unlikely. The Titans could also use more great, big wins on their record to get as close to the top seed in Division 3 as they can.

Tesoro is the heavy favorite, but the stage could very well be set for an upset between two league teams who know each other well. 

16. Hart at West Ranch, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Hart almost upset Valencia (Valencia) who is still 3-0 in league, but lost 29-27. If Hart beats West Ranch and West Ranch beats Valencia, that’s a league title for Hart, and the chances of it happening are decent if they win on Friday. They’ll be underdogs, but no more than they were against Valencia in which they almost pulled out the stunner.

Eight games, eight blowouts of relatively inferior competition for West Ranch. They’re a title contender in Division 7 who could really use some more tests before the playoffs. And they’ll get at least two.

West Ranch and Valencia are similar in both league record and talent. The big difference is that Valencia has had to grow from losses to Sierra Canyon, Loyola, and Calabasas, plus they have that close win over Hart under their belt. They’ll have to knock them off to win league, and it’ll have to start with a win over Hart.

15. Villa Park at Yorba Linda, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Things move quickly in the Crestview League. There are only four teams, and the two that are 1-0 are going against each other in the second week of league. That makes this matchup an official league title game.

Especially at home, Yorba Linda is the clear favorite, but Villa Park has a very solid chance. Yorba Linda has been steady all season and is 7-1 with some nice wins including Orange, Capistrano Valencia, and La Mirada. Their one loss came narrowly to Foothill. On the other hand, Villa Park took on an unthinkable preseason, opening up with Mater Dei, and seeing Mission Viejo and Servite in games three and four. They too have lost to Foothill.

Yorba Linda is a little more talented, but Villa Park is surely not afraid of them after suffering three grizzly blowouts already and otherwise taking care of business. The odds are that Yorba Linda wins a close one in a moderately low scoring affair, but this could go either way. 

14. Ayala at Bonita, Friday @ 7 p.m.

After their big upset over Glendora, Ayala has taken control of the Palomares League at 3-0. They can seal a league title on Friday if they defeat a worthy opponent in Bonita. If Bonita wins, which is unlikely but possible, the Bearcats are suddenly thrust back in league title contention. They’d need to beat Claremont afterwards with Glendora losing to either Alta Loma or Colony, but stranger things have happened. 

Additionally, Bonita is fighting for the second spot in Division 9 with Foothill having probably locked up the top seed, and Newport Harbor right on their tail. If Ayala loses, that will seriously hurt their Division 6 playoff seeding too.

13. Corona del Mar at Newport Harbor, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Does Newport Harbor have a chance? You can’t rule them out because unexpected things happen between familiar foes in league play. But if the Sailors pull off the upset of the year, they have a very legitimate chance of shocking the Sunset League.

Corona del Mar will most likely beat them without much trouble. But Newport Harbor is a very good team, and rivalry games like this have a strong tendency to end up very exciting.

12. Upland at Chino Hills, Friday @ 7 p.m.

What is going on in the Baseline League? 

Upland is sitting at 2-1 in league play after forfeiting a win over Damien due to an illegible player. Rancho Cucamonga appears to be 2-1 after forfeiting a 54-3 beatdown against Etiwanda, although some sources still have them at 3-0. And then there’s Chino Hills, who is indisputably 2-1 as well and playing their best football of the season. They’re in the middle of a fairly well publicized scandal involving freshman players getting teased that resulted in the “resignation” of head coach Chris Stevens (as well as athletic director Sam Sabbara) that is now being contested by a plethora of supporters of Stevens saying that he had nothing to do with the incidents.

Assuming those three teams are really all 2-1 in league, the league title is up for grabs. Meaning Upland’s matchup with Chino Hills could potentially decide the title. Upland is heavily favored, but Chino Hills has been hot and this is the perfect time for the Huskies to go for the upset

11. Chaminade at Loyola, Friday @ 7 p.m.

These were the two clear stragglers in the Mission League through the preseason, whereas all four other teams are either Division 2 or Division 3 championship contenders if healthy. In fact, Bishop Amat has probably moved into Division 1 status since league play started, and Serra and Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) both would be in contention if their seasons weren’t derailed by injures. Loyola and Chaminade, on the other hand, both went 2-3 in the preseason without unrealistically challenging schedules. 

Then Chaminade and Loyola put it all together and got hot at the right time, and started off league play with resounding victories. Since then, both have lost very close games to their excellent competition. They might finish at the bottom of the league after all, but both proved that they are very strong and capable of beating anyone in the vicious Mission League. One of these team’s season is about to become even better with another league win over a good team as the playoffs loom. It’s a total tossup.

10. Serra (Gardena) at Alemany, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Per usual, Serra’s slide will bring up that their league championship chances have been dashed because of key injuries for the second season in a row. It’ll point out that they quite possibly had the strongest preseason in the Mission League before injuries to QBs Doug Brumfield and Maalik Murphy derailed their season, and looked like a potential Division 1 semifinalist. And it won’t fail to mention that if the Cavaliers ever get close to full health, particularly with Brumfield’s status unknown, they can beat almost any team in Southern California. Any win can help possibly set up a Division 2 playoff run, but only health permitting. 

Alemany sadly had to give up their league title chances after starting the season with a one-point loss to Bishop Amat and then a cancellation against Loyola because of the Saddleridge fire. Unless Amat collapses, the Warriors are playing for a top seed in Division 3. Corona del Mar, La Habra, and Grace Brethren have probably locked up the top four spots, but Alemany should still be aiming for the fourth seed and a semifinals appearance at the minimum. 

9. JSerra vs. Orange Lutheran (at Santa Ana Stadium), Friday @ 7 p.m.

With JSerra struggling after two disappointing losses to St. John Bosco and Servite, this is the perfect time for Orange Lutheran to make a statement against a much higher-ranked foe. Orange Lutheran has been blown out in horrid fashion four times this season to arguably the best four teams in the LA area in Mater Dei, Bosco, Corona Centennial, and Narbonne. But with a lot of other great wins on the season, they have the confidence that they can compete with anybody else out there if they play their best.

JSerra’s defense will probably be very difficult for OLu to score on, but if they can get in the end zone early, an upset wouldn’t be impossible. And it would mean a lot to the Lancers, who have been resilient all year.

8. Chaparral at Temecula Valley, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Chaparral's Jahiel Blue-Smith
Chaparral’s Jahiel Blue-Smith

Chaparral and Temecula Valley are at the center of the craziness in the most wild league title race in the Southern Section. The race was initially supposed to come down solely to Murrieta Valley and Vista Murrieta. Then Chaparral, considered a far removed third dog, opened league play with a shocking upset of Murrieta Valley before losing to Vista Murrieta and Murrieta Mesa. And Temecula Valley, who was considered the second member of the second pack, is 2-1 after blowing out Great Oak, verynearly upsetting Murrieta Valley (51-49), and stunning Vista Murrieta.

All bets are off in the Southwestern League. Chaparral’s disappointing loss to Murrieta Mesa probably took them out of contention, but if they can win the next two games, you ever know. And if Temecula Valley wins out in addition to Murrieta Valley losing to either Murrieta Mesa or Vista Murrieta, the league title would be theirs. A lot will be determined Friday in this match between two pretty evenly matched squads.

7. Citrus Valley at Cajon, Friday @ 7 p.m.

This game will for certain decide who wins the Citrus Belt League, which was initially expected to be Cajon’s in uncontested fashion. At 8-0, Citrus Valley could potentially continue the dream season against Cajon, who is also 3-0 in league. The way Citrus Valley has played, they do have a legitimate underdog chance, while they are fighting for playoff positioning in chaotic Division 6. Cajon is the heavy favorite, but the Blackhawks have enough of a chance to make this game very exciting.

6. Muir vs. Crescenta Valley (at Glendale), Friday @ 7 p.m.

It sounds hyperbolic, but on paper this is the best game you might ever see between teams Division 10 and down. 

Crescenta Valley is the clear favorite to win Division 10 and Muir is the heavy favorite to win Division 11. They’re both good enough to where one might ask what these teams are doing in such low divisions, particularly Muir–both of these teams would have chances to win playoff games in Division 4. They are almost perfectly evenly matched this season. And finally, both teams are undefeated in league so this is certainly the de facto Pacific League Championship. The stage couldn’t be set better.

5. Calabasas at Oaks Christian, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Predictably, the Marmonte League will more than likely come down to Calabasas and Oaks Christian, making this a likely league championship game. Calabasas is the heavy favorite, but who knows what Oaks, a reigning Division 1 semifinalist, is capable of when healthy.

This is a dangerous game for Calabasas. As talented as they are and as good as they’ve been overall this season, they’ve been prone to some cold quarters and even halves. It would be so easy to sleep on the Lions, who are so much more dangerous than they may look on paper. But a win clinches a league title and would really help their resume for the playoffs, so they should be charged up.

4. Sierra Canyon at Grace Brethren, Friday @ 7 p.m.

In what is presumably a tune-up game for both teams before the playoffs, high school football fans will be gifted with this non-league banger while most upper tier playoff teams are in the middle of wrapping up league title contention. 

Grace Brethren has been the second best team in Division 3 this season, and Sierra Canyon could potentially go on a Division 2 title run. They are very evenly matched so they should both be somewhat unaffected in terms of playoff seeding as long as it’s a good game. With both teams in peak form right now, this could be one of the better games to watch of the season.

3. Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) at Bishop Amat, Friday @ 7 p.m. 

A banged up Notre Dame squad rebounded nicely from a surprising lop-sided loss to Chaminade to open Mission League play with wins over Serra and Loyola. They will definitely be underdogs heading into Bishop Amat, but have a solid chance to win.

That said, the Lancers have been the best team in league play and are clicking on nearly all cylinders. Because the Alemany/Loyola game was canceled outright due to the Saddleridge fire, Amat can clinch a league title with a win on Friday. The reigning champs certainly know it, but also must be aware that one loss might be enough to cost them the crown.

2. San Clemente at Mission Viejo, Friday @ 7 p.m.

It’s a little under the radar, but Mission Viejo’s rematch with San Clemente is my number two pick for regular season game of the year. It is certainly the public school regular season game of the year. Not just because these are two potential Division 1 teams (Mission Viejo for certain) that have both been dominant this season. Not just because they are league rivals, and this game will very likely determine who wins the South Coast League.

It’s particularly because last year, San Clemente snapped Mission Viejo’s nine-year streak of undefeated league play and titles, in dramatic fashion. And it was definitely an upset. There’s some legitimately bad blood. 

Once again this year, Mission Viejo (8-0) has been the better team this season. Nobody has come within ten points of them yet. And their stacked resume includes La Habra, Upland, and Santa Margarita. Everyone else they’ve blown out badly. But San Clemente has been outstanding at 8-1 and certainly has a fighting chance once again. The biggest reason to doubt the is that their only loss was by three touchdowns to Corona del Mar, and outside of them, they’ve had a very easy schedule for Division 1/2.

1. Mater Dei at St. John Bosco, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Words don’t do the hype of this game justice, so I’ll keep it brief. Tickets went on sale over a week in advance. This day on the schedule has been circled for months from football fans around the country.

At stake between these two rivals is a league title, the top seed in Southern Section Division 1, and status as the number one team in the country. So needless to say, this is not only the Southern Section game of the week, but the (regular) season’s game of the year.

Honorable mentions:

Vista Murrieta at Great Oak, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Murrieta Valley at Murrieta Mesa, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Los Osos at Rancho Cucamonga, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Esperanza at Foothill (at Tustin), Friday @ 7 p.m.

Westlake at Newbury Park, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Serrano at Oak Hills, Friday @ 7 p.m.

Roosevelt vs. Norco, Thursday @ 7 p.m.

Thank you for joining the discussion on SBLive!

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