With only two weeks left in the 2019 high school football season in the Southern, L.A. City, and San Diego Sections before state finals begin, 15 teams are two games away from securing undefeated runs as division champions.
Every single one of these teams has had a season for the books. All of them are league champions with undefeated regular seasons already cemented. And making the semifinals in any division is a major accomplishment on its own. A number of these squads are arguably the best in the history of their schools.
Here are the remaining 15 unbeaten teams in SoCal, ranked:
15. Marquez (Huntington Park) — 12-0
It’s been a phenomenal year for the Gladiators, who have not even been in a remotely close game this season. Marquez has given up only 90 points on the season through 12 games, and has scored 566. That means an average game for them is a 47-6 victory.
One of the keys for Marquez this season have been a very fast defense with a lot of quickness both in the secondary and up front, led by LB Christopher Diego. They also run the ball very well, with Armando Guardado and Joe Vasquez leading the charge at RB. QB Erick Salas has had a very efficient year. All of these players are seniors, as is almost the entire core for the Gladiators.
Things are about to get a lot more difficult for the L.A. City Section Division 3 favorites. Probably their best competition of the season awaits them in the next two weeks with George Washington Prep (10-2) on Friday, and, should they win, the winner of Lincoln vs. Gardena next week. It’s a pretty even field at this point, and the Gladiators will be disadvantaged in having not faced adversity this season in one game. But they will deservedly remain the favorite from here on out.
14. Alhambra — 12-0
Alhambra came into this year with championship aspirations and has not disappointed. Not once, to be exact. The Almont League champions are 12-0 and will be heavily favored against Ramona this week in the Division 13 semifinals, which would put them just one game away from finishing the undefeated title run.
Sophomore QB Noah Rodriguez has been outstanding for the Moors, with 2,379 passing yards and 32 passing touchdowns on the season. Kody Chuang and Vito Russell have shined equally at WR, and Alhambra can run the ball well too. Defensively Alhambra has been just as good without possessing overwhelming size up front. The five-man unit of ILBs Matthew Donko and Justin Gonzalez, OLBs Damien Rosa and Henry Soto, and FS Tyler Gonzalez has a total of 518 tackles this season. The whole squad is filled with experienced, hungry seniors. However, even if the Moors blow out Ramona this week and roll into the Division 13 finals 13-0, they’d be major underdogs against another undefeated power who’s expected to meet them there.
13. St. Pius X-St. Matthias (Downey) — 11-0
In only their third year of existence as a football program, St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy, also known as PMA, wrapped up an undefeated season and is the top favorite to win Division 14. The Warriors won their first two playoff games by a combined score of 99-10, and have blown out most of their competition this season.
Like with Marquez and Alhambra, PMA is about to see some of their best competition of the season down the home stretch. Vista Del Lago is arguably their biggest threat left in the field, and they’ll have them this Friday. South and Loara, who just upset Sierra Vista, loom in the following week. For the first time in a while, the Warriors won’t have much of a margin for error. But they haven’t needed one much at all this year. PMA is loaded with versatile athletes who play a number of roles in every phase of the game, such as Bruce Walker, Brenden Hodge, and Domingo Ladson. After going 7-14 the past two seasons, there’s a great chance the Warriors are going to run away with the division title this season.
12. El Monte — 12-0
For those who haven’t heard, El Monte is putting up some of the most absurd run-game statistics you’ll ever see. They have 4,662 rushing yards and 66 rushing touchdowns on the year. Davon Booth is getting significant D-1 interest for his unfathomable 2,234 rushing yards on the year, and he leads the Lions with 27 rushing touchdowns as well. Abel Cueva has 1,242 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns as a secondoption.
The two are also the only Lions to catch a pass this season, with Booth adding 605 receiving yards and ten receiving touchdowns for a grand total of 2,839 yards and 37 touchdowns. Cueva has one reception which was a 76-yard touchdown. QB Joseph Herrera only has one pick to those 11 touchdown passes. They might just not be guardable.
El Monte will be heavily favored from here on out, too. This week they’ll face a strong opponent in Jurupa Hills who still is considered a major underdog. Next week they’ll face the winner of Adelanto and Orange Vista, who El Monte beat 35-6 earlier in the season. Adelanto will be favored in that game, and could potentially give El Monte their best test of the year in the finals. The only knock this year on El Monte is that they haven’t faced great competition, and that’s about to change.
11. Scripps Ranch — 11-0
San Diego Section Division 3 favorite Scripps Ranch is in the same ballpark as El Monte, but gets a slight edge for defeating La Jolla 17-7 earlier in the season. Speaking of La Jolla, they are also in the semifinals, and the odds are strong that they’ll have a rematch with the Falcons for the title next week. Overall, Scripps Ranch has a fairly strong chance of completing the dream season, but beating La Jolla again would certainly be a challenge.
RB Nicholas Gardinera and QB Luke Durkin have led a balanced offense with very strong junior seasons. Their defense has been the biggest story, only giving up 64 points in 11 games. With so many strong contributors on that end, and almost nothing but four-and-outs on the year, no one Falcon has 60 tackles, nor does any individual have ten percent of their total tackles this season. They’ve utterly clamped every single opponent they’ve seen this year, and Scripps Ranch will be favored to do that for two more weeks to win a championship.
10. Cypress — 12-0
The Centurions went a little bit under the radar for a much of the season, but now only two games away from a Division 7 title, they have to be on everybody’s radar. Their schedule hasn’t been particularly hard, but they have had a couple very strong wins on the year including beating Capistrano Valley and Tustin with room to spare during the regular season. They’re undefeated for winning some real games, and haven’t just been feasting on overmatched foes in the bottom divisions.
3-star recruit Isaac Hurtado has been a star at running back and has several D-1 offers. Cypress’s defense has also been operating at a level way above Division 7. The Centurions are coming off their closest call of the year, a 33-31 win over a very strong Ventura squad who was much more of a threat than their 6-5 record would’ve made it look going in. All that said, Cypress is not favored to complete the perfect season–more on that in a bit.
9. Inglewood — 12-0
Inglewood playing in Division 13 is a cruel joke, given that the Sentinels would be a clear favorite or in the running for the top favorite spot in at least half of the Southern Section’s 14 divisions, and probably eight of them. But there’s nobody to blame for such a strong Sentinels squad being out of place in Division 13, because they went 0-10 last season.
Connor Morrissette broke it down predictively in our Division 13 pre-season preview:
“New Inglewood head coach Mil’von James could have the Sentinels competing for the division crown in his first season. Yes, Inglewood went 0-10 last year, but James has a history of improving programs quickly. He had success at Hawkins from 2013-2017 due in large part to adding a number of high profile transfers.
“Senior quarterback Jared Heywood has transferred into Inglewood from Cathedral for the 2019 season. He gets to throw passes to Montana Lemonious-Craig, a future Division I collegiate receiver.”
How well have things worked out behind James and Heywood? Inglewood is 12-0, and Heywood is putting up unprecedented numbers–4,196 passing yards and 60 passing touchdowns through just 12 games on 79% completion. He also has 236 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns for good measure. Lemonious-Craig has 1,227 receiving yards on the year, and leads the team with 21 receiving touchdowns. Inglewood has scored 636 points this season, and their defense has also been utterly dominant, allowing only 81 points all season, good for under seven points allowed per game.
Should Alhambra and Inglewood meet in the finals, Alhambra would be a significant threat to knock the Sentinels off, but Inglewood would still be heavily favored. Their margin of defeat has been substantially larger this season against slightly better competition. Either way, at least one of those two squads will not see the undefeated season all the way through.
8. Crescenta Valley (La Crescenta) — 12-0
Crescenta Valley is a major favorite to win Division 10 even in a challenging field. They’ve blown out a number of teams quite badly this year, and have outlasted some very good ones, namely Muir. Beating the Mustangs by two touchdowns was a statement to everyone in Division 10 to beware, because the Falcons are coming.
Their offense has been very strong and consistent, with a good passing game but an even better running game led by RB Maximus Grant and a number of other threats. That said, it’s the Falcons’ defense that has carried them this year. Junior linebacker Sebastian Deleon leads the way with 140 tackles, and the squad has 85.5 TFLs and 45 sacks on the season. They’re only giving up ten points per game against a pretty solid field of competition by Division 10 standards. Crescenta Valley would be a championship contender multiple divisions upward.
The field is about to get much harder for Crescenta Valley, even though by beating Muir they locked themselves in as the clear favorite to win Division 10. They’ll face one of their best opponents of the year this week in Katella. If they win, they’ll most likely have an even bigger task next week against Orange. The 11-1 Panthers lost a wild game to Division 5 quarterfinalist Yorba Linda in double overtime in their second game of the year, and that’s all that’s separating them from Crescenta Valley on paper. The Falcons will be favored in each game going forward, but the major gap has finally disappeared. Still, they’ll have a great chance of seeing the undefeated bid through if they keep defending how they have all season.
7. Bishop’s (La Jolla) — 11-0
The Knights barely survived a strong Poway squad last week, winning a 52-51 barnburner. For the most part, Bishop’s has been dominant the whole season, as their record would indicate. They’ve faced some strong competition as well throughout the season, with their season-opening 18-7 win over La Jolla as a prime example.
Junior QB Tyler Buchner has been the biggest story, having thrown for 3,802 yards in only 11 games with a massive passer rating of 140.5. The high four-star recruit and Notre Dame commit is having an All-American-type year, especially when you factor in that he somehow had room for 1,243 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground as well. 5,045 total yards and 67 total touchdowns through only 11 games for a junior? Those are numbers you seriously might never see again. WRs Clarence Freeman IV and Clay Petry lead an extremely strong surrounding cast. The defense for Bishop’s has been great this season as well outside of last week.
Bishop’s will be overwhelmingly favored this week against a Santa Fe Christian squad that they beat 49-0 in league three weeks ago. That said, their undefeated season is at enormous risk of ending in the finals next week against either Vista or El Camino. The Knights will have to beat their best opponent of the year to complete the run, regardless of whom they see in the finals if they win this week.
6. Serrano (Phelan) — 12-0
Remember how we mentioned that undefeated Cypress is not favored to win their bracket? That’s because they have undefeated Serrano waiting for them in the semifinals. The Diamondbacks have been dominant on both sides of the ball this season, arguably even more on defense than offense, with a 17-7 league title victory over Apple Valley as their biggest win on the year. Their game this week against Cypress is a potential thriller that could go either way, although Serrano has a mild edge for being a bit more dominant this season.
Serrano has a two-headed monster running the show offensively in QB Parker Chaffee and RB Wahkill Sullivan. Chaffee is a very efficient slinger with 1,507 yards and 22 touchdowns in the air to only three picks, and a passer rating of 128.5 this season. He also has 380 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns in addition to Sullivan’s 1,328 and 11. Defensively, they’re great all-around, with good pressure up front and Nathan Sandoval and Earl Hodson leading an outstanding secondary.
Whoever wins between Serrano and Cypress will be one game away from completing the dream season. However, with the winner of Temecula Valley and West Ranch still coming up in the finals, it would be a stretch to call either of these squads an individual frontrunner to win competitive Division 7.
5. La Serna (Whittier) — 12-0
Division 6 was both deep with championship contenders this season and loaded at the top. La Serna has been dominant all year, and is two games away from having successfully navigated it. They’ve dominated some very good teams this year in El Rancho and Warren, and are coming off an easy win over another great foe in Los Altos, so they’ll be favored fairly significantly again this week as good as San Jacinto has been this season.
The Lancers have been unstoppable on both sides of the ball this season, averaging 45 points per game to less than 12 allowed despite playing a number of strong teams this year. QB Andrew Henriquez has been a star all season with over 2,200 passing yards and 27 passing touchdowns on over 70% completion with only three interceptions. He’s also one rushing threat out of many, with RB Chandler McCaffer leading the way with 890 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. MLB Joey Bustos is one of many great members of La Serna’s excellent defense.
San Jacinto is a major threat to knock off the Lancers off this week, but La Serna is still a clear favorite. Things might get even tougher next week should they win, because the winner of Pacifica (Oxnard) and Crespi, who stunned Ayala last week, will be in the finals. Still, La Serna has a decent chance of finishing an undefeated Division 6 title run.
4. Culver City — 12-0
The Centaurs have been rising for years under Jahmal Wright. They ran away with Division 7 last season, and have a great chance of doing so again this season in Division 5. Their offense has been unreal this season, especially in the air.
Junior QB Zevi Eckhaus has a ridiculous 4,342 passing yards and 58 passing touchdowns this season on 71.6% completion with only five interceptions. That’s good for an mind-numbing passer rating of 147.3, and he’s a legitimate threat to run it home as well. He has an outstanding receiving corps to work with in Chris Miller, Tanner Duve, and Makai Cope, in addition to a great running back to round things out with Mekhi Evans-Bey. Culver City also has an effective defense that makes for a lack of size with a lot of athleticism and grit, which can be said about their offensive line as well.
They’ve already narrowly beaten Palos Verdes and Lawndale this season, but will face arguably their biggest test yet this week in St. Paul. The Swordsmen don’t have nearly as much offensive firepower as Culver City, but they’ll have a good chance to upset them if they can slow the pace, exploit them with size at the line of scrimmage, and get some offensive momentum early in the game. Culver City has to like their odds, but could be in for a surprise if they’re casually expecting to run away with it against a defense that can’t keep up like they usually do. That said, that’s not how Culver City has gotten to where they are, and the Centaurs have no complacent bones within them. If they play their game, the odds are they’ll be in the finals where they’ll be favored against either Glendora or Aquinas.
3. Corona del Mar (Newport Beach) — 12-0
There is nothing third-rate about Corona del Mar, who is widely considered a top-50 team in the country with room to spare despite playing in Southern Section’s Division 3. There have been some wild passing statistics among teams on this list, and CdM is no exception, with three upper four-star recruits in their passing game.
Washington commit Ethan Garbers is three yards short of 4,000 passing yards on the year, and happens to have 58 passing touchdowns to five interceptions, exactly like Eckhaus. Garbers is throwing to one of the most highly-touted wide receivers in the country in Stanford commit John Humphreys, one of the most highly-touted tight ends in the country in Washington commit Mark Redman, and yet another D-1 caliber receiver in Bradley Schlom. Their defense has also been outstanding this season despite lacking huge names, with only 137 points allowed through 12 games against plenty of top-tier competition.
Corona del Mar has already easily beaten Palos Verdes, San Clemente, and Edison this year. They have serious competition the next two weeks with Alemany this week and the winner of Grace Brethren vs. La Habra in the finals, and all three of those teams are serious threats to knock them out. But the Sea Kings will be favored quite substantially against any of them.
2. Mission Viejo — 11-0
Mission Viejo knocked out Servite 38-35 last week to make the Division 1 semifinals, and it was their first close game of the year. This season they’ve blown out San Clemente, Tesoro, and Upland, and they also beat La Habra with quite a bit of breathing room. They’re strong or elite in every single department of the game.
It’s hard to say if their offense or defense has been more dominant, because the Diablos are a well-oiled machine on both ends. Their offense is led by dual-threat QB Peter Costelli, whose main targets in the air have been WRs Chase Nenad and Mavin Anderson. They also have a great offensive line and a standout running back tandem in Jacquez Robertson and Tyson Scott. Mission Viejo has one of the best defensive liens in the country led by DEs Lance Keneley and Logan Schwenke, DT Keanu Tanuvasa, and LBs Easton Mascarenas, David Meyer, and Brenndan Warady. Their secondary is also a strength led by CB Ryder Fitch and S John Burns.
The Diablos are considered by many a top 15-20 team in the country. And somehow, they’ll be a major underdog for the rest of the playoffs, thanks in part to…
1. Mater Dei (Santa Ana) — 11-0
Who else could it be? The consensus best team in the country is two games away from finishing off one of the greatest seasons in recent high school football history, not including state championships where they’d of course be the heavy favorite if they made it. In fact, having beaten both St. John Bosco and Saint Frances (Baltimore) this season by two touchdowns–the second and third best teams in the country in either order–the Monarchs are officially the prohibitive favorite against every other team in high school football.
They have essentially the best of everything. As of right now, dual-threat QB Bryce Young is the runaway national player of the year. He goes to battle with the best offensive line in the country, led by Washington commit Myles Murao among others, and one of the best receiving corps in the country behind Kody Epps. With Marceese Yetts and Quincy Craig, Mater Dei also has plenty of firepower at running back that gets relatively limited opportunities. Furthermore, the Monarchs have the best defense in the country. DT Sefita Tupe, OLBs Raesjon Davis and Kobah Fuamatu, ILBs Dean Neeley and Ray Leutele, and CB Jaylin Davies are just several among countless D-1 guys on that end.
Is Mater Dei favored to complete the perfect season with a state title included? Yes. Is it a given? Not even close. Mission Viejo does not want to send their seniors off with their third straight postseason loss against the Diablos. And if Mater Dei makes the finals, they’ll have the winner of St. John Bosco and Corona Centennial waiting for them, with a potential rematch against Bosco likely to be their biggest test of the season. In state, the likes of De La Salle and Folsom are also serious threats to knock them off. But they’ll be the odds-on favorite to win it all every week going forward.