There were 14 unbeaten high school football teams in California going into last week, the last week of all sectional playoffs. While the winners of the division championships will go to play in state bowl games where they may eventually lose, teams are generally credited with undefeated playoff runs once they win a division title. Only five of those 14 teams are still unbeaten.
Of the five teams that officially went undefeated, one of them is El Monte. The Lions won their half of the CIF Southern Section Division 12 bracket and were supposed to play Adelanto in the finals, but the Saints were disqualified after nearly their entire team left the bench when a fight broke out in the third quarter of their semifinal game. They were leading 41-0 when the fight erupted.
The way Adelanto was playing down the stretch, El Monte would’ve easily been up for their biggest challenge of the season. That said, El Monte played who was in front of them all year, and it’s pretty reasonable to say a 13-0 division finalist is deserving of their undefeated status, forfeit or not.
Corona del Mar had the highest chances of any team on this list of completing the dream season outside of McClymonds, and likely has the best shot to win a state championship. Last season, the Sea Kings lost 26-14 to Grace Brethren in the Southern Section Division 4 championship. This year, they got the rematch they’d been praying for and made the most of it.
Grace gave them a run for their money, at one point tying the game 28-28 in the third quarter. But Ethan Garbers and company got it done with room to spare. Garbers had four passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns, and 294 passing yards with zero interceptions. WR John Humphreys had three receiving touchdown, TE Mark Redman had a receiving touchdown, and RB Riley Binnquist finished with one rushing touchdown and 145 rushing yards. OLB Mason Gecowets led a spirited effort on defense against a much larger Lancers’ squad who has grounded and pounded just about everyone they’ve seen.
McClymonds defeated Skyline 42-9 to win the CIF Oakland Section title in the East Bay. They had already beaten Skyline 43-0 in league play earlier this season. Last year, McClymonds beat them 94-0 and the losing coach didn’t even think they were running up the score.
In their closest game of the season, Central (Fresno) defeated Buchanan 28-21 in the Central Section Division I championship. Their second “closest” game of the year was a 41-20 victory over Buchanan to start league play. They were favored pretty heavily to beat them again, but Buchanan was far too good to write off. It will be interesting to see how Central fares against Oak Ridge in the Division 1-AA Northern California state playoffs.
Crescenta Valley beat Simi Valley 19-16 to win the Southern Section Division 10 title. Simi Valley wasn’t considered a top threat to contend for the title, but proved just how dangerous they were by defeating Western, Norte Vista, and No. 2 Orange in the playoffs. They gave the Falcons their biggest scare all year, but Crescenta Valley pulled it out.
And that’s it. The other nine teams went down. And many of them were favorites.
Mater Dei lost 39-34 to St. John Bosco in the Southern Section Division 1 championship. It’s hard to put such an epic game into a short blurb, but St. John Bosco came back from a 28-5 deficit and reeled off 34 straight points. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei finished with 444 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, and zero turnovers. The game, and Mater Dei’s season, ended on a Bryce Young Hail Mary that was perfectly thrown but landed in the hands of Braves’ WR/DB Kris Hutson.
Marquez fell 14-8 against Gardena in the LA City Section Division 3 finals. Gardena came in 9-4, but the game was really a tossup. Losing 14-8 was a tough way to end the season, but it was still an amazing year for the Gladiators.
St. Pius X-St. Matthias (PMA) lost 25-20 against South (Torrance) in the Southern Section Division 14 title game. The two teams had already played in the preseason and PMA pulled off a major comeback to win 36-35. Despite falling short as a moderate favorite in the game, it was still an incredible year for the Warriors. They went a combined 7-17 in their first two years of existence as a football program, so a 12-1 year with a finals appearance is still a resounding success.
Bishop’s lost a 75-59 barnburner against El Camino in the San Diego Section Division 2 finals. While the Mater Dei vs. St. John Bosco game stole the show as expected, this was a wild game for the books. Bishop’s QB Tyler Buchner, a Notre Dame-commit, went for 636 total yards and eight touchdowns, but the Knights blew a 45-20 halftime lead and gave up 55 second half points.
Center (Antelope) fell to Ripon 21-13 in the Sac-Joaquin Division 5 finals. Ripon was 11-1 coming in but hadn’t been as dominant as Center on the season, but this was a trap game for the heavily favored Cougars–Center had smacked a bunch of overwhelmed opponents this year and hadn’t played a team like Ripon or been tested this year.
Cypress lost 28-21 against Temecula Valley in the Southern Section Division 7 championship. Both of these teams had been slept on and sneaky good all year, with Cypress going unbeaten under the radar through the semifinals, and Temecula Valley shocking the world by winning a Southwestern League title. The Centurions had a phenomenal run this year and will return some key cogs next season.
Paradise lost 20-7 against Sutter in the Northern Section Division 3 finals. A lot of people both nearby and across the country had gotten behind Paradise from afar as the Bobcats stormed their way through a perfect regular season. A year ago, the town of Paradise was decimated in the worst wildfire in California history.
Even though they were undefeated, it would’ve been hard to call Paradise a true favorite over 11-1 Sutter factoring in strength of schedule. The Huskies won 20-7 in a defensive duel. Despite the loss, the Paradise football program had a miraculous season that goes exponentially farther than the football field.
La Serna’s perfect season came to a disappointing end in a 42-41 loss against Pacifica (Oxnard) in the Southern Section Division 6 championship. The Lancers led by 14 points in the first half but Pacifica came back and held on for keeps. QB Andrew Henriquez had over 300 yards of total offense for La Serna but an extremely talented Tritons playmaking core gave their defense more than they could handle for the first time all year.
Scripps Ranch fell 17-10 against La Jolla in the San Diego Section Division 3 finals. They beat La Jolla 17-7 in a preseason matchup, and were favored to win it all. But La Jolla played their best defensive game of the season and turned the tables on the Falcons.