The CIF Southern Section Division 1 football quarterfinals kick off Friday, Nov. 15. Here’s a look at the matchups:

No. 1 Mater Dei vs. Bishop Amat

Does Bishop Amat have any shot? On paper, which only means so much, they have literally none, despite having just completed a clean sweep of the stacked Mission League.

Bishop Amat executes almost perfectly and will not kneel down to anyone, and will certainly bring pride, poise, and feist. The Lancers have a phenomenal defense, and actually do have the Monarchs beat in one department, which is at running back with Cal-commit Damien Moore. 

But as good as Bishop Amat is on defense, Mater Dei’s defense is probably the best in the country. As is their offensive line, with Myles Murao, Tautai Marks and co. And Bryce Young should be counted as both an All-American quarterback and running back in one player. 

Amat could beat all but a few teams out there on any given day. I’m just not sure Mater Dei is one of those teams. 

No. 2 St. John Bosco vs. Calabasas

Is there substantial reason to believe Calabasas has a chance? Not really, other than how human Bosco looked against Servite and Mater Dei, which says almost nothing. But Calabasas is too good to overlook. They made Division 1 with a little room to spare for a reason. Like most Division 1 teams, they do everything well. They have an excellent passing game led by QB Jaden Casey and WRs Johnny Wilson and Jermaine Burton, and Washington State commit Jyden King at RB.  

Everyone knows what St. John Bosco can do, which includes an even better defense than the Coyotes’ strong unit. DJ Uiagalelei has been nursing a high ankle sprain for a few weeks, but all indications are that he’s back to full-strength, which he was not against Mater Dei. Calabasas has enough tools to compete, but they’ll have to play out of their minds to have a chance.

No. 3 Corona Centennial vs. JSerra

On paper, JSerra doesn’t have that much of a chance, but they’re too good to count out in a playoff game. Their Achilles heel this season has been their passing game, and teams have been able to load up on their elite running core of QBs Chris Street and Sammy Green plus dual-threat QB General Booty. But very few teams can score on them, and when their offense is clicking on all cylinders, they are almost as good as it gets.

The thing is, Corona Centennial doesn’t have any weaknesses. None. Their defense, both up front and in the secondary, is second to few. Their offensive line is dominant. Nicholas Floyd has been one of the best running backs in SoCal this season, and they rotate in three very good quarterbacks every single game who all bring different dimensions, and have WR Gary Bryant to pass to. Most of all, the Huskies have been playing their best ball of the year for weeks on end, as shown in their jaw-dropping Week 8 demolition of rival Norco.

The way things have gone the past couple of months, it’s tough to see where JSerra finds an advantage, but they have enough talent to pull off the upset.

No. 4 Mission Viejo vs. Servite

If there’s any game this season between nationally elite teams that’s sure to come down to the wire, it’s this one. Anything can happen in the playoffs, including unexpected blowouts, but this is about as good as it gets.

How these two teams got to the middle of the Division 1 bracket differs significantly. Servite is 7-3 with losses coming to Bishop Gorman (generally ranked in the top 25 in the country), Mater Dei, and St. John Bosco (by one point). Mission Viejo is 10-0 and won every single game very convincingly, including against La Habra, Upland, and San Clemente. But they haven’t faced anyone close to any of the teams that beat Servite, who has beaten Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks), Orange Lutheran, and JSerra in their own right. 

Both teams do everything very well, and are strong in so many areas it’s hard to point out strengths. Especially when Servite’s schedule was much harder this year.

Led by QB Noah Fifita and an elite receiving corps of Tetairoa McMillan, Zedekiah Centers, and Damien Moun, Servite has a slightly better passing game, while Mission Viejo has a very narrow edge in the run-game with dual-threat QB Peter Costelli and RBs Jacquez Robertson and Tyson Scott. Servite has a slightly better secondary, but behind DEs Lance Keneley and Keanu Tanuvasa and LB Easton Mascarenas, Mission Viejo has a slightly better front seven. But all of that is splitting hairs, because these are two of the top 25 or so teams in the country, and both have numerous D-1 prospects at nearly every position.

It’s a shame that one of these elite teams is going to see their season end on Friday. But it’ll be a thrill for everyone to watch.

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