Corona del Mar, Central (Fresno), McClymonds, El Monte all one game away from finishing undefeated seasons with CIF state titles

Five high school football teams in California made undefeated runs through their divisional championships, and all of them are still undefeated after Regional Bowl Game week. Crescenta Valley didn’t play in a bowl game and finished their season 14-0 as Southern Section Division 10 champions.

Corona del Mar, McClymonds, El Monte, and Central (Fresno) are all one game away from completing their undefeated runs as well. None of them are facing each other, so all four of them could potentially win out. It would still be fair to call their seasons undefeated even if they lost given that they made it through their sectional playoffs undefeated, but going undefeated through state would be substantially sweeter. All of them will be in for major challenges against opponents with only one loss each on the season.

CdM (15-0) has arguably the highest chance of winning out. On paper, last week’s 14-7 win against Oceanside was their “worst” game of the year, being the first game of the season in which they didn’t win by double-digits. They also were held scoreless in the first half, which by their standards is shocking. Unless their offense’s mojo is suddenly gone, they’ll be the favorite against Serra (San Mateo), but Serra (13-1) is even better on paper than Oceanside was and has a host of future college ballers.

The Padres lost by one point to St. Ignatius, and have beaten almost all of the best teams in the Bay Area this year — Pittsburg, Menlo-Atherton, St. Mary’s (Stockton), Saint Francis, Half Moon Bay, Wilcox, San Joaquin Memorial, and most notably, Valley Christian (San Jose) — twice. They’re led offensively by an extremely reliable dual-threat QB in Dominique Lampkin in addition to WR Terence Loville and RB/WR Nate Sanchez. OG Nate Azzopardi headlines a strong offensive line. Their defense has been great this season as well behind DE Nusi Malani, S Jackson Lataimua, and DT Marcellus Eison.

That said, Corona del Mar has a pretty heavy edge in top-ranked firepower with an All-American-caliber QB/WR/TE trio in Ethan Garbers, John Humphreys, and Mark Redman, and another 3-star receiver in Bradley Schlom. They don’t have great size or big names on the defensive side of the ball but their defense has been lights out all season.

If not for the close call against Oceanside, the Sea Kings would be beat them handily, as great as Serra has been this season. CdM is the fairly heavy favorite but this will be a match.

The other three teams are essentially in 50-50 games. At 14-0, Central (Fresno) might have the slightest of edges over Sierra Canyon, but that probably wouldn’t be the case if 14-1 Sierra Canyon hadn’t lost 21-14 against Oaks Christian in their third game of the year. Since then they’ve rattled off 12 straight over countless great teams, namely St. Paul, Grace Brethren, Paraclete, Vista Murrieta, Rancho Cucamonga, Chaminade, and Helix. That’s a more impressive resume than Central has. So it’s really a tossup.

Central has beaten some strong teams in their own right, in particular beating Buchanan twice and knocking off Oak Ridge last week. They also defeated the entire Clovis gauntlet outside of Clovis South, who they didn’t play. The Grizzlies are led by Jameson Silva at QB, Quali Conley at RB, and two top receiving threats in Cal-commit Jeremiah Hunter and Xavier Worthy. They are huge up front on both sides, with two 3-star linemen in OG Dwight Tatum and DT Ricky Correia leading the charge—both weigh in at over 350 lbs. ILB Jekob Jones, CB Sean Haymon, and DB/ATH Yebrell Emerson are all additional standouts defensively.

Sierra Canyon is roughly equally in premier talent, and their defense has been clamping elite offenses every week. Linebackers J.D. Hernandez and Drue Watts, cornerback DJ Harvey, and FS Kamari Ramsey are all standouts on that end. On offense, QB Chayden Peery has eclipsed 3,000 passing yards on the year and gotten better every week, and Harvey doubles as a receiver with 1,377 yards. RB/WR J.D. Sumlin is the team’s leading rusher and third leading receiver. RB/WR Brendon Gamble and WR Donovan Williams.

Central might have a matchup advantage in their size in the trenches. Sierra Canyon has excellent linemen but they aren’t physically huge. Still, that hasn’t stopped them yet even against some very large teams. There’s not much to separate between these squads but Central might be considered the slightest favorite for the 1-AA title.

McClymonds (11-0) vs. Pacifica Oxnard (14-1) in Division 2-A will be one heck of a showdown too. This game is in a similar boat—the Tritons lost early in the season to a great Oxnard squad and haven’t lost since. McClymonds hasn’t lost at all and there’s no favorite or underdog. The Warriors are coming off a 46-13 beatdown against a strong Manteca squad and Pacifica was dominant last week against Birmingham. Both of these squads are known for their physical play so it might get heated.

Both of these squads have gotten it done on both sides of the ball this year. McClymonds’ strong defense is led by an elite CB in Arizona State-commit Edward Woods. Pacifica is also led defensively by a future Sun Devil, LB Caleb McCullough, who now has over 200 tackles on the season. Pacifica also has a strong playmaking core in QB RJ Maria, RB Malik Sherrod, WR/CB Nohl Williams, and WR Kyrie Wilson, plus a huge offensive line.

Lastly, El Monte is also geared up for what should be an evenly-matched battle with Del Norte (13-1) for the 5-AA championship. The Lions are 14-0, 15-0 including Adelanto’s forfeit. Last week they ground out a 30-18 victory against Serra (San Diego) in usual fashion, doing nothing but running the ball through Davon Booth and Abel Cueva in their double-wing system and playing hard-nosed defense. Booth put up his usual mind-boggling numbers—315 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, three two-point conversions, and a game-clinching interception as a standout DB. Cueva had a rushing touchdown and nearly 100 rushing yards as well.

That means on the season, Booth has—brace yourself—2,722 rushing yards and 32 rushing touchdowns. Cueva has 1,415 and 20. They didn’t complete a single pass last game but nobody has stopped them yet, even though they run the ball all but two or three times per game.

And on this rare occasion, El Monte will face a team that runs the ball just about as much as they do. Del Norte has gotten over 3,500 rushing yards and 41 rushing touchdowns this season from Levi Cox Cooley, Kobe Mitchell, and Chase Blackburn. While El Monte’s defensive forte is their secondary, Del Norte’s defense revolves around their fearsome front seven, led by MLBs Tanner Forkner and Anthony Slayton and DE Kai Baugh.

The Warriors have one bad loss to a solid Mazama (Oregon) squad, and some nice wins such as Fortuna (twice), Moreau Catholic, St. Bernard’s (Eureka), Encinal, and King’s Academy. El Monte of course hasn’t slipped up once. Their win against Serra last week was probably their best of the season in addition to beating Jurupa Hills in the Division 12 semifinals, but they didn’t face quite as many strong opponents. On paper, there’s nothing separating these two teams.

All of these undefeated teams could lose, and all of them could win. Most likely, it will be somewhere in between. The 14 unbeaten teams in California went a disappointing 4-9 in the division championships, not including El Monte’s forfeit victory, but these four teams have made it not only out of the sectional finals but out of the regional finals as well. Their biggest challenges might be lurking ahead on Friday and Saturday, but Corona del Mar, Central Fresno, McClymonds, and El Monte couldn’t be in any better situation than being one win away from wrapping up state title runs in defeated fashion.

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