Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Marquee Matchups Aplenty: CIF San Diego Championship Previews

CIF San Diego Division I Championship
#2 Mission Hills (9-3) vs. #5 St. Augustine (9-4)
Friday, November 24th @ 7pm

This Friday night will feature what should be an exciting championship game between the Mission Hills Grizzlies and the St. Augustine Saints. The young Saints seek revenge after falling 42-0 to Mission Hills in last year’s quarterfinals. This will be the third all-time meeting with the series tied 1-1.

Mission Hills relies on a productive passing attack led by senior quarterback Troy Huhn (1623 yards, 16 TDs) throwing to weapons like senior receiver Jayden Williams (624 yards, 6 TDs). They’ll face a stiff St. Augustine defense featuring playmakers like defensive end Bronx Letuligasenoa (7.5 sacks) and linebacker Viliamu Trollinger (74 tackles, 2 INTs).

When Mission Hills tries to establish the run with running back Giovanni Harte (1104 rushing yards, 13 TDs), they’ll face linebackers Trollinger and Ezaya Tokio (91 tackles). On the other side, St. Augustine has a balanced offense with quarterback Brady Palmer (2198 yards, 21 TDs) passing to two-way senior Isaiah Hasten (1071 yards, 11 TDs, 5 INTs) while running backs Humble Faalave-Johnson (631 yards, 8 TDs) and Parker Johnson (334 yards, 10 TDs) lead the ground game. They'll try to find holes in a Grizzlies defense anchored by senior defensive end Jonathon Class (19 tackles, 6 sacks, 5 INTs).

This game may come down to which team can control the line of scrimmage with Mission Hills boasting size on their offensive line. Turnovers may also prove critical, with ballhawks in secondaries like Mission Hills cornerback Jalen Veasey (2 INTs) and Saints playmaker Hasten (5 INTs). Defensive stalwarts like Letuligasenoa could also create enough pressure to force errant throws. This should be a tight championship clash that may be decided in the final minute.

The Grizzlies want redemption after losing a close championship game last season, while the Saints look to capture their first section crown since 2018.

CIF San Diego Division II Championship
#1 Del Norte (10-2) vs. #3 La Jolla (10-2)
Saturday, November 25th @ 7pm

The main event of the weekend will feature a clash between two high-powered offenses as the La Jolla Vikings take on the Del Norte Nighthawks for the Division II Championship.

The Vikings are led by senior quarterback Jackson Diehl, who has over 3300 total yards and 46 total touchdowns on the year. Diehl commands a multifaceted La Jolla attack that averages over 420 yards and 34 points per game. Junior running back Aidan McGill adds over 1100 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as another key factor in the offense. The Vikings have excellent options on the outside as well, including junior receivers Carson Diehl (938 yards, 9 TDs) and Kai Fukuda (509 yards, 7 TDs).

The Nighthawks counter with a dynamic passing offense orchestrated by senior quarterback Jack Schneider. Schneider has thrown for over 2300 yards and 26 touchdowns, frequently connecting with junior receiver Ty Olsen. Olsen is having an impressive season, putting up 1464 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns as Schneider's top target. The Nighthawks average over 300 yards and 26 points per game.

This matchup features two of the San Diego Section's most electrifying offenses. The Vikings and Nighthawks both pose threats to score from anywhere on the field. With talented playmakers on both sides, expect some fireworks as these two high-octane attacks go head-to-head with a title on the line.

CIF San Diego Division III Championship
#4 Grossmont (7-5) vs. #6 La Jolla Country Day (10-3)
Saturday, November 25th @ 2pm

In one of the most unexpected turnarounds, the Grossmont Foothillers will vie for the school's first San Diego Section title when they face the La Jolla Country Day Torreys in the Division III Final.

Just a year removed from an 0-10 season, first-year head coach and former Grossmont star quarterback Anthony Lawrence has engineered a remarkable resurgence, guiding the Foothillers to a 7-5 record and their first section championship appearance since 1971.

Senior quarterback Hudson Herber has led Grossmont's explosive spread offense, passing for over 2,800 yards and 34 touchdowns. His explosive targets include senior Cody Bigley (1,079 yards, 13 TDs) and sophomore Noah Walker (597 yards, 11 TDs). On the ground, senior running back Isaac Aceves has rushed for 727 yards and seven scores. Last week, Aceves put up 244 yards and two scores in their 30-14 semifinal win over top-seeded Mission Bay.

On defense, Grossmont boasts a formidable pass rush led by senior defensive end Jacob Suter (10.5 sacks). The unit has produced 22.5 sacks on the season. Seniors Joshua Ferrara (6 INTs) and Zandy Vasiliou (2 INTs) headline the secondary.

La Jolla Country Day features a high-powered offense directed by senior quarterback Jaden Mangini (1,763 passing yards, 25 total TDs). His main receiving threats are senior Madden Craig (705 yards, 10 TDs) and sophomore Quentin Cesaire (555 yards, 9 TDs). The Torreys average over 140 rushing yards per game on the ground behind the three-headed monster of Davin Doak, Mangini, and Reign Villareal. An experienced La Jolla Country Day defense allows just 16 points per contest.

The Torreys are gunning for their third 11-man section championship in team history under 10-year head coach Tyler Hales. La Jolla Country Day last captured a CIF title in 2016, but to capture another banner, they must contain Herber and Grossmont's quick-strike passing game. The Foothillers are riding a wave of momentum into Saturday's title game. Can the Cinderella story continue?

CIF San Diego Division IV Championship
#1 Mount Miguel (11-1) vs. #2 Chula Vista (10-2)
Friday, November 24th @ 2pm

All the action begins with Mount Miguel looking to add to its historic season when they take on a familiar foe in Chula Vista in the Division IV title game. The Matadors rolled past the Spartans 49-0 back in week two, but with the stakes much higher this time around, a harder-fought game should be expected.

First-year head coach Verlain Betofe has Mount Miguel on the cusp of its first section title since 1960. As a coach, this will be his seventh appearance in the finals with his fourth different team.

Senior quarterback Matthew Barton pilots the Matadors' high-octane offense, passing for over 3,100 yards and 42 touchdowns on the year. His top targets include senior Jeremiah Castillo (1,072 yards, 14 TDs) and sophomore Parris Vernon (745 yards, 9 TDs). The ground game averages 158 rushing yards per game led by senior running back Davian McGowan's 732 yards and seven touchdowns. Making his first varsity start, sophomore Zane Rottier rushed for 170 yards and a score in last week's 37-6 semifinal victory over Santana.

While Chula Vista's offense sputtered in the first meeting, the Spartans have hit their stride late in the year behind junior quarterback Izaac Baca. Baca has passed for over 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns, helped by senior receiver Elijah Gillespie's 931 yards and 16 trips to the end zone. Senior running back Paul Alvarez adds 903 rushing yards and 12 scores.

The Spartans may face a stiff challenge in solving Mount Miguel’s attacking defense this time around. The Matadors' has compiled 31 sacks and forced 37 turnovers during its dominant campaign. Seniors Christian Lopez and Hector Armenta have combined for 14 sacks on the year, while Johnny Castro can make plays as a safety and receiver. Castro recorded three receiving touchdowns and a fumble recovery to the end zone this season.

In its first finals appearance since 1998, can Chula Vista flip the script and avenge its early season defeat? Or will Betofe lead the Matadors to the mountaintop of D-IV and into the State Playoffs?

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