The state CIF Division 1-A and 1-AA Northern Regional Bowl Games involve the top teams from the CIF Central Coast Section and CIF Sac-Joaquin Section matched up against two explosive offenses from the CIF Central Section.
Northern Regional Division 1-A Preview
San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno (12-1) at Serra-San Mateo (12-1), Saturday, Noon
This matchup of CIF Central Coast Section Division 1 champion Serra and CIF Central Section Division 2 titlist San Joaquin Memorial could be very interesting between teams with contrasting styles.
A lot of folks were a little surprised that Cal-Hi Sports No. 13 and Maxpreps power rankings No. 12 ranked Serra was not in the 1-AA game, but they have no choice or say in the matter, and that means they’re still in one of the top three divisions and they get a home game against a San Joaquin Memorial team that Cal-Hi Sports has ranked No. 31 and is No. 43 in the power rankings.
Rankings are rankings, and the CIF and the 10 commissioners have a lot of considerations in placing teams and deciding match-ups, and while on paper this looks like Serra should be a favorite, particularly at home, it’s nothing close to a lead pipe cinch.
With the exception of the 14-13 loss to St. Ignatius-San Francisco, in a defensive battle, Serra has worn down teams in the West Catholic Athletic League and then in the CCS playoffs with its defense, but all those teams were running teams and pretty much similar in style to Serra. San Joaquin Memorial with its multi-faceted offense is much different and something Padres Coach Patrick Walsh has prepared for in the past.
“San Joaquin Memorial has an explosive offense that has produced tons of yards in the air and on the ground,” Walsh remarked.
So what is the plan to try and slow them down? “Prayer and pursuit to the football,” Walsh answered.
“They have extremely talented players that require an all out effort from our defense,” Walsh continued. “The last few games our defense has been tested. Since (quarterback) Daylin (McLemore) went out we’ve given up zero, 13, 14, 14, and zero points in those games but the common theme is all those teams were run heavy. Our defense will be tested much differently in this game with a spread offense coming to Serra.”
With McLemore out Walsh has turned to 5-11, 170-pound sophomore Dominique Lampkin to take over as signal caller, and he has made a few mistakes but by and large he’s played well. Last week, Lampkin took Serra on an 18-play 75-yard first quarter drive that included a fake field goal and two third down and two fourth down conversions. He then scored the first of his two TD’s rushing when he took it in himself from a yard out for the only points the Serra defense would need in a 17-0 shutout of state-ranked Valley Christian in the CCS D1 title game. They already owned a 10-0 shutout over Valley Christian in WCAL play.
Even if the defense is able to contain San Joaquin Memorial the Padres are likely going to have to get other top players contribute besides Lampkin, particularly the running back corps of junior Vince Poni and sophomore Hassan Mahasin. Senior Jackson Lataimua, who leads the defensive secondary and had an interception against Valley Christian last week, may be called on to run the ball on offense.
Walsh has his own game breakers in 6-0, 185-pound wide receiver and return specialist Terrence Loville, and reliable senior playmaking wideout and return whiz Nate Sanchez.
Nusi Malani, a 6-6, 250-pounder will anchor both lines and with wet and rainy conditions expected the trenches could be very important.
Serra has seen some high-quality offenses like state top 25 Pittsburg, and they won that game 58-21, so the San Joaquin Memorial defense may be the one to be tested like they have not been by an opponent of the Padres quality this season.
Pocket passer Finn Collins, a 6-3, 185-pound junior, is the San Joaquin Memorial quarterback and he’s passed for 3,324 yards and 38 TDs with only four interceptions this season. Last week in the Central Section D1 title game 35-16 victory over Tulare Western-Tulare, he was 12 for 20 for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
Another player that has put up big numbers is running back Jordan Hornbeak. The 6-0, 190-pound junior has rushed for 1,569 yards and 17 TDs, including 20 carries for 120 yards and one TD last week.
Hornbeak has two 1,000 yard receivers to throw to, 6-3, 190-pound senior Jalen McMillan (80 receptions, 1,531 yards, 12 TDs) and 5-10, 165-pound Mac Dalena (65 receptions, 1,159 yards, 19 TDs), so he likely will be throwing.
Some keys will likely be the play of Serra’s Lampkin, the weather conditions that could favor Serra, and how the offenses and defenses of each team do against the strengths of each team.
San Joaquin Memorial has won some close games where their offense hasn’t scored as many points as the yardage they gained would seem to indicate they should have, and despite some recent grind it out games for Serra the Panthers defense may not have seen the kind of skill players Walsh has at his disposal.
Between the weather, the home field advantage, and Walsh’s experience over his almost 20-years at the Serra helm in big games against top-notch opponents, things would seem to favor the Padres, but Walsh is anything but overconfident, and he’s up against an experienced coach in the Panthers’ Anthony Goston.
Serra has been there before and both times they had to get by teams from the Central Section. In 2016 they went to Sanger, a team that like San Joaquin Memorial is in the County-Metro League, and they won 49-36 in the 2-A Northern Regional Bowl Game before losing to Sierra Canyon-Chatsworth in the state 2-A game. In 2017 the Padres went to Tulare Union and exploded for a 76-43 victory in the 2-AA NorCal Regional before beating Cajon-San Bernardino in the state 2-AA Bowl Game championship.
For Goston and his Panthers this will be their second trip to a Regional Bowl Game. In 2017 San Joaquin Memorial was placed in the south and came up short in a 31-28 road loss to Southwest-El Centro in the Southern Regional Division 4-A championship.
“We have to be tough and organized, and we have to take care of the football, especially with the weather report scheduled to be wet and windy,” Walsh said.
“Winning those close games is still winning and they’ve shown a championship pedigree by winning some very tight games,” Walsh said in conclusion. “That tells us that they have a championship mentality and we’re prepared for a 48-minute game.”
Northern Regional Division 1-AA Preview
Central-Fresno (13-0) at Oak Ridge-El Dorado Hills (11-2*), Friday, 7:30 pm
The participants in the top division in Northern California after the selection of De La Salle as the Open Division representative from the Northern Region are host and CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion Oak Ridge and CIF Central Section Division 1 champion Central.
Just about all the analysts had Central in one of the 1-AA slots and although they are on the road they have a higher ranking than Oak Ridge in both the human Cal-Hi Sports rankings as well as the power rankings. Cal-Hi Sports has Central No. 6 and Oak Ridge No. 16 while the power rankings have Central No. 7 and Oak Ridge No. 20.
Some had thought Serra-San Mateo, who is higher in every t=rankings than Oak Ridge, would be playing Central, but that didn’t happen and this did.
Whereas Oak Ridge did not play anyone outside the Sac-Joaquin Section the same can’t be said for Central. In fact the Grizzlies were a 45-16 winner at home over a Whitney-Rocklin team Oak Ridge beat 26-14 at home in Sierra Foothill League action.
Central Coach Kyle Biggs combines passing and running fairly equally in an offensive attack that is averaging over 45 points a game.
Senior 6-1, 185-pound quarterback Jameson Silva has passed for 2,744 yards and 38 TDs with only one interception. He doesn’t run a lot but has 245 yards and one score. The primary running back is 6-0, 190-pound senior Quali Conley. He’s rushed for 1,486 yards and 15 TDs and also has 33 pass receptions for 366 yards and five additional scores. Players to look for are junior fullback Jekob Jones and junior wide receiver Xavier Worthy senior wideout Jeremiah Hunter.
Senior linebacker Dominic Mendez leads a lot of solid players on defense including Jones.
Oak Ridge Coach Eric Cavaliere has a similar style offense with a little more passing than running. Quarterback Justin Lamson, a 6-3, 190-pound junior, has 2,904 yards passing and 22 TDs with seven interception, and he’s rushed for 397 yards and four TDs, but last week in a 35-27 win over Monterey Trail-Elk Grove in the section title game only completed six passes for 75 yards and one TD, but he was the Trojans leading rusher with 24 carries for 129 yards and three touchdowns.
The favorite target for Lamson has been senior Avant Jacobs (62 receptions, 940 yards, eight TDs) but other receivers to look for are junior Brandon Barthel and senior Mujahid Samad. Dylan Warfield, a 6-1, 205-pound senior is the primary running back. He’s rushed for 807 yards and 13 TDs.
A players to look for on defense is 6-0, 210-pound junior linebacker Ryan Ennis.
Central would seem to be a favorite but Oak Ridge is at home, and weather could be a factor as well as rain is in the forecast.
(*includes forfeit win)