We’re talking about the playoffs here USA TODAY HSS, focusing on several areas with the best high school football teams in the country. While both Florida and Texas have plenty of talent, one of the most notable areas — especially in 2022 — is California.
And that brings us to the California Sectionals, which begin this weekend.
Here are five high-profile matchups, teams currently in the USA TODAY Sports Super 25 that we’ll be keeping an eye on.
Mater Dei (10-0) vs. JSerra Catholic (6-5)
The reigning national champion Monarchs spent the entire 2022 season atop ours Super 25 Power Rankings list, defeating all comers – including national powerhouses like Bishop Gorman, Centennial and Bosco.
Their first playoff opponent will be JSerra Catholic, who they won earlier this season, 21-13. That’s about as tight as anyone has played Mater Dei all year, barring the Week 2 shutout against Gorman. JSerra will have to find an answer for sophomore wide receiver Marcus Harris, who led the way for Mater Dei with three catches, 105 yards and two touchdowns.
St. John Bosco (9-1) vs. Orange Lutheran (7-4)
of Bosco the only loss this season came against Mater Dei and they were able to maintain a 10-point lead. Otherwise, the Braves have outscored every other opponent they’ve faced this year. None of their nine wins came by fewer than 27 points.
Meanwhile, the Orange Lutherans advanced by the skin of their teeth, beating Edison on the road by one point last week, 38-37. Sophomore quarterback TJ Lateif threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more.
Centenary (9-1) vs. Mission Viejo (9-1)
Centennial is another team whose only loss this year came against the best in the business. They faced Mater Dei in their third game of the season and lost 43-20. Since then, they have blown away their competition. In the seven games since then, they have outscored their opponents 365-71.
Mission Viejo, however, should provide a real test. Their only loss came against Long Beach Poly, 35-30 thriller the beginning of September. Their last two games were won by a combined score of 134-7.
Long Beach Poly (10-0) vs. Los Alamitos (8-2)
It doesn’t get more dominant than undefeated – that’s what the Jackrabbits are coming into the playoffs. Long Beach faced some tough tests early in the season, but has completely crushed opponents on defense of late. Each of the last five teams against whom they faced did not score a single point against them.
However, Los Alamitos is on another level compared to those teams. Since losing two of their first three games to American Heritage and Basha – both serious national teams – they’ve bounced back and gotten better each week. Their last win came against Fountain Valley, whom they beat 68-0 two weeks ago.
Serra (10-0) against Palma (8-2)
Finally, undefeated Serra of San Mateo will face Palma (Salinas) on Saturday afternoon. Serra is led by junior quarterback Maealiuaki Smith threw for 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions this year.
Avoiding turnovers will be key for Palma, which stumbled last week against Salinas, suffering its first loss since the start of the 2022 season. Junior QB Thomas Nunes threw three interceptions.