June 23, 2024

Eight teams were selected Sunday for the Southern Section Division 1 football playoffs that has become the annual competition to see whether St. John Bosco or Mater Dei ends up as champion. One of those two schools has won every title since 2016.

By limiting the bracket to only eight teams (last year there were 10), the Southern Section created what should be a powerful, entertaining 16-team Division 2 tournament that can help the section come state playoff time.

St. John Bosco, the Trinity League champion, was seeded No. 1 and will open at home on Nov. 10 against No. 8 San Clemente. Mater Dei is seeded No. 2 and will play host to Trinity League rival JSerra. No. 3-seeded Sierra Canyon is 10-0 and making its first Division 1 appearance in school history. It hosts No. 6 Santa Margarita. No. 4 Corona Centennial plays host to No. 5 Orange Lutheran.

There are low expectations for any upsets in Division 1. The top two teams have been the top teams for months. The championship game is set for Nov. 24 at the Coliseum, and St. John Bosco and Mater Dei fans have been making plans for weeks.

Division 2 is what a real bracket looks like when you have competitive equity and the potential for upsets and great games.

Rancho Cucamonga, which dropped from the unbeaten ranks by losing its regular-season finale to Upland, was awarded the No. 1 seeding in Division 2 based on CalPreps.com rankings. It will face No. 16 Edison, a dangerous, well-coached team that gave Sunset League champion Los Alamitos all it could handle Friday night.

There are great matchups throughout the division. No. 2 Long Beach Poly gets to host No. 15 Vista Murrieta. No. 10 Valencia is at No. 7 Servite. No. 11 Upland is on the road at Los Alamitos. Mission League rivals Bishop Amat and Gardena Serra open with a matchup at Serra. Unbeaten Palos Verdes plays at Mission Viejo in a battle of proud public-school teams. No. 12 Chaparral is at No. 5 Oaks Christian and No. 9 Damien plays at No. 8 Murrieta Valley.

Forget the seedings. There’s lots of terrific coaches in Division 2, so look for “upsets” from beginning to end.

In Division 3, the most interesting team to watch is 10-0 Tustin. It has rolled through competition with a group of transfer students and outmanned opponents. Now things get serious with an opening game against Warren. San Juan Hills is seeded No. 1 in the division. The best opener is No. 13 St. Bonaventure at No. 4 Etiwanda. That winner could claim the title.

In Division 7, Agoura made the tournament at 7-3 with an at-large berth. The Chargers, with no transfers, deserved the right to be in the tournament by playing their hearts out every week and now get to face another neighborhood team, Pacific League champion Burroughs, on Friday night.

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