February 23, 2024

It’s Final Four weekend in high school football on Friday night. There are 14 Southern Section semifinals and three in the City Section. Let’s examine some of the top ones.

Southern Section

DIVISION 1

Corona Centennial at St. John Bosco: The Huskies have played perhaps the strongest nonleague schedule and it was a struggle at times with lots of turnovers and losses to Bishop Gorman and Mater Dei. But the offense has settled. Quarterback Husan Longstreet has learned the system. Running back Cornell Hatcher has been fantastic. The Huskies want a shootout to have a chance to beat a St. John Bosco team that likes to shut down running attacks. Watch to see if Hatcher can be effective.

The pick: St. John Bosco.

Sierra Canyon vs. Mater Dei at Santa Ana Stadium: The real question for Mater Dei is how hungry are the players to win a championship? They didn’t look pumped up in their only loss to St. John Bosco in a Trinity League title decider. They certainly looked focused last week in a 38-0 win over JSerra. Sierra Canyon’s defense is definitely Division 1 caliber, but can the Trailblazers’ offense generate enough points to win?

The pick: Mater Dei.

DIVISION 2

Mission Viejo at Murrieta Valley: It doesn’t get much better than this evenly matched battle of proud public school programs. Murrieta Valley quarterback Bear Bachmeier will take his ability to pass and run and challenge a Diablos defense that will need a few big plays. Mission Viejo’s offensive balance should be helpful, but this is a game where home-field advantage could be important.

The pick: Murrieta Valley.

Servite at Gardena Serra: The athleticism of Serra has been impressive, from running back Cincere Rhaney to receiver Zacharyus Williams to sophomore defensive lineman Khary Wilder (14 sacks). Servite’s tough schedule has prepared the Friars.

The pick: Serra.

DIVISION 3

St. Bonaventure at San Juan Hills: The return of quarterback Anthony Wolter combined with the strong running of Koen Glover has made the Seraphs very dangerous. San Juan Hills, the No. 1 seed, has lots of standouts, from linebacker Weston Port to the Robinson brothers, Jason and Jadyn.

The pick: St. Bonaventure.

Chaminade at Warren: Chaminade’s young players are no longer young after 12 games. Quarterback Seth Shigg’s versatility gives the Eagles options. Warren will counter with quarterback Madden Iamaleava and receivers Jordan and Jalen Ross. It could come down to a last-second field goal, and Chaminade has All-American Ryon Sayeri.

The pick: Chaminade.

City Section

OPEN DIVISION

Carson at Birmingham: The Patriots haven’t lost to a City Section team since 2017. Carson’s physicality, led by running back/linebacker Jerry Misaalefua, will present a test. The Patriots continue to have lots of weapons, from receiver Peyton Waters to standout defensive end Maynor Morales.

The pick: Birmingham.

Gardena at Garfield: It’s going to be a muddy field and low-scoring game. Gardena has been the surprise team in the City Section behind a strong defense. Garfield running back Damian Cornejo will need blocking to slip and slide for touchdowns.

The pick: Garfield.

DIVISION I

Dymally at Banning: The Marine League was and is the best league in the City Section. Banning was put in Division I after several close defeats in league. The Pilots have a terrific quarterback in Robert Guerrero and a group of freshmen who aren’t freshmen anymore. Dymally’s speed can give the Pilots big problems.

The pick: Banning.

Crenshaw at Franklin: Coach Robert Garrett has resurrected a Crenshaw program that was close to dying during the pandemic days. The athletes are back, with quarterback Donce’ Lewis and receiver Roberto Salazar. Franklin has quarterback Eduardo Cuevas and running back Benjamin Villarreal. It could be a muddy field, and Franklin has a jumbo package just for that.

The pick: Franklin.

DIVISION II

Fairfax at Angelou: The Lions have been surging in the playoffs behind quarterback Ivan Levant. Angelou is unbeaten and led by 1,000 yards running back Branden Morales. Fairfax has played a much tougher schedule.

The pick: Fairfax.

San Fernando at Chatsworth: Coach Charles Burnley has done a great job bringing back the Tigers to prominence. Quarterback Adrian Anguiano has passed for nearly 1,700 yards. For Chatsworth, it’s all about clearing the way for running back Isaiah Rameau. A muddy field is good for Chatsworth.

The pick: Chatsworth.

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