Let the battles begin | TheUnion.com

Let the battles begin

Photo for The Union John Hart
John Hart | The Union

With only 10 California prep football teams remaining, the five best squads from Northern California will lock horns with the five best teams from Southern California Friday and Saturday until only one in each division is left.

A mix of the usual suspects make up the seventh edition of the California Bowl Championship games with a few new faces sprinkled in, including three teams from the Sac-Joaquin Section.

Here is a look at the California Bowl Championship games.

Open Division

De La Salle Spartans (14-0) vs. Centennial Huskies (14-1) 8 p.m. Saturday at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

These two squads have been here before.

De La Salle (Concord) has participated in a California Bowl Championship game since the games began in 2006. The Spartans are 4-2 in the bowl games, and have won the last three open division championships. The last time they lost was in 2008 at the hands of Centennial (Corona), which avenged its loss to De La Salle the year before.

De La Salle earned its right to play in this year’s bowl game by dismantling a high-octane Folsom team, 49-15 in the regional bowl game. Centennial topped Narbonne, 41-34 to get its third shot at the Spartans with a title on the line.

The Huskies are ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 4 in the nation according to MaxPreps.com, While the Spartans are right behind, ranked No. 2 in California and No. 5 in the nation.

The Huskies boast an explosive offense that racks up more than 540 yards and 50.4 points per game. Junior quarterback Robert Webber leads the Husky offense with 3,660 passing yards to go with 38 touchdowns and four interceptions. Webber also has 720 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground. Junior running back Tre Watson leads the vaunted running attack, that averages 266.2 yards per game with 1,450 yards and 22 touchdowns. The Husky weapons are numerous with senior Austin Renken rushing for 1,199 yards and 19 touchdowns, Chase Krivashel has 76 catches for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns, Barry Ware is responsible for 10 touchdown catches and 915 yards, and Ryan Pascarella has 684 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.

To slow the Huskies, the Spartans will count on their stingy defense that allows just 11 points per game and boasts four Division I prospects. Leading the De La Salle offense, which averages 40.7 points per game is Tiapepe Vitale. The senior tail back is 43 yards from reaching 2,000 for the season and has punched in 29 rushing touchdowns this season.

Division I

Granite Bay Grizzlies (12-3) vs. Long Beach Poly Jackrabbits (12-3) 8 p.m. Friday at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

It’s not often that a pair of three-loss teams end up battling for the Division I state championship, but these two earned it with impressive late-season runs.

The Grizzlies lost three of their first four games before ripping off 11 straight, including a 45-17 win over St. Ignatius in the regional bowl game last week. The Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champions have won five straight playoff games by a combined score of 225-67.

The Jackrabbits followed the same path, losing three of their first four contests before winning 11 straight. Long Beach Poly toppled Clovis North in the southern regional 28-7 to get into its second ever California Bowl Championship game.

The Jackrabbit offense averages 31 points per game and is led by a pair of 1,000-yard rushers. Gerard Wicks leads the team with 1,440 yards and 18 touchdowns, and Manusamoa Luuga is second with 1,326 yards and 13 touchdowns.

The Grizzlies are similar to the Jackrabbits in that they too have a pair of 1,000-yard rushers wjp drive the offense. Senior John Cooley leads the Grizzly ground game with 1,556 yards and 17 touchdowns, and Tony Ellison adds 1,144 yards and 11 touchdowns. Ellison also leads Granite Bay with 585 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. The Granite Bay passing game only accounts for 119 yards a game, but senior quarterback Grant Caraway makes few mistakes, throwing 27 touchdowns to only five interceptions. Sophomore standout Cameron Smith leads the Grizzly defense with 189 tackles this season.

Division II

Oakdale Mustangs (14-1) vs. Serra Cavaliers (13-2) 4 p.m. Saturday at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

Serra (Gardena) is making its third appearance in a California Bowl Championship game, and first since 2010. The Cavaliers won the 2012 Southern Section Division II championship before ousting Edison, 27-10, in the regional bowl game to earn a shot at the state title. Oakdale is making its first appearance in a California Bowl game, after winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship, then defeating Clayton Valley, 27-24, in the regional championship.

The Mustangs boast a balanced offense with quarterback Spencer Thomas throwing for 1,671 yards, 25 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Wide receiver Austin Jones has accounted for 1,037 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. Running back Marcus Northcutt has amassed 1,275 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, and Nikk Ryan has 1,082 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead the Oakdale run game. The Mustangs are riding a 13-game win streak and average 40.1 points per game while allowing 12.1.

Leading the Serra offense is junior quarterback Jalen Greene. The duel threat has 2,302 passing yards and 23 touchdowns through the air this season, as well as 1,025 yards on the ground and nine rushing scores. Sophomore Malik Roberson leads the team in rushing with 1,454 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Greene spreads the ball around to several receivers as three different Cavaliers have more than 30 catches and eight different pass catchers have touchdowns. On the defensive end, Serra turns to Nicholas Usher who has 11.5 sacks this season to lead a team that has totaled 36.5 on the season.

Division III

Marin Catholic Wildcats (14-1) vs. Madison Warhawks (13-1) noon Saturday at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

This is the second dip for both teams into a California Bowl Championship game. Madison (San Diego) lost in 2010 to Escalon, and Marin Catholic (Kentfield) fell to Serra in 2009. This year, one team will notch its first state championship.

The Warhawks are riding a 12-game win streak, took the San Diego Section Division IV championship with ease and slipped by Monrovia 21-17 in the regional bowl game. Marin Catholic is also on a 12-game win streak, beating El Cerrito in the North Coast Section Championship game and topping Sutter, 23-7, in the regional bowl game.

Marin Catholic runs a pass-heavy offense led by quarterback Jared Goff. The senior signal caller has thrown for 3,430 yards and 36 touchdowns this season. Goff’s main target is Andrew Celis with 66 catches for 1,179 yards and nine scores. Carrying the load out of the backfield for the Wildcats is Akili Terry with 1,767 yards and 26 touchdowns. The Wildcats don’t only rely on a high-scoring offense, they tote a stingy defense as well that allows a mere 13.2 points per game.

Trying to poke holes in that defense will be Madison running back Pierre Cormier. The senior back is just 24 yards away from a 2,000-yard season and visited the end zone 26 times this season. Madison quarterback Kareem Coles has 1,647 passing yards and 21 touchdowns through the air. Coles also has 893 yards on the ground and six touchdowns. Senior Austen Scarville leads the defense with six interceptions, and junior Sam Vermillion brings the pressure with 11.5 sacks this season.

Division IV

Central Catholic Raiders (13-2) vs. Santa Fe Christian Eagles (11-3) 4 p.m. Friday at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

Nobody has been able to slow down the Central Catholic (Modesto) offense this season. The Raiders average 49.1 points per game this season and tally 399.4 yards per contest. Central Catholic earned its right to fight for the Division IV championship by walloping Escalon 52-10 in the Sac-Joaquin Section championship game, then it crushed McClymonds 42-12 in the regional bowl game.

Santa Fe Christian hasn’t lost since September, winning the San Diego Section Division IV championship and earning its spot in the California Bowl Championship game by edging Rio Honda 30-38 in the regional bowl game.

The Eagles rarely go to the air with only 97 pass attempts for 852 yards this season, but what they lack through the air they make up for on the ground. The Eagles have five rushers with more than 400 yards on the ground. The running game, which amasses 295 yards per game, is led by junior Tony Miro with 1,133 yards and 14 touchdowns. Senior running back Hunter Vaccaro is second on the team with 981 yards and 16 touchdowns.

The Central Catholic offense is also run-centric, racking up 281.7 yards per game. Senior Ray Lomas IV leads the Raiders with 1,901 yards and an eye-popping 31 touchdowns. Rey Vega in next with 1,322 yards and 24 touchdowns.

This game has all the makings of a shootout, as both defenses allow more than 17 points per game and average more than 30.

To contact Sports Writer Walter Ford call (530) 477-4232 or email him at wford@theunion.com

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