We’re talking about the playoffs here at USA TODAY HSS, focusing on several areas with the country’s best high school football teams. While Florida and Texas both have tons 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 that are currently in the USA TODAY Sports Super 25, we will be keeping an eye on.
Mater Dei (10-0) vs. JSerra Catholic (6-5)
The reigning national champion Monarchs have spent the entire 2022 season at the top of our Super 25 power rankings list, beating all comers – including national powerhouses like Bishop Gorman, Centennial and Bosco.
Their first playoff opponent will be JSerra Catholic, who they beat earlier this season, 21-13. That’s about as tight as anyone has played Mater Dei all year aside from the close call in Week 2 against Gorman. JSerra will need to find an answer for Sophomore wide receiver Marcus Harris, who led the way for Mater Dei – totaling three catches, 105 yards and two touchdowns.
St. John Bosco (9-1) vs. Orange Lutheran (7-4)
Bosco’s only loss this season came against Mater Dei and they managed to keep the margin to 10 points. Otherwise, the Braves have rolled over every single other opponent they’ve faced this year. None of their nine wins came by any less than 27 points.
Meanwhile, Orange Lutheran advanced by the skin of their teeth, defeating Edison on the road by one point last week, 38-37. Sophomore quarterback TJ Lateef threw three touchdown passes and ran for two more.
Centennial (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’ve blown their competition away. In the seven games since, they’ve outscored their opponents 365-71.
Mission Viejo should provide a real test, though. Their only loss came against Long Beach Poly, a 35-30 thriller early in 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 any more dominant than undefeated – which is what the Jackrabbits are coming into the playoffs. Long Beach faced a couple of difficult tests early in the season but lately has absolutely crushed their opponents defensively. Each of the last five teams they’ve faced hasn’t scored a single point against them.
Los Alamitos is on another level compared to those teams, though. Since losing two of their first three games to American Heritage and Basha – both serious national teams – they’ve recovered and gotten better every week. Their most recent victory came against Fountain Valley, who they beat 68-0 two weeks ago.
Serra (10-0) vs. Palma (8-2)
Finally, undefeated Serra from San Mateo will face Palma (Salinas) on Saturday afternoon. Serra is led by Junior quarterback Maealiuaki Smith has thrown 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions this year.
Avoiding turnovers will be key for Palma, who stumbled last week against Salinas, suffering their first loss since their 2022 season opener. Junior QB Thomas Nunes threw three interceptions.