Del Oro upsets St. Francis 14-13 in a thriller to advance to state final
By any measure, this has been a banner season on the regional high school football front.
A record four area programs will cap their seasons in CIF State championship games, starting Friday at Cerritos College in Norwalk when the region’s top two teams will be pulling for each other, and concluding Saturday when Rio Linda and Colfax host lower-division finales.
Sierra Foothill League members Folsom and Del Oro will compete in the highest classification games left on the schedule after Mater Dei downed De La Salle 35-21 on Saturday night for the CIF State Open Division championship.
Del Oro (13-1) plays Grace Brethren of Simi Valley (13-2) in the Division 2-AA final at 4 p.m., followed by the Division I-AA final between Folsom (13-1) and Cathedral Catholic of San Diego (12-1).
Cathedral Catholic is familiar with Sac-Joaquin Section teams. The Dons went 14-0 in 2008 and beat St. Mary’s of Stockton 37-34 in the Division II state final, and they went 15-0 in 2016 and downed St. Mary’s 38-35 in overtime in the Division 1-AA championship.
Cathedral Catholic lost to Folsom 55-10 in a 2014 season opener and fell at Del Oro 22-12 in a 2017 opener. The Dons lost their opener this season to La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad 19-7 but have rolled since with a balanced offense.
Folsom is a pass-heavy team, a staple for teams that have won four CIF State titles this decade, including a 16-0 showing last season. Sixteen starters are back from that team, headed by quarterback Kaiden Bennett, who has accounted for 15 touchdowns in his last two games in delivering knockout blows to unbeaten Monterey Trail in the Sac-Joaquin Section final and unbeaten Central of Fresno in the NorCal championship Friday.
Del Oro is in its fifth CIF State final this decade and seeks its second title in three seasons - and first under second-year coach Jeff Walters, who played at Del Oro and got his coaching start there.
The Golden Eagles have pulled off dramatic last-minute victories to win section and NorCal championships, downing Central Catholic of Modesto 20-17 and Saint Francis of Mountain View 14-13.
Del Oro’s tough defense - headed by Dawson Hurst, Johnny Guzman, Tatuo Martinson, Charlie Rogers, Dante Pericin and Carson Westlake - will be tested by a Grace Brethren offense that has amassed 4,556 rushing yards and 56 touchdowns, including 2,326 and 33 from Lontrelle Diggs.
Rio Linda (12-2) has never hosted a state championship in any sport, nor has it even competed in one.
The Knights welcome San Gorgonio of San Bernardino (12-3) in the Division 5-AA game. Cameron Skattebo has rushed for 3,157 yards and 39 touchdowns for Rio Linda, one of three area backs to rush for 3,000 or more yards in a season.
San Gorgonio is balanced with Jordan Pachot passing for 4,084 yards and 37 touchdowns and Elijah Hall rushing for 2,210 and 28.
Colfax (13-0) won CIF State Division III championships in girls basketball in 1983 and ‘84 and is in a football state final for the first time. It will host San Diego (11-2), which has lost just once on the field (a 42-19 season-opening victory was deemed a forfeit for unknowingly using an ineligible player).
The Cavers have two 1,000-yard rushers in Raiden Hunter and Mo Jackson, who have combined for 33 touchdowns. Colfax is led by Alex Weir, who has passed for 2,562 yards and 38 touchdowns - 14 to Jake Green and 12 to Colton Reeves.