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CIF San Diego Section championship football game previews: Mater Dei Catholic and Palo Verde Valley look to repeat as champions

Mater Dei Catholic captured section and state championships during their undefeated season in 2021.

Here's a closer look at the San Diego Section football championship games that are scheduled for Friday and Saturday:

(Lead photo by Joe Bergman)

Division 1

Friday, 7:30pm at Southwestern College

No. 1 Mission Hills (9-3) vs. No. 3 Mater Dei Catholic (8-4)

Top-seeded Mission Hills has quietly flown under the radar during the second half of the season as they push towards their first CIF title since the inaugural Open Division championship in 2013. In their seven games since the bye week in September, the Grizzlies are allowing under seven points per game and have surpassed 28 points in five of those seven games. They began the playoffs with a 42-0 shutout of St. Augustine and defended their home field last week with a 28-21 victory against rival El Camino.

Photo by Joe Bergman

Photo by Joe Bergman

Mater Dei Catholic did not begin their season as planned after last year's undefeated team captured both CIF section and state titles. The Crusaders dropped their first four games but turned things around after their bye week in a big way. They've won eight straight games and have allowed 18 total points during that time including a six-game shutout streak during the regular season. They opened the playoffs with a 41-9 victory against La Costa Canyon in the quarterfinal round before getting revenge from an earlier season loss against Cathedral Catholic, beating the Dons 14-9 last week.


Mater Dei Catholic 31, Mission Hills 17

Division 2

Saturday, 7:30pm at Escondido High School

No. 1 Granite Hills (10-2) vs. No. 3 Ramona (8-4)

Granite Hills has been arguably the biggest surprise team in the San Diego Section this season. After dropping their season opener at Poway, the Eagles have won ten of their past 11 games, only falling to Madison along the way in a game they led 12-0 entering the fourth quarter. The Eagles have been dominant in all phases of the game, scoring 54 offensive touchdowns, seven defensive touchdowns and two special teams touchdowns. They finished the regular season with a four-overtime victory at Helix to claim the Grossmont-Hills League title. They took down La Jolla 56-25 in their first playoff game before shutting down a strong Mira Mesa team 45-8 in the semifinal round last week.

Ramona dropped three straight games early in the season but rebounded to finish the regular season strong. The Bulldogs have carried that play into the postseason with back-to-back wins over San Marcos and Central in the last two weeks, reaching their third championship game in the past five full seasons. Like many other teams playing in the championship games, the Bulldogs turned their season around following their bye week. They've allowed no team to score over 21 points since their week six bye and have given up 12 points per game during that time.


Granite Hills 27, Ramona 10

Division 3

Friday, 2pm at Southwestern College

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No. 1 University City (10-2) vs. No. 2 Point Loma (10-2)

After not making the CIF finals for the first 38 seasons in school history, the Centurions are back in the title game for the second straight season. They opened the season 2-2 before their current eight-game winning streak that sets up a rematch against City League foe Point Loma. The Centurions averaged 39 points per game this season but were held to a season low 13 points in their win over Point Loma during last month's matchup.

Photo by Steven Silva

Photo by Steven Silva

Point Loma returns to the CIF championship for the first time since 2009 as winners of nine of their past ten games. The lone loss during that stretch was a 13-7 setback at University City that went on to decide the City League title. The Pointers, who cancelled their season after one game due to a lack of players during the shortened 2020 season, have reached ten wins in a season for the first time since 2006. Point Loma has scored 42 points or more in each of their four games since losing to University City, rushing for 1,352 yards as a team during that time.


Point Loma 20, University City 16

Division 4

Friday, 7:30pm at Escondido High School

No. 1 Fallbrook (9-3) vs. No. 7 Palo Verde Valley (12-1)

Fallbrook makes their return to the CIF championship for the first time since 2003. The Warriors, outside of three losses by a combined 19 points, have been dominant. They've gotten to this point behind a strong rushing attack led by juniors Chris Bausch and Alan Leon and a defense that is allowing less than 11 points per game. Leon has stepped up in the last two weeks, rushing for 353 yards and five touchdowns, to help the Warriors beat Francis Parker and Mission Bay.

Palo Verde Valley returns to the CIF championship for the second straight season. The Yellow Jackets took down Fallbrook in the division 5 semifinals last season before beating Mission Bay in the finals and will see Fallbrook once again after both teams made the jump up to division 4. The Yellow Jackets dropped their season opener, 14-13 to Calexico in overtime, before embarking on their current 12-game winning streak. Palo Verde Valley has attempted just 20 passes all year, instead relying on a rushing attack that has gone over 5,100 yards on the season. They've rushed for 890 yards in their two playoff wins over the past two weeks, making the long distance trip to La Jolla Country Day and Coronado to keep their season alive.


Palo Verde Valley 21, Fallbrook 17

Division 5

Saturday, 2pm at Escondido High School

No. 1 Crawford (11-1) vs. No. 3 Classical Academy (9-3)

Crawford has been dominant much of the season, entering the championship on a nine-game winning streak, but have lights out on defense over their past nine games. They're allowing six points per game during that stretch, have recorded two shutouts and haven't allowed an opponent to surpass 13 points. They continue to put up points on the scoreboard, led by their rushing attack. Senior Hamadi Sharid and sophomore Keny Armstrong have combined for 2,269 rushing yards. They shutout Castle Park 42-0 in their first playoff game after beating the Trojans by seven during their regular season matchup and handled a Mar Vista team last week, 26-7, that entered the semifinal round with significant momentum.

Classical Academy has featured one of the section's stingiest defenses this season, recording shutouts in six of their 12 games. Two of the Caiman's three losses came against division 4 teams, Francis Parker and La Jolla Country Day. They shutout Vincent Memorial 32-0 in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs before getting redemption against Escondido Charter last week, beating the White Tigers 28-14, after losing their matchup in the final week of the regular season.


Crawford 24, Classical Academy 13