With section championships wrapped up all around the state, the CIF State football playoffs are finally here. 28 bowl games are being played throughout California this weekend, and SBLive is previewing every single one.
(Lead photo by Josh DaFoe)
Here’s a complete preview of the CIF 1-AA Northern Region championship and state semifinal, a matchup between the San Diego Section Open Division Champion and the Southern Section Division 2 Champion – Cathedral Catholic and Orange Lutheran.
CIF STATE 1-AA SOUTHERN REGION BOWL GAME: Cathedral Catholic (10-2) vs. Orange Lutheran (10-4) @ Orange Coast College – Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The Dons and Lancers have only met one time previously, a week two matchup in the 2017 Honor Bowl that saw Orange Lutheran take down Cathedral Catholic, 37-0.
Cathedral Catholic entered the season with a challenging schedule and slipped up early, losing road games to California powers in Corona Centennial and De La Salle. The Dons offense hit their stride in game six against Steele Canyon and haven't lost since. They rolled through their Western League competition and picked up a forfeit win over Lincoln in week 11 before heading into the playoffs. Facing a 20-day layoff, the Dons showed no signs of rust in their opening playoff game, beating Mission Hills 38-10. The Dons then ended Carlsbad's 16-game winning streak in the Open Division Championship game, using a dominant rushing attack to win, 48-19. They head into the regional playoffs playing their best football of the season and have several key players back and healthy after minor injuries kept them from being at full strength throughout the regular season.
Orange Lutheran started the season 5-0 before diving into Trinity League play. The Lancers struggled, losing four of their five league games, going up against three of the nation's top teams. They were able to reset come playoff time, handling Simi Valley and Corona del Mar before edging out Sierra Canyon by two points and Alemany by three points to capture the Southern Section's Division 2 Championship. The battles against Mater Dei, Servite, and St. John Bosco appear to have prepared Orange Lutheran for their championship run and will serve them well against Cathedral Catholic on Friday.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Cathedral Catholic running back Lucky Sutton broke out during the spring season and has carried that momentum into the fall, showing that he's one of California's top running back. Sutton is closing in on 2,000 rushing yards for the season and has been held under 100 yards once, in a blowout win over La Jolla. He's scored 33 total touchdowns this season and is coming off of a 275-yard, three-touchdown performance against Carlsbad in which he had three rushes for 50 yards or more.
The Dons' passing attack has been inconsistent throughout the season but looked great in their last game against Carlsbad. Senior quarterback Charlie Mirer completed five of seven passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns, connecting with senior wide receiver Rex Haynes on four of the completions. Haynes dealt with a hamstring issue for much of the season but looked to be at full strength last round.
The Dons have defensive playmakers at all three levels led by Stanford commit Jaxson Moi on the defensive line.
Orange Lutheran will challenge the Dons with an offensive attack that is averaging over 41 points per game over their four playoff games. Senior quarterback Logan Gonzalez has thrown 42 touchdown passes, connecting with eight different receivers, while only throwing seven interceptions. Running back Desmin Jackson, who committed to Dartmouth in November, has over 1,100 yards on the ground and has proven himself in the passing game with 53 catches and 567 yards. The Lancers have four players with over 40 catches including senior Jaylen Lynch, who's found the end zone 14 times this season.
Junior linebacker Gabe Morin has been a tackling machine, racking up 125 in 14 games this season.
It seems like a lock that the Dons and Lancers will put points on the board given their offensive outputs in recent weeks. Cathedral's rushing attack has been dominant throughout the season and won't slow down now.
Score: Cathedral Catholic 38, Orange Lutheran 31