If you believe CalHiSports.com, (and I tend to believe them), the winner of Friday’s CIF-SS Inland Division championship game, Redlands East Valley or Riverside Poly, will advance to the CIF State Playoffs.
Right now, CalHiSports has REV No. 1 and Poly No. 2 in Division II South rankings. The top two teams will play next week in the Division II South Finals, with the winner of that going to the state finals.
Each CIF-SS Division is linked to a state division, and the Inland Division is linked with Division II. Teams must win a CIF title to advance to state, so both REV and Poly won’t be able to go.
More of the rankings: No. 3. Bakersfield Ridgeview (11-1), No. 4 San Clemente (12-1), No. 5 Crescenta Valley (13-0), No. 6 Menifee Heritage (12-1), No. 7 Serrano (12-1).
So, if you believe the rankings, the only way Serrano makes it is if Serrano wins and Ridgeview, San Clemente, and Crescenta Valley all lose. Heritage’s season is already over and ineligible for state.
State playoff announcement comes on Sunday afternoon.
So what school or school district has gone the longest without a title or an appearance in a championship football games?
Redlands East Valley is the first Redlands district school in the finals since Redlands lost a 55-0 contest to Edison in the 1979 Big Five Conference.
Colony last appeared in the finals in 2007, the second straight year it did so. Winning the Central Division title would make it the seventh time in the last nine years (since CIF-SS went from numbers to names on division) that a San Bernardino County school won the Central Division. Since 2007, a Chaffey Joint High School District school has won in 2008 (Rancho Cucamonga) and finished second in 2009 (Los Osos). Chaffey won the inaugural CIF championship in 1913, a 19-0 win against Santa Ana. Upland won in 2009, Colton in 2010 and Kaiser in 2012.
Serrano’s last title was 10 years ago against Palm Springs, the same school they’ll face Friday. That was also the last CIF-SS football title for the San Bernardino County portion of the High Desert. The Diamondbacks are 1-4 in title games, the last loss five years ago against Palm Springs.
Arrowhead Christian Academy won titles in 1996-97 and last played in the championship game in 2001, a 43-16 win over Mammoth in Division XIII.
There’s just no escaping the history of their football program when Serrano High School players walk into the Bennett Fieldhouse that serves as home away from home.
“I’m kind of a history buff,” said Diamondbacks head coach Ray Maholchic, who decorated the unique building with photos and clippings of past seasons. In fact, to enter his office, players must walk under a photo of the winning touchdown in the 2004 title game against Palm Springs.
Interestingly enough, Serrano will host Palm Springs Friday night at 7:30 for the Eastern Division title. It will mark the third time in 10 years the teams will vie for the title, with each having one game. Serrano also played Citrus Hill in the finals in 2012.
John Mackesy is a link to previous championship games. As a sophomore, he started both ways against Citrus Hill in 2012 and was a sideline witness in 2009 when older brother Anthony competed against Palm Springs.
It’s been two years since the loss to Citrus Hill, yet it remains fresh in Mackesy’s mind.
“It was very frustrating and sad. You work so hard for something,” Mackesy said at the CIF Championship Luncheon earlier in the week. “When you lose it’s a terrible feeling, but we just have to keep working.
“I just couldn’t wait to get back in the finals.”
Younger brother Kevin is a Serrano sophomore this year and there’s talk 11-year-old Brian may be the best of Tony’s kids, who started the tradition while growing up in Redlands.
Maholchic leaves no doubt where John Mackesy stands.
“He’s like a coach on the field, he’s very mature,” said Maholchic of his 6-foot, 200-pound center/linebacker. “He thinks like the coaches; he has a lot of football sense.
“We always have this conversation when we’re drinking a few Pepsis with the coaches and ranking the top 10 linebackers or naming the 10 top running backs. But as far as overall player on both sides of the ball, he’s definitely a top fiver.”
That’s an impressive statement considering Maholchic has been at the school for 23 seasons.
DeZhontaey Fletcher, the senior RB from Oak Hills proudly displayed his cast after beating Serrano. Why?
If you read my feature story on him a few weeks ago (here it is: http://bit.ly/1rwFUwm) you’d know that Fletcher broke his ankle in the Serrano game last year.
It was on the very first play of the game, it ended Fletcher’s season, and Oak Hills lost the game and a chance at the Mojave River League title.
This time, Fletcher decided to bring the cast to the game (he doesn’t usually do that), to remember what happened a year ago.
Now he can forget about last year as Fletcher ran for 163 yards and a touchdown in Oak Hills’ first-ever win over Serrano, 24-21.
I love games where there’s a lot of extra stuff to talk about afterwards.
Oak Hills- Serrano had stuff that was fun to talk about, but also had plenty of stuff you hate to have to talk about.
First, the fun stuff:
- Great crowd at Oak Hills on both sides. It was THE game in the High Desert on Friday and fans from all over brought a great atmosphere.
- Serrano’s win was well-deserved with a defense that has been solid all year.
- What is the fallout of the game? I haven’t seen newest CIF-SS football polls, but I know San Gorgonio is very interested. San G. should be the new No. 1 in the Eastern Division. Oak Hills was No. 1, San G. No. 2 and San G. is the only remaining undefeated team in the division. San G. will likely need to remain undefeated to earn the No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
Now, the not-so-fun stuff:
- Oak Hills star RB De Zhontaey Flecher was injured on the first play from scrimmage with an apparent season-ending ankle injury. It was a blow to Oak Hills, certainly, but also affected Serrano. The Diamondbacks’ victory will be discounted by some because Oak Hills was missing its biggest offensive weapon. But Serrano still deserved to win. After the injury, Oak Hills rallied to take the lead, only to see Serrano rally for the win.
- Penalties, penalties, penalties. Each team had over 100 yards in penalties. I spent a half on each sideline, and I can tell you neither coach was happy with the officiating. The call that drew particular ire of Oak Hills coach Robert Kistner was an unsportsmanlike conduct call that went against his team in the fourth quarter. The player had just recorded a sack that (I believe) would’ve ended a Serrano drive. He celebrated, but officials thought it was taunting. It did not appear so to this observer. The drive continued and while Serrano didn’t score on the drive, it limited the time Oak Hills had to try and score in the final minutes.
When Serrano lost to Perris Citrus Hill 38-24 in the CIF-SS Eastern Division it wasn’t due to quarterback Daniel Epperson and the passing game.
Epperson finished 19 of 29 passing for 339 yards and two touchdowns, but the Diamondbacks had difficulty running the ball.
Star running back Michael Hawkins finished with 58 yards rushing on 18 carries and a touchdown, but one of those carries was a 32-yard run in the second half when the game was already decided. Hawkins has been hampered by injuries recently and hasn’t practiced in the last two weeks.
“They just beat us up up front,” Serrano coach Ray Maholchic said.
Epperson was the only other ball carrier for Serrano, with five carries for eight yards
If there’s one thing that Serrano has had during the last four years, where it has won three Mojave River League titles and has gotten to at least the CIF semifinals the last three seasons, it’s been a workhorse running back. Be it Cory Diederich or Dionza Bradford or, in last year’s case, Taylor Ruize, the Diamondbacks have been able to run the ball.
This year, the Diamondbacks have three tailbacks that they have faith in. Senior Darius Hogan (5-10, 170) is more of a scatback, while fellow senior Zak Tuman (5-9, 190) adds a physical element. Junior Michael Hawkins (6-0, 190) may be the best of the three eventually, as he has the size-speed blend that Bradford possessed. Add that to a solid fullback in senior Nick Heftman (5-10, 195) and an experienced, physical offensive line and confidence is high in Phelan for the upcoming season.
“We have three running backs that I feel can do the job,” Maholchic said. “We can mix and match them and play them more on defense because I have faith in all of them. It’s a good thing to have.”
Three of Serrano’s five returning offensive starters are senior o-linemen, with Mark Knapp (6-4, 300) receiving Division I interest and Anthony Mackesy (6-2, 230) in his third year as a starter. Tracy Costello (5-10, 220) also returns.
For those who wonder if they run cross country in the rain, the answer is definitely yes.
The CIF-SS Finals were held as scheduled, but on the rain course at Mt. San Antonio College on Saturday.
Five San Bernardino County teams qualified for state by finishing in the top seven in their race: Rancho Cucamonga boys in Division 1, Ayala and Serrano girls in Division 2, and Granite Hills boys and girls in Division 3.
In addition, Colony’s Xochitl Navarrete (girls Division 2) and Nick Valenzuela (boys Division 2), Apple Valley’s Hannah Valenzuela (giris Division 3), and Aquinas’ Alyssa Windle (girls Division 5) all qualified for the state meet as individuals, which is next Saturday at Woodward Park in Fresno.
Blogging from the Eastern title game is a little sporadic. Small press box + lack of chairs plus more reporters than normal = fun times at Palm Springs High.
The Indians – I’m pretty sure I accidentally called them Cardinals in my preview story today – are being led by running back Nephi Garcia, who has accounted for all 17 Palm Springs points. Garcia ran in a 5-yard touchdown, returned a kickoff 80 yards for a score and kicked a 30-yard field goal. Oh yeah, he kicked both extra points too. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s selling concessions right now.
Dionza Bradford, who has 77 yards rushing on 13 carries, scored Serrano’s only touchdown on a 2-yard run late in the first quarter. He also fumbled while the Diamondbacks were driving late in the first half. Joey Peterson has 36 yards on 3 of 5 passing for Serrano, with Joey Devora catching two passes for 30 yards. Ethan Hillyer has one interception on defense.
About 10 minutes before the second half resumes. Who knows if I’ll be able to blog again before the game ends.
Speaking of Malone, the senior safety made a verbal committment to the Ducks over the weekend according to Rivals.com, just over a month after Oregon offered the 6-foot-3, 195-pound 3-star safety.
Malone, who was considering Nebraska, Washington, Arizona State and Arizona, made his commitment after taking an official visit to Eugene for Oregon’s rivalry game for Oregon State last Thursday.
Also, Serrano running back Dionza Bradford and defensive end Everett Beed informed me at the CIF-SS football luncheon that they will be taking official visits to San Diego State next weekend. Both Diamondbacks were committed to UNLV, but decommitted when the school fired head coach Mike Sanford in November.