While Mater Dei and St. John Bosco have grabbed the lion’s share of high school football headlines this season — as the country’s No. 1 and No. 2 teams are prone to do — four other local Catholic teams are also battling for CIF-Southern Section football titles this weekend.
For two of the four, their championship round appearances are not terribly surprising, given their consistently strong play this season. That would be the St. Paul Swordsmen (Division 5) and St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy Warriors (Division 14), who have ranked near or at the top of their respective polls all season long.
But the other two, both from the Mission League (one of the CIF’s strongest), have surprised most everyone but themselves in reaching the finals. That would be the Chaminade Eagles (Division 2) and Loyola Cubs (Division 4), both of whom struggled to stay at or above break-even as they played top-flight competition all season.
Yet this weekend the Eagles, Cubs, Swordsmen and Warriors all have the same opportunity that the powerful Monarchs and Braves have: to bring back to campus a CIF-SS football championship.
And with Mater Dei and St. John Bosco going head to head, the possibility exists that, come Sunday morning, five divisional crowns could be worn by Catholic school teams from the Los Angeles Archdiocese and Orange Diocese, which would be a record. (Three is the most, last accomplished in 2017.)
Following is a breakdown of each Catholic title game participant and the championship histories of each.
Division 14: Unlike some of its Catholic school brethren, St. Pius X-St. Matthias has no illustrious football history — very little history at all in fact, having been established in 2013. It is rooted in two bygone establishments, Pius X, which closed in 1995, and St. Matthias, a girls’ school which in 1995 moved from Huntington Park to the old Pius X campus in Downey, then became coeducational when it was reformulated six years ago.
Yet the Warriors have surged to a 12-0 record in 2019, and held the No. 1 spot in the D-14 poll most of the season. Its opponent Nov. 29 is South Torrance (9-4), ranked fifth.
Division 5: Perpetually strong St. Paul (11-2) prepared for its first CIF final since 1998 in style, knocking off No. 1 Culver City in the semifinals. The fifth-ranked Swordsmen of Santa Fe Springs will host the all-Catholic Nov. 29 title game against seventh-ranked Aquinas of San Bernardino, also 11-2.
A win would be St. Paul’s fourth CIF title, adding to titles won in 1968, 1972, and 1981. St. Paul lost in the finals in 1975, 1977, 1990, and 1998.
Division 4: Possessor of one of the most illustrious football histories of any Southern California high school (Catholic or otherwise), Loyola this year was reassigned to D-4 and, despite a 3-6 overall record, was ranked seventh due to its strong schedule, in and out of the Mission League. Three playoff wins, including a 31-14 triumph over top-seeded Camarillo in the semis, have lifted the Cubs to 6-6 record and a finals berth on Nov. 30 against fourth-ranked San Juan Hills (10-3).
If Loyola wins, it will be its first CIF championship since 2005. The Cubs own a title game record of 6-6, also winning in 1962, 1963, 1975, 1990, and 2003, and losing in 1946, 1964, 1992, 1995, 1996, and 2000.
Division 2: Chaminade was unranked and ended the regular season 5-5, 3-2 in the Mission League (second to Bishop Amat). But in the playoffs, the Eagles squeaked by higher ranked teams in Norco (45-44) and Upland (28-27), then received a bye into the finals when its scheduled opponent, San Clemente, was disqualified for using an ineligible player.
Now Chaminade is 8-5 and on Nov. 29 will host a team located barely seven miles from its West Hills campus: Chatsworth-based Sierra Canyon (11-1), the D-3 titlist in 2018. The Eagles are 1-2 in title games, losing in 1987 and in 2012 (30-28 to Serra), then winning in 2013 (38-35 over Serra).
Division 1: Last and definitely not least is the Nov. 30 matchup between Mater Dei (13-0) and St. John Bosco (12-1), who have dominated Division 1 for — well, forever, or so it must seem to each teams’ seniors who are making their fourth straight title game appearance.
The Braves won 42-28 in 2016, then the Monarchs won 49-24 in 2017 and 17-13 in 2018. And each winning team captured that year’s State Open Division title, each time beating De La Salle of Concord.
Mater Dei beat the Braves in this year’s Trinity League encounter on Oct. 25, 38-24, which establishes either (a) an advantage for the Monarchs, (b) motivation for the Braves, or (c) both. And each school claims a tradition of football excellence, especially in recent years.
The Monarchs are 11-7 in the finals, winning in 1956, 1957, 1960, 1965, 1991, 1994, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2017, and 2018, and losing in 1959, 1993, 1997, 2002, 2012, 2013, and 2016, the last two to St. John Bosco.
The Braves — making their seventh straight CIF-SS finals appearance — are 2-7 in the final round, winning in 2013 and 2016 and losing in 1971, 1974, 1986, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018.