CIF STATE BOWL GAME PREVIEW
Division II: St. Mary’s (Stockton) 12-2 vs. Cathedral Catholic (San Diego) 13-0
Where: Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
TV: Southern California – FSN Prime Ticket; Northern California – CSN California.
FACTS AND STATS
Rankings — St. Mary’s: State, No. 34 by MaxPreps.com; No. 20 by CalHiSports.com; Cathedral Catholic: Nation, No. 63 by MaxPreps; State, No. 10 by MaxPreps and CalHiSports.
Notable alums — St. Mary’s: Von Hayes (MLB), Jackie Gemelos (USC women’s basketball). Cathedral Catholic (formerly University): Phil Michelson (golfer), Luke Walton (NBA), Barry Zito (MLB pitcher), Cameron Crow (Fast Times at Ridgemont High).
Leading Rusher — St. Mary’s: Maurice Howze (202-1,267-11 TDs). Cathedral: Tyler Gaffney (264-2,543-43).
Leading Passer — St. Mary’s: Cody Vaz (226-343-3,512-28 TDs). Cathedral: Parker Hipp (116-181-2,262-23).
Leading Receiver — St. Mary’s: Josh Harper (67-1,024-10 TDs). Cathedral: Brad Harrington (38-841-10).
Points per game: St. Mary’s 40, Cathedral Catholic 48.
Points allowed per game: St. Mary’s 18.4, Cathedral Catholic 16.
Small schools: Hamilton Union (Hamilton City) vs. St. Margaret’s (San Juan Capistrano) 14-0, 4:30 p.m.
Division I: De La Salle (Concord) 12-1 vs. Centennial (Corona) 14-0,
Division III: Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa) 13-0 vs. St. Bonaventure (Ventura), 13-1,
Open Division: Grant (Sacramento) 13-0 vs. Long Beach Poly 14-0,
Tickets: Home Depot Center Box office, Ticketmaster at www.ticketmaster.com; Tickets $15 for adults, $8 for high school student (with valid ASB card), seniors (65+) and children.
Nike Coaches Clinic: Saturday, , Agassi Pavilion. Clinicians are Pete Carroll and Chris Carlisle. More information, click here.
Ancillary events: California State High School Cheerleading and Dance Championships
Wednesday previews: Small schools, Division I.
Thursday previews: Division II, Division III
Friday previews: Open Division, 10 Players to Watch
By Mitch Stephens
The vision was different for the St. Mary’s Rams and Cathedral Catholic Dons heading into the season. Their paths, however, will cross Saturday at noon in one of the state’s five pinnacle games, the CIF Bowl Division II championship at the Home Depot in Carson.
The Rams route for a state bowl championship started after losing a bitter 38-36 game to Napa in the 2007 Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game. Had the Rams prevailed, they likely would have been selected into last year’s State Bowl Division II game.
“That was bitterly disappointing to everyone,” St. Mary’s coach Tony Franks. “I’m sure that loss had a lot to do with why we’re here today.”
Faced with a similar situation last week, St. Mary’s breezed to the championship of the SJS’s largest division with a 36-14 win over Pleasant Grove (Elk Grove).
Last February, Cathedral coach Sean Doyle met with his team and a state title was never mentioned.
“Our goals are basically week-to-week,” Doyle said. “Our very first concrete goal was to win league. Getting to this point is simply a great, great opportunity.”
The Rams lost two games along their path, but used a Division I quarterback’s talents and the spread option to regroup.
Cathedral Catholic was perfect along the way and scored nearly 50 points again behind a record-breaking tailback who is considering playing next season at either USC or Stanford.
What makes this crossing so interesting is that the two coaches, located at opposite ends of the state, go way back. Doyle’s brother-in-law Scott Barry played with Franks at UC Davis. Franks used to coach at Davis and often recruited players in the San Diego area and would run into Doyle.
Now they meet in both schools’ first bowl game.
“Funny how life works out,” Doyle said. “Here we are meeting in the state championship. I know one thing: he does a great job and that’s a very well-coached team.”
ST. MARY’S OFFENSE, CATHEDRAL DEFENSE
When Oregon State-bound quarterback Cody Vaz is on the run, the Rams are extremely dangerous. They’ve scored more than 40 eight times and Vaz orchestrates it all.
He does so quietly, Franks said.
“You don’t even notice but after the game his line will pop out at you,” the coach said. “He’ll be 21 for 29 for 365 yards and four touchdowns. Another week he was 17 of 19 with no picks. He just does it all with little fanfare. He just gets it done.”
It helps to have a fine running game led by speed back Maurice Howze (1,267 yards, 11 TDs) and power backs Ray Guyton and Jordan Davis, who have combined for almost 900 yards and 26 TDs.
Vaz has a superb cast of receivers led by Division I prospect Josh Harper, who sprained his ankle badly last week and is questionable against Cathedral. That may be one area the Rams can recover as Louie Lechich, Alex Michaels and Chaz Smith have combined for 131 catches for just under 2,000 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“We are blessed with some good receivers, but Josh definitely gives us another dimension,” Franks said.
Linebackers Jordan Lance and Ryan Downing have been solid all year for Cathedral, combining for 225 tackles. Sam Zimmer has 7.5 sacks, Lance seven and Kyle Boyce and Downing combined for 11 sacks.
“We’ll need to contain and put pressure on (Vaz),” Doyle said.
CATHEDRAL OFFENSE/ST. MARY’S DEFENSE
It’s tough enough to try to contain one of the San Diego Section’s all-time best running backs, Tyler Gaffney, but throw in the skills of quarterback Parker Hipp (2,266 yards, 23 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) and the Dons have been pretty much unstoppable.
They’ve scored 48 or more eight times due largely to Gaffney, a 6-foot, 210-pound power and speed back who can catch the ball.
He’s rushed for 2,543 yards and 43 touchdowns, but what makes it almost unfair is that he’s caught 26 passes for 455 yards (17.5 average) and eight more scores.
“He might be the best player I’ve coached in 23 years,” said Doyle, who has coached the last 13 at Cathedral. “He’s everything you want in a back. Speed. Power. Vision. He’s got great hands and he’s a very good blocker.”
St. Mary’s will have their hands full with Gaffney and will need a lot of them to bring him down. Franks said gang-tackling is key.
The unquestioned leader on the defense is senior linebacker Jon Sarris (6-0, 215) who has a whopping 146 tackles, more than double of anyone on the squad. Four others have 40 or more.
Harper’s potential absence would really be felt on the defensive end, where he has five of his team’s 10 interceptions.
Franks had no explanation for his team’s season-opening 52-0 victory over perennial SJS power Jesuit followed by a 35-6 loss to Bellarmine, which is currently ranked 19th nationally. “It was like life balancing itself out,” he said. “Everything that could go right went right one week and everything that could go wrong went wrong the next.” … Since a 27-25 loss to 2007 Division III Bowl participant Central Catholic, St. Mary’s has won nine straight. … Other than wins over Point Loma (20-14) and Mira Mesa (31-21), Cathedral’s average margin of victory is 36.3.
E-mail Mitch Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.