After 13 weeks of football, we’ve reached section championship weekend.
In the Central Coast Section, 10 teams will compete for five titles, with each division champion advancing to next weekend’s regionals or, in Serra’s case, the Open Division state title game in two weeks.
Friday night, Serra will play Archbishop Mitty for the Division I crown and Palo Alto will face Monterey in the Division V championship game.
Saturday, three more finals will be held: Bellarmine vs. St. Ignatius, Menlo School vs. Hollister and Branham vs. Santa Teresa.
As we’ve done all season, the Bay Area News Group will have coverage throughout.
If you haven’t done so, please subscribe here for digital access all school year long. Our high school coverage does not stop when football season ends.
Here is the section championship preview:
No. 6 Archbishop Mitty (9-3) vs. No. 1 Serra (12-0) at San Jose City College, Friday, 7 p.m.: Serra has already had a historic season, becoming the first team in the program’s long history to go 10-0 in the regular season. Friday, the Padres can cement themselves as one of the CCS’s all-time great teams, especially if they roll through Mitty as they have Palma and Salinas in the first two rounds. Serra crushed Palma 57-7 and then built a 50-7 halftime lead over Salinas last week on the way to a 57-21 win in which only the backups played for the Padres in the second half when the clock ran continuously. For Serra to capture a third consecutive CCS Division I title, the San Mateo school will have to beat an opponent that has become one of the section’s all-time great stories. Mitty won one game last season. Now it will play for the CCS’s top championship after back-to-back one-point overtime wins in the playoffs. The Monarchs beat Los Gatos 29-28 in the first round and St. Francis 42-41 in the semifinals. QB Wills Towers threw five touchdown passes last week to lead Mitty, which trailed St. Francis by 15 points with less than five minutes to go. Serra QB Maealiuaki Smith completed 17 of 19 passes for 284 yards and four touchdowns in one half of playing time against Salinas. … Serra is 7-0 overall and 2-0 against Mitty in CCS finals. Mitty is 2-6 in CCS finals. The Monarchs have not captured one in 23 years. … When the teams played on Sept. 30 in San Mateo during West Catholic Athletic League play, Serra won 35-7. … Calpreps.com’s computer predicts Serra to win the rematch, 41-17. — Darren Sabedra
No. 5 Bellarmine (6-6) vs. No. 2 St. Ignatius (6-6) at San Jose City College, Saturday, 7 p.m.: Bellarmine will be appearing in its 15th CCS final and seeking its eighth section championship after it beat Menlo-Atherton 30-7 in the first round and top-seeded Wilcox 21-17 in the semifinals. The Bells had lost four in a row and averaged just 11 points per game after star running back Ben Pfaff went down with a bad high-ankle sprain. Since Pfaff’s return, Bellarmine is 3-1 and has pushed its average when the running back plays to 27 points per game. St. Ignatius reached the final with two playoff wins on its home field in San Francisco, 24-15 over Half Moon Bay in the first round and 28-14 over Aptos in the semifinals. When SI played Bellarmine at SJCC on Sept. 23, the Bells won 34-14 as Phaff ran for three touchdowns, Riley Paran rushed for one and Colin Lakkaraju caught a TD pass. In SI’s win over Aptos last week, Soren Hummel passed for 210 yards and two touchdowns and Jarious Hogan ran for two TDs to lead the Wildcats into their sixth CCS final. SI is 3-2 in previous section championship games, which include a 13-10 overtime victory over Bellarmine at SJCC in the Open Division final in 2012. — Darren Sabedra
No. 5 Hollister (7-5) vs. No. 3 Menlo School (7-5) at Rabobank Stadium in Salinas, Saturday, 7 p.m.: Menlo coach Todd Smith was a bit surprised when he learned his third-seeded Knights would have to travel 80 miles to play No. 5-seed Hollister for the D-III championship. Hollister High (formerly known as San Benito) is only 29 miles from Rabobank Stadium. Menlo has struggled away from home this season, although its 2-4 road record probably has more to do with the quality of opponents (Amador Valley, Menlo-Atherton, Sacred Heart Prep). Last week Menlo beat No. 2 seed Live Oak in enemy territory. Hollister is 4-3 away from home. Look for Menlo to continue passing. The Knights gain well over half their yards in the air. Senior QB Jake Bianchi has done an admirable job replacing last year’s all-everything QB Sergio Beltran. TE Cort Hasley and WR Charlie King both have more yards in receptions than RB Ty Richardson has rushed for. Richardson is over 400 yards in both rushing and receiving. Menlo will be attempting to win its first CCS football title. It’s 0-5 in championship games since 2009. Hollister won seven section crowns under the name San Benito. The last was in 2014 when the Haybalers were coached by Chris Cameron, who captured four CCS championships in 22 years at the school. — Mike Lefkow
No. 4 Santa Teresa (7-5) vs. No. 3 Branham (11-1) at San Jose City College, Saturday, 1 p.m.: One of these teams is a victory from celebrating its first CCS championship. In Santa Teresa’s only appearance in a final, 35 years ago, the Saints lost to Live Oak. Branham reached its only final three years ago, falling to Milpitas by a point. The Saints were a hard-luck team for a stretch during league play, losing back-to-back games in overtime and another by three points. Since then, they have won three in a row, highlighted by a win last week over the Division IV bracket’s top seed, Sequoia, 31-18. QB Jayden Arevalo accounted for 169 yards in the win over Sequoia, including a 56-yard touchdown run that widened Santa Teresa’s advantage to two scores at halftime. Branham QB William Augenstein ran for 274 yards and six TDs in 27 carries and completed 12 of 17 passes for 180 yards as the Bruins overcame a two-touchdown halftime deficit to beat Mountain View 68-45 in last week’s semifinals. When these finalists played in September 2021, Santa Teresa prevailed 27-21. Calpreps.com’s computer picks Santa Teresa to win 28-27 on Saturday. — Darren Sabedra
No. 5 Monterey (8-4) vs. No. 2 Palo Alto (6-6) at Sequoia High, Friday, 7 p.m.: After losing to Wilcox 38-13 on Oct. 14, Palo Alto was 1-6. Since then, the Vikings have reeled off five consecutive victories (one by forfeit) to reach their first CCS final since losing to Bellarmine in the Open Division championship game 11 years ago. They closed league play with wins over Mountain View and Milpitas to qualify for the playoffs and then, after a forfeit victory over Jefferson to end the regular season, beat Stevenson 38-13 and Seaside 34-6 to advance to the final. Declan Packer threw two touchdown passes against Seaside, which lost to Monterey 29-27 in a regular-season finale on Nov. 4. Since that game, Monterey traveled to beat fourth-seeded Pioneer 31-13 and top-seeded Westmont 37-14. Westmont was outscored 24-0 in the second half after leading 14-13 at halftime. Monterey last appeared in a CCS final in 2010 and won its only CCS title in 1998. Palo Alto has captured four CCS championships, the last in 2010. That was the season the Vikings went on to record one of California’s all-time great upsets, beating Centennial-Corona 15-13 in a state title game to finish 14-0. Davante Adams caught a TD pass for Palo Alto in that victory. Calpreps.com’s computer picks Palo Alto to win Friday, 31-26. — Darren Sabedra