Serra (11-2) vs. Del Oro (12-2) at San Jose City College, Friday 7:30
This has the makings of the most competitive Northern California regional bowl game of the weekend.
Both teams are physical, balanced, battle tested through tough schedules, and are also well-coached.
If it’s close, Del Oro is certainly comfortable in tight games. The Golden Eagles, after rallying from a 19-0 fourth quarter hole in last week’s 20-19 Sac-Joaquin Division II championship win versus Elk Grove, are 4-0 in games decided by three points or less.
The Golden Eagles offense has been held in check in some of their toughest games this year and that leads me to believe this could be a low-scoring game as Serra is allowing just 13.5 points per game and surrendered just six first downs in last week’s CCS Open championship 21-7 win over Mitty.
Serra has changed their offensive style this season and the result is a team that is 40 points away from the school scoring record and the 418.1 yards per game average is nearly 45 yards better than the Serra’s previous best total.
Padres quarterback Matt Fa’aita has thrown interceptions each of the last two weeks but has also rushed for 169 yards over that span. Junior back Kava Cassidy was held in check by Mitty (69 rushing yards) and kept out of the end zone after eight touchdowns in the previous two playoff games. He also didn’t break 90 yards rushing for just the third time this season but the team is 8-0 when Cassidy runs for 100 or more yards.
Receiver-defensive back Hamilton Anoa’i could hold the key for Serra as he often makes an impact on both sides of the ball and has a tendency to come up with big plays in crucial moments. With Anoa’i, Kelepi Lataimua, and Cassidy, the Padres probably have a speed advantage and may need a few big plays to win this game.
Also on defense, Nick Maka is monster at safety, the defensive line pests include Daniel Lavulo and Erik Westerman, and Josh Outman, Tyson Terreros, and Manu Langi are always around the ball.
A big concern for the Padres is the health of Maka, who didn’t play last week, plus left tackle Jack Dreyer, who broke his left arm against Mitty, and Anoa’i, who has struggled to get to 100% since last season’s ACL injury.
In this physical affair, Serra needs their depth as they contend with a veteran offense led by Eagles workhorse Dylan Kainrath, who has 1,657 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns this season. This includes receiving touchdowns in each of the last two weeks.
Del Oro two-way standout Tyler Meteer may be the best player on the field. Meteer is the leading receiver with 57 catches, leads the team in tackles with 126, and can often turn games around on his own.
Quarterback Michael Moore is playing very well and has 11 touchdowns and four interceptions over the last three playoff wins. He helped spearhead last week’s comeback.
Moore and Fa’aita could very well decide the state bowl representative and we’re banking on the Serra defense to force just enough mistakes to pull out a close win.
The winner plays the winner of Bakersfield (11-2) and Mission Hills (12-1) in the CIF Division I state bowl in Carson next week.
Del Oro coach Casey Taylor
Serra coach Patrick Walsh
Prediction: Serra 21, Del Oro 20