CIF Southern Section Releases Football Playoff Brackets

Championship Dreams Remain Alive for Two Santa Barbara Area Teams

Santa Barbara High running back Nathan Barrios powers through the San Marcos defense. The Dons will host Downey in their playoff opener on November 4. | Credit: Lily Chubb

The CIF Southern Section released the much anticipated high school football playoff brackets on Sunday morning, bringing an end to the season-long suspense regarding divisional groupings.

The dream of a CIF championship remains alive for two Santa Barbara area teams as Channel League co-champion Santa Barbara (9-1) will host Downey (8-2) in a division four first-round matchup and Bishop Diego (7-3) will host Vista Murrietta (5-5) in the first round of division three.

“It was actually kind of interesting because I had heard all the rumors about their being an eight team division one, and then a 12 team division one, and so you kind of scout things out based upon what you’re hearing, and all of a sudden it’s a 10 team division one,” said Bishop Diego coach Tom Crawford. “It was a little bit of a surprise to have Vista Murrieta as the opponent, but they obviously have a very strong tradition at that school and playing in a really powerful league with Corona Centennial and the like.”

The playoff brackets were based off of the CalPreps computer rankings, which ranked all of the teams in the southern section based on wins and losses, strength of schedule, and other criteria. The only question remaining was how many teams would be in division one with perhaps the top two teams nationally in high school football, Mater Dei and St. John Bosco. 

Once it was determined that ten teams would be in division one the rest of the divisions, two through 14, were composed of 16 team brackets. The eleventh through 26th ranked teams were put in division two and 27 through 42 were put in division three. This continued all the way through division 14.

Bishop Diego was ranked 32nd and will host 37th ranked Vista Murrieta. Santa Barbara was ranked 52nd and will host 53rd ranked Downey. This playoff system was adopted last season and is intended to produce competitive equity. 

“Obviously we’re in a hairy predicament in regards to playing up in division four, but I feel they are a good football team and I feel like we can compete with them,” said Santa Barbara coach J.T. Stone. “It’s definitely going to be a good first-round game for us.”

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Downey features 6’ 4” Oregon State commit Aidan Chiles at quarterback. He is a four-star prospect according to 247Sports and is equally adept at punishing defenses by passing or running. Stone admitted the Dons haven’t seen anything like him during the regular season, but they are eager to confront the challenge. 

“I think our defensive coordinators are going to put together a good scheme to put our kids in the best position to compete in this game,” said Stone of slowing down Chiles. “We’re definitely going to respect the athlete ― he’s really good.”

The moral of the story is the better season you have the tougher the playoff gauntlet you will likely face under the current playoff format. Whether or not the rankings formula has a team pegged correctly will ultimately play out on the field. 

“I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not a big fan of how CIF does it. When it comes to teams up here in Ventura county and Santa Barbara county I don’t think they have enough information on the type of teams that we have up here,” Stone said. “It is what it is. We’ve been telling our kids since week zero, no matter who we get, we’ve got to play.

For Bishop Diego, Vista Murrieta is a tradition rich program that is accustomed to playing and beating the best teams in southern California. 

The Mustangs have not had a good season by their standards, but will still be a tough out. Vista Murrieta has about 90 players on its varsity roster. Bishop Diego has about 40.

“It will be a real challenge for us to compete with them,” Crawford said. “From what we’ve seen so far, they are physical, large and they’ve got a lot of depth so we’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

Santa Barbara will host Downey on Friday, November 4 beginning at 7 p.m. at Peabody Stadium. Bishop Diego will host Vista Murrieta on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. at La Playa Stadium.

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