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Sierra Canyon vs. Mater Dei is first-time battle on biggest stage for the Trailblazers

Sierra Canyon will face Mater Dei in football for the first time at the Santa Ana Bowl in the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals at 7 p.m.

This could be the last year Sierra Canyon's football journey will be brought up. The program that started with 8-man football in 2007 before going to 11-man in 2009 is old news now.

The Trailblazers, led by coach Jon Ellinghouse since day one, have been marching up the proverbial ladder to the powerhouse football ranks in Southern California.

“It was like yesterday this was an 8-man football program,” he said in March of 2021 before playing at St. John Bosco. “We were practicing at a park. They wouldn’t even let us line the field.”

Ellinghouse recalls five kids showing up that day in 2007.

Since then, Sierra Canyon has won six CIF Southern Section championships (two Division 2 titles) and two CIF State titles. 

  • 2011 - East Valley (CIF State champions, DIV)
  • 2015 - Mid Valley
  • 2016 - Division 4 (CIF State champions, D2-A)
  • 2018 - Division 3 (CIF State runner-up, D1-A)
  • 2019 - Division 2 (CIF State runner-up, D1AA)
  • 2022 - Division 2

On Friday, the Trailblazers (11-0) will travel to Santa Ana to take on Mater Dei (10-1) for the first time in program history in what will be the school's biggest football stage its ever participated in: the Division 1 semifinals.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at the Santa Ana Bowl.

The winner will face either St. John Bosco or Corona Centennial at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Friday, November 24.

After knocking on the door the past three seasons, Sierra Canyon earned its first Division 1 playoff berth this fall and won its first game over Santa Margarita last week, 37-20.

Victory is good, but Ellinghouse isn't satisfied.

"We didn't do all this just to be here," Ellinghouse said. "We did this to make a splash. We think we belong. We have an incredible amount of respect for the teams that have been here and done this, but our program's goal is to be here, stay here and win games."

Sierra Canyon has tested itself against Division 1 playoff programs the past three seasons (2021 spring, 2021 fall, 2022), playing St. John Bosco, JSerra (twice), Corona Centennial, Servite and Mission Viejo (twice). 

Sierra Canyon football coach Jon Ellinghouse.

Sierra Canyon football coach Jon Ellinghouse.

The Trailblazers were 1-6 in those games.

However, this season, Sierra Canyon went 3-0 against Trinity League teams, beating JSerra, Orange Lutheran and Santa Margarita.

Any questions surrounding Sierra Canyon's ability to compete with the elk of Division 1 playoff-caliber programs have been answered, especially when adding its back-to-back Mission League titles.

The big question now is: Can Sierra Canyon compete with national championship-caliber programs like Mater Dei and St. John Bosco?

We'll find out Friday night.

Mater Dei has been in every Division 1 final since 2016 and won three CIF titles (2017, '18, '21). St. John Bosco has been the opponent each year except one (2021, Servite) and has won three (2016, '19, '22)