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Mater Dei is No. 1 in California Top 25 high school final 2023 football rankings by SBLive/Sports Illustrated

The top three finish where they began as the Monarchs are followed by St. John Bosco and Corona Centennial

California high school football fans were hit with a big curve ball on Oct. 13. St. John Bosco not only beat then previous No. 1 Mater Dei at home that fall evening, but the Braves manhandled the Monarchs in a 28-0 steamroll.  

It took another seven weeks for the landscape to realign and finish up where it began, with Mater Dei re-establishing itself as the top team in the Golden State. 

The Monarchs paid back the Braves with an equally one-sided victory, 35-7, in the CIF Southern Section Division I championship on Nov. 24 at the L.A. Coliseum, then cemented themselves as the No. 1 team in the state on Saturday with a 35-0 trouncing of previous No. 3 Serra of San Mateo in the Open Division state championship at Saddleback College. 

Carried by a remarkable defense — considered one of the best in state history — that allowed just 58 total yards along with four touchdown passes from fourth-year starting quarterback Elijah Brown (see video above), Mater Dei flexed its muscle with the running clock win over the Padres (12-1), who had qualified for the Open Division title game for a third straight year. 

Despite its decisive loss in the Southern Section championship, St. John Bosco was the obvious team to finish No. 2 in the SBLive Sports final California rankings, followed by Corona Centential, which lost a 43-42 semifinal thriller at Bosco on Nov. 17. 

The remaining 22 teams did a lot of hopping and jumping over after a wild post season. The biggest advancer was Mission Viejo, which jumped 11 spots to No. 5 after winning the Southern Section Division 2 title, then beat up on surprise San Diego Open Division champion Granite Hills, 49-21, in the regional championships. The Diablos then disposed of Northern California power De La Salle, 27-14, in the state D1-AA title game. 

Mission Viejo finished on a eight game win streak. 

Folsom also made a big leap of 12 spots from No. 19 to No. 7 after 10 straight wins, including a 20-14 win over St. Bonaventure in the CIF D-1A title game behind super sophomore quarterback Ryder Lyons. St. Bonaventure was one of three teams to enter the rankings for the first time, joining No. 19 La Serna (13-3) and No. 25 Grant (12-3). 

Besides Mater Dei, Mission Viejo, Folsom and La Serna (2-AA), no state bowl champions made the Top 25. 

Other state bowl champions: Central Valley Christian (2-A), Acalanes (3-AA), Marin Catholic (3-A), Soquel (4-AA), Palma (4-A), Ramona (5-AA), Woodland Christian (5-A), St. Vincent de Paul (6-AA), Colusa (6-A), Ferndale (7-AA) and Strathmore (7-A). 

Ten of the 15 state bowl champions were Northern California regional winners.