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Top 10 Southern California high school football games to watch Week 9 (10/17/2023): Rancho Cucamonga and Damien duel for league title

The top two games in the countdown are both league championships between undefeated powerhouses

Week Eight was tabbed to be the biggest weekend of the 2023 regular season.

And it lived up to the billing.

Countless of high-profile league races across Southern California were effectively decided in great games. Some of big wins registered were historic for the teams that obtained them or their leagues, including the victories of St. John Bosco, San Clemente, Citrus Valley, and Liberty (Winchester). Fortunately for high school football fans, Week Nine is loaded with more league championship games and potential instant classics.


Here are the top 10 games to watch this week (Oct. 19-21) throughout Southern California.


(Games are 7 p.m. Friday unless noted)

10. Trabuco Hills at San Juan Hills

Trabuco Hills has nabbed second place in the Sea View League four out of the last five seasons. And it's almost a lock to finish top-two once again this season. However, the Mustangs haven't broken through to win the conference since 2009. 

In order to break through, they're tasked with disrupting what's been a magical season for 8-0 San Juan Hills. Only two teams have even played San Juan Hills close, and Trabuco Hills is a heavy underdog. But the Stallions can't afford to sleep on one of Trabuco Hills' strongest teams yet.

9. Palisades at Venice

In 2019, Palisades and Venice ended a Fairfax reign by finishing first and second in the Western League. The next season, they switched roles. Then they did it again and did it again. In 2023, the familiar foes are once again the teams to beat in the conference.  While the trend obviously has no actual significance, recent history says that Palisades will defeat Venice, and indeed, Palisades enters as the higher-ranked team. Either way, whether you swim with the Dolphins or ride with the Gondoliers, someone's boat is going to have to sink.

8. El Modena at El Dorado

Heading into these teams' meeting last year, El Modena was the clear favorite, but it also looked on paper like El Dorado at least had a real crack at a league title. El Modena ended up rolling to a 50-21 victory, and El Dorado got upset by Canyon (Anaheim) two weeks later to end up with third place in the North Hills League.

This time, El Modena is still the favorite, but El Dorado likely has a better chance now with both teams at 4-4. The Golden Hawks just got major revenge over Canyon with a 41-0 beatdown, and their last game before that was a three-score win over Foothill (Santa Ana). Perfect time for a shot at dethroning the incumbent top dog.

7. Culver City at Palos Verdes – Friday at 3 p.m.

Culver City football

Like the first three games in the countdown, this one is a straight-up league title game with a clear favorite and underdog.

Culver City (6-2) has a Bay League title-worthy squad – but the odds are stacked against it on the road against unbeaten Palos Verdes. The Centaurs' only losses were against Loyola in Week Two and Warren in Four, with the latter nearly being a big upset win. They've proven they can win in shootouts (72-63 over San Jacinto) or tense defensive battles (14-13 over Mira Costa). And they haven't lost in over a month.

However, Culver City is a major long shot this week. Palos Verdes has only had one game this year in which it appeared mortal. However, that was was just two weeks ago, when the Sea Kings were held to nine points and nearly fell to (at the time) unbeaten Mira Costa. So an upset in this one isn't out of the question.

6. Panorama at Kennedy (Granada Hills) – Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

No. 6 is the only game on this list representing a league race that comes down to more than two teams. And one of the teams, Panorama, has already lost a game in league play. But it's still juicy. 

Kennedy is on the verge of its first league title in at least 20 years, and possibly since the 90's. After knocking off San Fernando in Week Five, the Cougars have cemented at least a tie for first in the Valley Mission League, assuming they don't get stunned by Van Nuys next week. But they're not exactly the only team trying to make history – Panorama has never won a league title in its 16-season history. Panorama fell to San Fernando 35-15 last time out, but it can still grab at least a slice of the pie if it wins out from here.

5. Ontario Christian at Aquinas – Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Aquinas Etiwanda football16

Aquinas quietly owns one of the best league winning streaks in SoCal. The Falcons have not lost a conference game since 2016 despite moving around a few times and having to acclimate to new league foes during that time. That streak – and this year's Ironwood League title – will be on the streak on Thursday with Ontario Christian coming to town. At 7-1 with convincing wins, Ontario Christian has one of the best squads that Aquinas has had to face in league play during the last few years, so this is anyone's game. 

4. Inglewood at Leuzinger

Like the last game in the countdown, this is a league title game in a league that hasn't had competition at the top in recent years. Until this season, Inglewood still hadn't lost a regular season game since Mil'Von James took over in 2019 following a 0-10 campaign. And despite lopsided losses to the top two teams in the San Diego Section, Inglewood's streak still continues against Southern Section teams. That makes the Sentinels the favorite heading into Week Nine, but they're still searching for a signature win this regular season. With perennially battle-tested Leuzinger amped for its first real shot at an Ocean League title, it's time for everyone to pull the stops out.

3. Serra (Gardena) at Sierra Canyon

Heston Quan Serra vs. Orange Lutheran opener

Is anyone stopping the best Sierra Canyon team ever? If so, is it happening before one of the final rounds of the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs? 

Serra is such an overwhelming underdog this week that the Trailblazers outright cruising to an undefeated regular season and Mission League title is a likely possibility. Transitive scores only mean so much – just ask Mater Dei and St. John Bosco. But the teams have four common opponents – Orange Lutheran, Oaks Christian, Bishop Amat, and Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks) – and Sierra Canyon's point differential against them is more than 100 total points larger than Serra's. 

And still, with all that said, Serra is way too good for this not to be one of the most intriguing games in the state this week.

2. Helix at Granite Hills (El Cajon)

CIF State 2-A Championship San Ramon Valley vs Granite Hills December 10, 2022 Photo-Todd Shurtleff26

Quite a few of the teams featured in this week's countdown are still unbeaten. In the top two games, both teams are unbeaten – which means they're playing for even more than an undisputed league title.

Granite Hills went under the radar last year en-route to a Grossmont Hills League title, CIFSDS Division 2 title, and CIF State 2-A title. Entering the 2023 season on a nine-game winning streak with all those accolades, Granite Hills was no longer under-the-radar. But that hasn't stopped the Eagles from building on 2022. At 8-0, they're on a 17-game winning streak entering their shot to win a second consecutive conference title.

However, Helix appears to be just as formidable, and is also two wins away from a 10-0 campaign. The Highlanders haven't been tested in a while, but they were tested plenty during non-league play, and should be ready for perhaps their toughest challenge yet. Now throw in the fact that this game went to four overtimes last year, and you might be looking at the game of the year.

1. Rancho Cucamonga at Damien

Rancho Cucamonga Cougars football

With all the chaos of a usual Baseline League title race combined with the fact that this might be the strongest Baseline League ever, it's rather remarkable that there's a clear-cut championship. And this is it.

Reigning champion Rancho Cucamonga is the favorite here, but don't expect Damien to show any fear in the midst of one of the best seasons in its history. A Cougars win would just about cement a CIFSS Division 1 appearance for Rancho Cucamonga, and the reciprocal could land Damien in Division 1 instead. However, if Damien wins, there's also a good chance that these teams wind up at the top of the Division 2 bracket. If so, then this league title game could prove to be a preview of a section title game as well. Either way, one team is getting its heart broken on Friday, and the other will be one more expected win away from a league title and undefeated campaign.


In any given week of Southern California high school football, there are dozens of great games to watch between top programs. Here are some other exciting matchups happening this week.


Mater Dei at Orange Lutheran

Cajon at Yucaipa – 7:30 p.m.

Mission Hills at El Camino (Oceanside)

Ayala at Charter Oak

Torrey Pines at Poway

Norte Vista at Patriot – 7:30 p.m.


Carson at Gardena – Friday at 7:30 p.m

Servite vs. Santa Margarita at Cerritos College.

Dymally at Dorsey – 7:30 p.m.

Del Norte (San Diego) at Ramona (Ramona)

Banning (Wilmington) at San Pedro – 7:30 p.m.

Corona del Mar at Newport Harbor

Downey (Downey) at Mayfair

Legacy at Garfield – Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Hart at Valencia (Valencia)

Madison at St. Augustine

Agoura at Thousand Oaks

San Marcos (San Marcos) at Rancho Bernardo

Imperial at Central (El Centro)

Bishop Amat at Chaminade

Corona Centennial at Murrieta Valley

St. John Bosco at JSerra

Yorba Linda at Villa Park

Summit at Eisenhower

Laguna Hills at Northwood

Hesperia at Serrano

Pacifica (Oxnard) at Rio Mesa

Point Loma at Morse

Mission Viejo at Tesoro

Vista Murrieta at Roosevelt (Eastvale)

St. Paul at Cathedral

El Camino Real at Granada Hills Charter

Paraclete at Loyola

Newbury Park at Oak Park

Upland at Chino Hills

Los Altos (Los Altos) at Northview

Simi Valley at Oaks Christian

Mira Costa at Peninsula – 3:30 p.m.

San Clemente at Capistrano Valley

La Mirada at Warren

Calabasas at St. Bonaventure

Alemany at Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks)

South Hills at Glendora

Camarillo at Moorpark

La Costa Canyon at Carlsbad

Chaparral at Norco

Los Osos at Colony

Brea Olinda at Foothill (Santa Ana)

Eastlake at Mater Dei Catholic – 6:30 p.m.


Crean Lutheran at Cypress

– Lance Smith | | @sbliveca