High School Football

Can San Joaquin Memorial pick up its first state football title? What players are saying

San Joaquin Memorial rolls over Tulare 69-25 to land in state championship

San Joaquin Memorial trounced Tulare with 69-25 win, advancing to state championship Saturday night, Dec. 8, 2018 in Tulare.
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San Joaquin Memorial trounced Tulare with 69-25 win, advancing to state championship Saturday night, Dec. 8, 2018 in Tulare.

San Joaquin Memorial junior defensive end Tobin Phillips doesn’t hesitate to describe his team:

“There is not a weak spot at any position,” he said. “I feel like this is the most complete team probably in California.”

With that confidence, it’s no wonder the Panthers have been on cruise control throughout the season en route to a 14-0 record.

Memorial will play for the CIF Division 2-A state title against Lawndale at 4 p.m. Saturday at Cerritos College in Norwalk. The game can be seen on NBC Sports California (Comcast channel 721).

The Panthers advanced to the state title game by defeating Tulare Union 69-25 for the Northern California regional championship on Dec. 8. Alec Trujillo passed for 429 yards and six touchdowns to lead Memorial.

Panthers coach Anthony Goston says his team has a way of rising to the occasion.

“I’ve watched these guys all year and they’ve always come in and taken care of business,” he said.

In the Tulare game, junior wide receiver Mac Dalena had seven receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

Dalena is feeling confident about the Panthers’ chances of nabbing the program’s first state title.

“It’s going to be hard to stop our offense,” he said. “We have so many different type of threats on our offense. I don’ think (Lawndale) has seen an offense like ours. Our defense is prepared for their offense.”

Lawndale (13-2) comes into the game with a couple weeks off since defeating South Hills-West Covina 42-14 for the Southern California final.

The Cardinals enter the game on a 10-game winning streak. Lawndale’s last loss was Sept. 21 to Narbonne-Harbor City, 27-14.

“It’s a good team.” Memorial senior offensive tackle Konner Gomness said. “We’re pretty excited as a team because it’s a big challenge for us. Personally, we want to go out there and ball out with each other for the last time.”

But there is one factor why Gomness believes the Panthers will come out on top.

“We’re more disciplined as a team,” he said. “We know what we have to do out here and get the job done everyday we come out here. We’re bonded well together and all go at the same beat and we play together.”

It’s a rematch

State champion Strathmore (13-1) will face a familiar foe in Hilmar. Only this time, it will be the Spartans who will be visiting in a CIF state 6-AA championship game.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Saturday.

Strathmore defeated Hilmar last season 53-52 in double overtime in a CIF playoff play-in game.

The Spartans went on to defeat St. Patrick-St. Vincent 49-35 in the NorCal championship and Orange 31-29 in the state championship.

This will be Strathmore’s third consecutive trip to the state title game under coach Jeromy Blackwell, who’s gone 43-2 and won Central Section championships in each of those years.

Anthony Galaviz: 559-441-6042, @agalaviz_TheBee
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