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As the new CIF format begins this year with Northern California and Southern California open division bowl games with the winner advancing to the CIF Open Division State Championship Bowl Game, we take a look back at what the SoCal games might have looked like the last 32 years.
These match ups were chosen using the Northern and Southern California boundaries set up by the CIF, which means the Central Section is considered in the South. That being said, it would make a lot more sense to move the Central Section to the Northern Region to effectively balance the amount of large schools in the state.
This also is a follow-up to a similar feature we did last year and updated this week on the Northern California open division mostly researched by longtime subscriber Kevin Seiter. For another opinion of what these matchups might have been, scroll to comments section at the end for the picks of another of our longtime supporters, Phil Marquez.
1980 Wilmington Banning vs. Huntington Beach Edison
Right off the bat this would have been one of the most attractive matchups of the past 30 or so years with two unbeaten clubs and big-time talents such as FB Michael Alo (Banning) and QB Ken Major (Edison). Banning (12-0) was unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in AAAA by Cal-Hi Sports, as coach Chris Ferragamo probably had his best team in the midst of winning six straight L.A. City Section 4A titles. No. 2 AAAA Edison (14-0) won the Southern Section Big-Five Conference title with a 14-0 win over Fountain Valley, its Sunset League archrival.
1981 Santa Fe Springs St. Paul vs. Vista
St. Paul (14-0) won the Southern Section Big-Five Conference and was ranked No. 2 in AAAA by Cal-Hi Sports. Coach Marijon Ancich had a gritty and undersized team that fit the mold of his program’s personality perfectly. Vista (13-0), the San Diego Section Class 3A champs, would have been a strong choice and one-loss Wilmington Banning would have had an argument, too, for the second slot. Banning (11-1) avenged its only loss to Carson (13-12 in league play) with a 21-14 victory in the L.A. City Section 4A title game after the Colts snapped the Pilots’ 30-game winning streak during the regular season.
1982 Anaheim Servite vs. Hacienda Heights Los Altos
Servite (11-1), led by QB Steve Beuerlein, easily dispatched Long Beach Poly in the Southern Section Big Five final and was ranked No. 1 in AAAA. Servite’s only loss came in its first game against mythical national champion Cincinnati Moeller in Ohio. It would have been a close call, but we would have recommended Los Altos (14-0), ranked No. 1 in AAA, over Southern Section Central Division champ West Torrance (14-0) and L.A. City Section 4A champ Carson (11-1) to play Servite. Los Altos won the Southern Section’s Southern Conference over a good Anaheim Esperanza team and coach Dwayne DeSpain’s program was one of the state’s best from the 1970s to mid 1980s.
1983 Riverside Poly vs. National City Sweetwater
There was no nationally ranked unit in SoCal after previously unbeaten Carson lost to Wilmington Banning, 30-29, in the L.A. City Section 4A title game. Banning finished with a 9-1-2 record and opened the door for Poly (14-0), the Southern Section’s Eastern Conference champ ranked No. 1 in AAA, to earn a berth. Poly would have likely battled San Diego Section Class 3A champ Sweetwater (12-1). Sweetwater was actually unbeaten on the field, recording nine shutouts in the process. Coach Gene Alim’s club had to forfeit its 10-0 season-opening victory over San Diego Morse because of an improper residential issue.
1984 Riverside Poly vs. National City Sweetwater
Even though it was absolutely shocked by Norco, 7-6, to open the season when standout junior RB Mark Green was stuffed near the goal line, coach Mike Churchill’s team at Poly (13-1) rallied to win the Southern Section’s Big-Five title over Fontana. USA Today ranked Poly, the Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year, No. 20 in the nation. Carson (10-2) was ranked No. 1 in the state until it was stunned by winless Reseda Cleveland, 30-29, in its fourth game and even though the Colts rallied to win the L.A. City Section 4A title, the Cleveland loss made Sweetwater (13-0), the San Diego Class 3A champs and the No. 1 ranked AAA team in the state, more attractive for the regional bowl. Sweetwater also would have faced Poly riding a 26-game on-field winning streak.
Vista (13-0), led by the late Sal Aunese at QB, was Cal-Hi Sports’ No. 1 ranked team after blasting La Mesa Helix, 35-7, in the San Diego Section Class 3A title game. Its probable opponent, Central Section Yosemite Division champ Clovis West (13-0), was ranked No. 2 in the state’s AAAA rankings behind Vista. There also would have been push for SoCal’s top AAA club, Canyon Country Canyon, which would have went into a regional bowl game with three consecutive Southern Section Northwestern Conference titles in tow and riding a 38-game winning streak.
1986 El Toro vs. Encino Crespi
El Toro (14-0) was named Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year after defeating Santa Ana, 26-10, for the Southern Section Southern Division title. There were plenty of strong teams for coach Bob Johnson’s club, ranked No. 1 in AAA, to potentially play, but a powerful Wilmington Banning club was not one of them. The Pilots were ranked No. 1 nationally from the middle of the season until they were stunned by archrival Carson, 21-11, in the L.A. City Section 4A title game. Southern Section Coastal Conference champion Pasadena Muir (14-0), ranked No. 3 in AAAA in front of Carson, would have given El Toro all it could handle with its stable of speedy athletes, but the most attractive matchup would have been against No. 2 Crespi (13-1). The Celts were able to avenge their Del Rey League loss to Bellflower St. John Bosco in the Big Five Conference final as sophomore Russell White, the state’s Mr. Football, rushed for 256 yards. White facing a strong El Toro defense led by DT Scott Spaulding, LB Scott Ross, and DB Adam Brass would have packed Anaheim Stadium.
1987 Fontana vs. San Diego Pt. Loma
As the season wore along, another classic SoCal open division bowl game loomed between Fontana and Carson. Both clubs were ranked high in national ratings compiled by the National Prep Poll and USA Today. Fontana (14-0) got the job done by winning the Southern Section’s Big-Five Conference title. Carson was 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the nation heading into the L.A. City Section 4A final and was stunned, 27-14, by a Granada Hills team it beat earlier in the season. One of the state’s biggest upsets ever would have opened the door for San Diego Class 3A champ Point Loma (12-0), which defeated league rival San Diego Morse in its title game. Fontana was named the NPP’s first-ever mythical national champion.
1988 Carson vs. Bakersfield
After losing to La Puente Bishop Amat in its second game, Carson (12-1) rolled to the L.A. City Section 4A title and was named Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year. Carson mauled archrival Wilmington Banning, 55-7, in the L.A. City Section 4A finals and with its talent level would have been tough for any foe to handle. That foe surely would have been Bakersfield (13-0), ranked No. 3 in the state AAAA ratings behind Carson and probable NorCal Open Division Bowl Game participant Concord De La Salle of the North Coast Section. More than 18,000 fans saw the Drillers defeat West Bakersfield in the Yosemite Division final, so there’s no telling how many fans would have packed Memorial Stadium had the CIF decided to hold the SoCal regional bowl in The Valley.
1989 Fontana vs. Bakersfield
This season would have been one of the easiest of the past 30 years in selecting Southern California’s two top teams. Fontana (14-0) won the Southern Section’s major division title with an unblemished record for the second time in two seasons and finished No. 5 in the National Prep Poll. The Drillers (13-0) defeated previously undefeated Visalia Mt. Whitney, 21-0, to finish unbeaten for the second consecutive season and were ranked No. 15 in the NPP. Fontana edged the Drillers for state team of the year honors in a decision longtime Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis still mulls over. The toughest decision would have been deciding where to play this highly-anticipated contest.
1990 San Diego Morse vs. Bakersfield
One of the state’s greatest rating debates dates back to this season. Who was the best team in the state? Without a bowl system or statewide playoffs, the argument came down to Sac-Joaquin Division I champion Merced (14-0), San Diego Section Class 3A champ San Diego Morse (14-0) and Central Section Yosemite Division champ Bakersfield (13-0). Some long-time observers were calling Morse, led by the state’s leading rusher jr. RB Gary Taylor and electric QB Teddy Lawrence, the greatest team in section history. The Drillers would have entered the SoCal open division bowl game against Morse riding a 39-game winning streak. The winner of that game would’ve had another big contest the following week against the winner of a probable NorCal regional bowl game between Concord De La Salle and Merced, the Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year.
1991 Santa Ana Mater Dei vs. Clovis
Rialto Eisenhower was riding along as the state — and nation’s — No. 1 ranked team until Mater Dei (13-1) upset them, 35-14, in the Southern Section Division I final. Since Mater Dei avenged its only loss to Los Angeles Loyola, it made sense to name them Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year and for the Monarchs to have earned a spot in a regional bowl game. Their recommended opponent would have been Clovis (13-0), which won the Central Section Yosemite Division title with a 28-27 overtime win over Fresno Clovis West. The overtime win might have opened the door for San Diego Section Class 2A champ Oceanside El Camino (13-1), but Clovis supporters would have argued El Camino’s 50-49 section semifinal win wasn’t too impressive, either, and pointed out that Clovis was the state’s only undefeated large schools section champion.
1992 Bishop Amat vs. Fresno Clovis West
Southern Section Division I champ Bishop Amat became the state’s first team to finish 15-0 after defeating previously unbeaten L.A. City Section 4A champ Sylmar in the first and only CIF/Reebok Bowl. With an open division regional bowl system in place, it’s safe to say there would have been no reason for that section vs. section bowl game. Amat would have been a logical choice for one slot, but the other would have been up for grabs between Central Section Yosemite Division champ Clovis West (13-0), San Diego Section Class 3A champ San Diego Morse (14-0) and there’s even 13-0-1 Los Alamitos and 12-1-1 Anaheim Esperanza, Southern Section Division II co-champions, to consider. When all was said and done, our recommendation would have been for Clovis West based on the tie between Los Alamitos and Esperanza, Morse not being as good as its ’90 team and Sylmar beating a Carson team in its section final that badly underachieved after opening the season ranked No. 1 in the state.
1993 Rialto Eisenhower vs. Fresno Clovis West
After dispatching Santa Ana Mater Dei, 56-3, in the Southern Section Division I title game, Ike was named Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year. The Eagles’ performance was so dominant, it was the only season during Concord De La Salle’s 151-game winning streak in which the Spartans weren’t ranked No. 1. Who would play Eisenhower in the SoCal Open Division Bowl Game for the chance to potentially play Sparta? Our recommendation would have been Clovis West (14-0) over Los Alamitos (14-0). Why? We think the Eagles’ 27-14 win over Bakersfield in the Central Section Yosemite Division title game was more impressive than Los Al’s 39-21 win over Huntington Beach in the Southern Section Division II title tilt. Why? The Drillers had a better track record of putting out quality teams than the Oilers did back then and, besides, Bakersfield entered the game against Clovis West ranked higher than Los Alamitos.
1994 Santa Ana Mater Dei vs. Sylmar
Mater Dei (14-0) won its second Southern Section Division I title in three years by knocking off a team that was gunning for a mythical national title. In 1991, it was Rialto Eisenhower and this year it was La Puente Bishop Amat, a dominant team for 13 games. Amat earlier demolished Central Section Yosemite Division champ Bakersfield, 34-3, in front of 23,701 fans at Bakersfield College. Amat also beat a Fontana team that handed Southern Section Division IV champ Moreno Valley Canyon Springs (13-1) its only loss. Would the CIF have wanted to see Bakersfield get another chance against a Southern Section power? Probably not, so the logical choice would have been L.A. City Section 4A champ Sylmar (14-0), which won its second title in three years in impressive fashion. Two things to keep in mind. One, Los Alamitos, which lost to Mater Dei in the section semifinals, was probably better than Sylmar and even Bishop Amat. Two, Sylmar’s sub par performance against Amat two years earlier would have never taken place had there been regional bowl games, so that performance wouldn’t have been taken into account.
1995 La Puente Bishop Amat vs. Fresno Clovis West
This was a season in which the top Southern California teams were clearly not as good as the previous one. Ironically, Bishop Amat (12-1-1) would have earned a berth in the SoCal open division bowl game even though the Southern Section Division I champs were considered better in 1994. They lost to Rialto Eisenhower midway through the season and had a tie, but then surged to defeat previously unbeaten Long Beach Poly in the semifinals before downing Los Angeles Loyola in the finals. Lancaster Antelope Valley was in position to earn a berth opposite Amat, until Newhall Hart upset the Antelopes in the Southern Section Division II finals. With Hart losing to Loyola and an out-of-state club, the door would have been opened for Clovis West (12-1), which won the Central Section Yosemite Division title with its only loss to 11-1 Fontana, which was upset by Loyola in the playoffs. Riverside J.W. North (14-0), the Southern Section Division V champs led by Mr. Football RB-LB Chris Claiborne, was another attractive team in a season in which the winner of this game would have been a decided underdog against probable CIF Open Division Bowl Game opponent Concord De La Salle.
1996 Santa Ana Mater Dei vs. Compton Dominguez
For the second time in three years, there was a spirited debate over the state’s No. 1 rating between Southern Section Division I champ Mater Dei (14-0) and North Coast Section 4A champ Concord De La Salle (12-0). The Spartans were once again the Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year and ranked No. 2 in the National Prep Poll, while USA Today named Mater Dei its mythical national champ. So who would have been Mater Dei’s opponent? We like Southern Section Division II champ Dominguez (13-1) over unbeaten L.A. City Section 4A champ San Pedro (14-0). Besides a two-game stretch where the Dons squeaked by Downey and lost to Paramount (23-20), they were dominant on defense. With players such as junior QB-DB Jason Thomas, they also had a talent level similar to what Mater Dei and De La Salle put out on the field.
1997 Long Beach Poly vs. Santa Margarita
Similar to 1980 and 1989, this would have been a dream matchup of unbeaten champions. Underclass-dominated Poly (14-0) rode a big performance from senior RB Herman Ho-Ching to end Santa Ana Mater Dei’s 27-game winning streak in the Southern Section Division I final. Meanwhile, Santa Margarita (14-0) won a memorable Southern Section Division V final over DeShaun Foster-led Tustin, 51-42. Thousands claimed to have witnessed the Santa Margarita-Tustin final, which gained significance in the passing years after Eagles’ QB Carson Palmer won the Heisman Trophy in 2002. Those fanatics would have actually showed up to watch Palmer and company battle Poly and not just talked about the game.
1998 Santa Ana Mater Dei vs. Fresno Clovis West
Mater Dei (13-1) won a highly-anticipated Southern Section Division I final over Long Beach Poly to snap the Jackrabbits’ 27-game winning streak. Mater Dei would have faced a team it already defeated 21-14 early in the season — Central Section Division I champ Clovis West (12-1) — in a SoCal regional bowl. Obviously, the Monarchs would also have been eyeing a rematch with state team of the year Concord De La Salle in a CIF Open Division Bowl Game. The North Coast Section 4A champs defeated Mater Dei, 28-21, in arguably the biggest regular season game in state history but there is no guarantee De La Salle would have beaten Sac-Joaquin Division I champ Elk Grove in a NorCal regional bowl game. Why would Clovis West earn a rematch in favor of Mater Dei playing one-loss Hart of Newhall? We think Clovis West’s seven-point loss was a bit stronger than Hart’s one-point loss to a Los Angeles Loyola team that finished 9-2-1.
1999 Newhall Hart vs. Oceanside El Camino
While Hart (14-0) would have likely been denied the chance the previous year to play in the SoCal Open Division Bowl Game, there would have been no denying the Indians this time around after Long Beach Poly and Mater Dei played to a tie in the Southern Section Div. I title game. With Mater Dei having two other losses, Division III champ Hart would take on the San Diego section’s first entrant in this regional bowl game since 1990. Why? It’s pretty simple. Division I champ El Camino (13-0) at No. 3 was the highest ranked San Diego team since Morse was ranked No. 2 overall by Cal-Hi Sports in 1990. Central Section Division I champ Clovis lost a game and the other Southern Section divisional champions weren’t as strong as in previous seasons. Now the big question? Would ties have been allowed in a section title game had a regional bowl game concept been in place? Probably not.
2000 Long Beach Poly vs. Clovis Buchanan
Poly (14-0) would have been a cinch pick after defeating Los Angeles Loyola, 16-13, in overtime, in the Southern Section Division I final. Up North, Concord De La Salle (13-0) rolled again to the North Coast Section Class 4A title so it only makes sense that Poly would play Central Section Yosemite Division Large School champ Buchanan (12-1) in a regional open division bowl. Buchanan lost to De La Salle 30-24 on the road then ripped off 11 consecutive wins to close out the season. What would have happened if Poly’s underclass-dominated team had gotten a shot at De La Salle?
2001 Long Beach Poly vs. Mission Viejo
Even without a statewide playoff or bowl system in place, Poly (12-1) still got its shot at De La Salle with one of its best teams in school history. Poly had 28 players on its roster eventually earn college scholarships — the most we have ever uncovered for one team — but De La Salle found a way to pull out a 29-15 victory on the road. The game happened with the backdrop of 9/11 still fresh on everyone’s minds and that tragic event cost Ventura St. Bonaventure (13-0) a chance to play Newhall Hart (13-0). That would have opened the door for Southern Section Division II champ Mission Viejo (14-0), which beat two teams in the final Cal-Hi Sports overall state top 20 (Chino and Santa Ana Mater Dei) while Hart’s best win came against bubble squad Valencia.
2002 Los Alamitos vs. Mission Viejo
Newhall Hart tied Los Alamitos (13-0-1) in a wild regular season game, but besides that, the Griffins were a dominant team against a tough schedule. They culminated their season with a 41-14 victory over Santa Ana Mater Dei in the Southern Section Division I final and finished No. 2 overall in the state behind juggernaut Concord De La Salle. Mission Viejo was a close third after defeating Hart, 10-6, in the Southern Section Division II final to end the Indians’ unbeaten streak at 34 games. So why was Los Al ranked ahead of the Diablos? Mission Viejo beat Santa Ana Mater Dei by two points and Huntington Beach Marina by three points whereas Los Al dominated both teams. Either way, the teams would have settled it on the field without another team really in the argument. A talented Woodland Hills Taft team may have had a legit chance if it hadn’t lost in the L.A. City Section championship final against three-loss Van Nuys Birmingham.
2003 Riverside J.W. North vs. Westlake Village Westlake
There were plenty of good teams throughout SoCal in 2003, but it’s hard to argue against Southern Section Division V champion J.W. North (14-0) taking on Division IV champ Westlake (14-0) in a SoCal regional showdown. Southern Section Division I football wasn’t as strong as seasons past while some observers felt J.W. North was possibly the best team ever from Riverside County after dominant wins over Santa Ana Mater Dei and Norco (50-7) in its divisional title game. Westlake not only defeated previously unbeaten St. Bonaventure in its division final, the Warriors also beat Division II champ Newhall Hart. The Indians snapped Mission Viejo’s 41-game winning streak with a 25-7 win when the Diablos were No. 2 in the state behind Concord De La Sale. Hacienda Heights Los Altos (14-0), the division VI champs, also deserve mention in a season which the L.A. City and San Diego Sections lacked dominant champions.
2004 Mission Viejo vs. Sherman Oaks Notre Dame
The Diablos wrapped up Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year honors after defeating Valencia, 49-21, in the Southern Section Division II championship game. Their offensive line was so dominant QB Mark Sanchez didn’t need to compile huge statistics for the Diablos to win. The Diablos’ key win was a 41-14 victory over state No. 2 Long Beach Poly (13-1), the Southern Section Division I champ. The Jackrabbits finished ranked ahead of Division III champ Notre Dame (14-0), but our recommendation would have been for the Knights to get a chance to play Mission Viejo. Notre Dame owned the Southern Section’s longest winning streak at 22 games, had speedy talent at the skill positions such as QB Garrett Green, RB Rodney Glass, and DB Cary Harris, and no other major division champion from the Central, L.A. City, or San Diego Section finished unbeaten. If Desean Jackson and company at Poly had played Mission Viejo closer, it would have made sense to select the Jackrabbits.
2005 Ventura St. Bonaventure vs. Compton Dominguez
Several teams had to lose in order for St. Bonaventure (14-0) to earn state team of the year honors, but the team had major talent and its season was a testament to coach Jon Mack evolving his program from a small schools state power to one that could compete at the highest level. St. Bonaventure defeated Newhall Hart for the third consecutive season and that win gained significance when the Indians defeated No. 1 in the state and No. 2 in the nation Mission Viejo, 24-12, in the Division II section semifinals. Many other major section champions in SoCal ended the season with one loss, but the most impressive was Dominguez (13-1). Its only loss was in triple overtime to three-loss Los Angeles Crenshaw, which captured the L.A. City Section championship title against its strongest field in years, and its Southern Section Division III title game win over then state No. 1 Sherman Oaks Notre Dame was impressive. Dominguez won 41-14 to snap Notre Dame’s 35-game winning streak. In a mock draft vote of the section commissioners, Crenshaw was chosen over Dominguez due to the triple-OT result. We just would have picked it differently.
2006 Westlake Village Oaks Christian vs. Orange Lutheran
This was the year the state bowl games were first implemented but those three games didn’t end state rankings controversy. Oaks Christian (15-0) used its dominant 59-13 regular season win over Ventura St. Bonaventure to springboard itself to Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year honors. The Lions didn’t play well in the Division III state bowl game against Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman without injured RB Marc Tyler, the 2005 state junior of the year. Orange Lutheran (14-1) won the Div. II state bowl game after winning a Southern Section Pac-Five Division playoff in which some of the teams were Division I and some Division II for the purposes of the state bowl games. With unbeaten Oak Christian getting one of the slots, our call is that Orange Lutheran’s strength of schedule was superior to that of Central Section Division I champ Clovis East (12-1). Orange Lutheran lost only in double overtime to Anaheim Servite. Clovis East avenged a loss to Clovis West with a 33-14 victory in the section title game, but in recent seasons Southern Section schools won a majority of the marquee match ups against its Central Section counterparts.
2007 Corona Centennial vs. Van Nuys Birmingham
There was some suspense in the CIF selecting Southern Section Inland Division champ Centennial (13-2) over L.A. City Section champ Birmingham (13-1) for a berth opposite North Coast Section kingpin Concord De La Salle in the CIF Division I Bowl Game. Centennial was chosen because of the common opponent factor, as the Huskies defeated Encino Crespi 41-20 while Birmingham lost to Crespi 13-6. Some SoCal football followers felt Southern Section Pac-Five Division champ Long Beach Poly (13-1) deserved more consideration for winning the state’s toughest section playoff division, except that the Jackrabbits lost 20-7 earlier in the season to Birmingham.
2008 Corona Centennial vs. Long Beach Poly
With the addition of the CIF Open Division Bowl Game this season, its evident which teams would have deserved to play in a SoCal Open Division game. Long Beach Poly (14-1) was ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 2 in the nation when it was selected to play in the open division opposite Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champ Grant (14-0). Despite Poly’s resume, coach Bob Ladouceur and his staff at Concord De La Salle (12-2) felt the Spartans were playing the tougher foe — Centennial (15-0), the Southern Section Inland Division champion. He may have been right as Centennial went on to defeat De La Salle, 21-16, while Grant beat Poly, 25-20. Ventura St. Bonaventure (13-1) was the only other large school section champ worthy of consideration, but they lost 12-7 to Long Beach Poly so the selections would have been a cinch for a game most SoCal football supporters wanted to watch more than any potential North vs. South bowl game.
2009 Los Angeles Crenshaw vs. Anaheim Servite
Many SoCal football fans were howling when Cal-Hi Sports recommended unbeaten L.A. City Section champ Crenshaw (14-1) over one-loss Servite (14-1) for the South’s CIF Open Division Bowl Game berth. They pointed to Servite’s strength of schedule playing in the Southern Section’s Pac-Five Division, but how much do you accurately penalize a one-loss team against an unbeaten team with quality wins and quality players? The only thing you can do is line them up to play and let the results speak for themselves. That’s what would have happened in 2009. There also would have been lobbying for Southern Section Northwest Division champ Gardena Serra (15-0), but that team needed overtime to defeat then state No. 1 Oaks Christian. Behind junior RB De’ Anthony Thomas, perhaps the state’s most explosive back since Lompoc’s Napoleon Kaufman 20 years earlier, Crenshaw built a 14-0 lead over De La Salle but unraveled after Thomas was injured. Servite, meanwhile, needed a 23-yard field goal with no team remaining in the CIF Div. II Bowl Game to defeat a Sac-Joaquin Division II champ Rocklin team, 33-30, that was playing without its starting quarterback.
2010 Anaheim Servite vs. Centennial Corona
Servite’s win over Mission Viejo for the Southern Section Pac-Five Division title meant the Pac-Five champ would be taking on state kingpin De La Salle for the first time in the five-year history of the CIF Bowl Games. It was the matchup Southern California fans long clamored for during the Spartans’ 151-game winning streak. On the other hand, some fans and scribes felt Southern Section Inland Division champ Centennial (14-1), with its explosive offense led by QB Michael Eubank, was a better team. Gardena Serra (14-1), the Southern Section Western Division champs, also had an explosive offense featuring WRs George Farmer and Marqise Lee, but would have likely been on the outside looking in because of weaker playoff competition. A Servite-Centennial matchup would have drawn a ton of interest, but it’s hard to remove the images we have of Centennial laying an egg against Central Coast Section Open Division champ Palo Alto in the CIF Division I bowl game and Servite having no first downs while trailing De La Salle 35-0 at halftime in an eventual 48-8 loss that gave plenty of merit to the support of Crenshaw a year earlier.
2011 Westlake Village Westlake vs. Santa Margarita
By defeating crosstown Oaks Christian in the Southern Section Northern Division title game, Westlake (14-1) would have been a logical choice for one of the SoCal open division berths. The other one would have been made with controversy. Southern Section Inland Division champ Vista Murrieta (14-0) was unbeaten on the field but had five forfeit losses. Two-loss Santa Margarita (12-2) won the Pac-Five Division title and was chosen for the CIF Division I bowl game over Vista Murrieta. Strength of schedule was cited by Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons as the major factor for the selection of the Eagles and if that was the case for a state game it would have been the same for the regional bowl game.
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Here are the selections for the same years from our friend, Phil Marquez, of Placentia…..
1980 – Edison v. Banning. The cry for a game between the 2 unbeaten Big 5 and 4A City Champs was deafening.
1981 – Banning goes to 6 City titles in a row; who can stop the Pilots? Edison was looking better than ever, but came out flat and overconfident against a game Servite team who scored on the first play and held on for the huge upset 14-7. I’d probably lean towards Vista over St. Paul to go up against Banning.
1982 – Servite loses only a close one to mythical National Champ Moeller in their opener; and then runs the table. Carson finally ended Banning’s title run in the City, but it was actually Crenshaw that knocked off the Pilots in the semi-final. Carson would have made for a nice even matchup with the Friars.
1983 – Banning got back to its winning ways in the City title game, but in the SS Big 5, they were all knocking each other off. For Banning’s foe I’d go with Riverside Poly’s ‘forgetten’ 83 unbeaten champs.
1984 – Riverside Poly, who else? They bounced back from an opening 7-6 loss to Norco to win a rugged CBL that included mighty FOHI and Rubidioux. For their So Calif foe, you’d have to go with City Champ Carson, but unbeaten Claremont led by Mark McGwire’s younger brother at QB would also have been a good choice.
1985 – Vista was CA’s # 1 team. Who to match up against them? Banning won the City again, but it wasn’t their strongest team. So to play the Panthers from North County, the best choice is Central Section champ Clovis West. Canyon in the middle of its 46 game win streak would also have to be considered along with another Claremont section champ.
1986 – El Toro v. Crespi. A total no-brainer. One of Coach Bob Johnson’s best ever teams, lots of stars, including his QB son Bret.
1987 – Fontana v. Granada Hills. Fontana has to be one team; this is the best of all of Coach Dick Bruich’s great Steeler teams, and also consensus National Champs. Logic says to match them up against unbeaten Point Loma from San Diego. But I’ll go with the Granada Hills Highlanders. If they can knock off a great Carson team, you’d have to like their chances against anyone.
1988 – Carson Cal-Hi Sports’ team of the year and deservedly so. The Southern Section was slightly down this year. I’d go with Bakersfield Drillers in a close pick over Rancho Buena Vista.
1989 – Fontana. Dick Bruich’s 2nd Big 5 champ has to be one choice, after all they were # 1 again in California. Matching them with either Bako or RBV is a good pick. But I wonder if Paramount’s Pirates might have given them more trouble?
1990 – Another year where SS Div I teams knocked each other off. And Carson was a solid LA City Champ again. But for this one, I’d go outside the City and SS, and go with an unbeaten matchup of Morse from San Diego against the historic Drillers from Bakersfield. .
1991 – Mater Dei beat the Nation’s top ranked team in the CIF-SS Div I final and finished # 1 in Cali. For their foe, I’m tempted to go with Los Al’s first team to snare a championship when they upset Esperanza 8-0. But logic says you go with Clovis in a close call over Point Loma.
1992 – Bishop Amat. This is the year the SoCalif Regional was actually played, when Amat’s Lancers solidly beat LA City Champ Sylmar in the one-shot CIF-Reebok Bowl.
1993 – Eisenhower. Although Ike had a couple of close ones (15-14 against Hart and 7-3 against Crespi), they still ran the table in a 14-0 year and finished with a flair and revenge for 90 and 91 when they routed Mater Dei 56-3. Los Alamitos at 13-0 was a helluva team itself that year as were unbeaten Clovis West and Norco. But I think the team that would give Ike fits would have been unbeaten Newbury Park with a speedy and elusive QB in Keith Smith and his steller WR Leodis Van Buren.
1994 – Mater Dei wins out at 14-0 with classic wins over Los Al and Amat. The Southern Section champ that might have really matched up well with the Monarchs might have been Canyon Springs. But pitting Bloomington, the national record setter for team points would have been intriguing.
1995 – Bishop Amat, Div I champ is one obvious choice. For the other, JW North was very solid, and would have had intrigue as they had star Chris Claiborne and were led by former Lancer coach Marc Paredes. But my pick would be Covina at 14-0. It would almost be a neighborhood clash.
1996 – Mater Dei runs the table again, so they’re an easy choice. To oppose them, you could go with unbeatens Castle Park, or San Pedro. But I would go for Dominguez to see what Jason Thomas might have up his sleeve against the mighty Monarchs.
1997 – LB Poly at 14-0 and winners of a classic final game with Mater Dei are a firm choice. What a team that was, with stars everywhere and a record setting QB in Chris Lewis. And who else but pitting them against Santa Margarita, led by future Heisman winner QB Carson Palmer.
1998 – Mater Dei; for the Monarchs to finish 13-1 with their murderous schedule, they are only behind De La Salle in Calif. I’m sure they’d have relished another shot at the Spartans. To face them in the Regional, I’d put up Hart, with their own big time passing game with Kyle Boller.
1999 – With MD and LB Poly tying in the Div I final, it opens it up for other teams. Especially my pics, unbeaten El Camino and once-beaten Clovis.
2000 – LB Poly finished at 14-0, but a fumblerooski play in the Div I final with Loyola almost did them in. To face them in the Southern Regional, it’s another Central Section team, once-beaten Buchanan of Clovis, who also put a scare into mighty De La Salle in the first game.
2001 – LB Poly won the CIF-SS Div I title at 13-1, but all anyone remembers is how they didn’t take over the 2nd half of their mega-huge matchup with De La Salle. To face them you have unbeatens Mission Viejo, Hart and Bako, but you gotta go with the Diablos who always play well against the Jackrabbits.
2002 – With Mater Dei knocking off LB Poly, it comes down to unbeaten & once-tied Los Al versus unbeaten Mission Viejo whose coach Bob Johnson was screaming for a matchup with De La Salle after the Diablos’ win in the finale over Hart.
2003 – JW North had team for the ages with speed, leadership, passing, running, size, etc. If ever there was a year there should have been State playoffs, for them, this was the year. Westlake was high in some polls, but still everyone wondered how Hart would have fared against the North Huskies coming off their tremendous upset (and rout) of Mission Viejo. I’d take Hart against J Dub in this Regional matchup.
2004 – This was the year everything fell in place for Bob Johnson and Mission Viejo, and with De La Salle finally losing some games, they got Cali’s top spot for the year. Although LB Poly won the CIF-SS Div I crown, they had a loss already to the Diablos. So that opens it up for unbeaten Notre Dame or once-beaten Corona Centennial.
2005 – The CIF-SS Div I had a lot of top teams beating each other, along with a glimpse of a rising power at Servite. But at the end, I’d go with Dominguez which was at the top of its game in the playoffs and Norco, in record setting Toby Gerhart’s last season.
2006 – I’m sorry but I can’t go with Oaks Christian. While they had that big win over Bonnie, they benefited in a huge way with the teams that lost to Bonnie. I guess I feel that way due to the way Cardinal Newman took them to OT in the Div III game. If I were to pick the Southern Regional matchup I’d easily go with once-beaten Orange Lutheran versus once beaten Clovis East.
2007 – Corona Centennial might have had their most high-powered offense this year, and they went eyeball to eyeball with De La Salle in the Bowl game. To meet them in the Southern Regional, the best choice looks like the Div II Champ out of San Diego, Oceanside.
2008 – This one’s easy, unbeaten Centennial against one-loss LB Poly. History bears this out since both went to Bowl Games.
2009 – Servite would be an easy and sentimental choice here as it broke that streak with Mater Dei and won a rain game with Edison in the CIF-SS Final . The regional match would be with unbeaten Crenshaw from the City Section.
2010 – Servite again, unbeaten going into the Bowl Games against perennial Centennial.
2011 – Gotta go with unbeaten Westlake in a league with Oaks Christian and St. Bonaventure. The other opponent would have obviously been Santa Margarita with jr. QB Johnny Stanton who rose to a higher level during the playoffs.
For Phil Marquez’s picks, in 2003 he says he’d take Hart instead of Westlake? Whether Mowry got in the end zone or not, the offiical score was Westlake 25, Hart 24. So how he would justify a three-loss team (with one-loss to the undefeated Westlake team) getting in, is inexplicable. That alone brings into question any of his other selections. 1989 Fontana >> 1987 Fontana
I would have taken undefeated Oside vs. Crenshaw before Servite in 2009… I think Servite’s struggle against a Rocklin team missing its starting qb is pretty good evidence… I’m an unashamedly biased Oside fan though… Pretty cool article man
@osde – Servite demolished Oceanside in 2010. Servite also did not struggle vs Rocklin, Servite was up by 20+ points before a Rocklin guy stepped on Servite QB throwing hand, limiting him for the rest of the game. Also Rocklin played with their previous years starting QB, and Servite had NFL Troy Niklas sitting out with a concussion.
in 2006 I thought the best team in the state was Birmingham Van Nuys.however they suffered the same fate as Oceanside this year.They lost a game by a touchdown when thier starting QB was injured
check that I mean 2007
what about placentia eldorado being overlooked in 2006 when they gave up 6 points a game and had 6 shutouts and went 13-1 and won cif over charter oak of covina and legendary coach lou farrar and then won it again in 2007 under coach jeff bailey. should have had the chance atleast once.
south hills and coach steve bogan never got the shot they should have either. they won four titles in six years and were the valley power houseon 2000 to 2008
im glad someone mentioned that Newbury Park team-they only had 25 guys on the varsity, but 5 got D-1 scholarships…Keith Smith went on to set passing records at Arizona while Van Buren turned out to be a sad story…
I went to the final NP played against Hawthorne-Keith Smith’s 99 yard scramble for a touchdown to win the game had to have been one of the greatest plays I have ever seen in a HS game.
The though of Keith Smith in a spread offense would have been scary…
I saw that Keith Smith run that night at Moorpark College as well. Kid could have run for mayor afterward and won.
I played on the 82 Los Altos team for Despain and I remember a bunch of us following Servite that year. We even went to their game against LB Poly the night before our game against Esperanza. They were a well balanced team and they were big. I don’t know who would have won that game but it would have been an entertaining match up.
Was living in Lemon Grove, just next to La Mesa, when Reggie Bush was a sophomore and Alex Smith was a Jr. at Helix. This is one of the best teams I’ve ever seen. With Reggie and Daryl Hudsona running, Alex throwing to great receivers, Dallas Magua at defensive end with a Div one Linebacker (stud) and a 6′ 5″ 285 Nose Tackle who drove centers straight back into their quarterbacks, they have to at least make the list.