How about a CIF Open Division doubleheader?

Johnny Stanton of Santa Margarita scores the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of 2011 CIF state bowl game vs. San Jose Bellarmine. Photo: Scott Kurtz.

Johnny Stanton of Santa Margarita scores the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds of 2011 CIF state bowl game vs. San Jose Bellarmine. Photo: Scott Kurtz.

Since this year we are not getting CIF Open Division regional bowl games for football but seems we are angling toward a new system in which “everybody gets a trophy,” we thought it would be effective to point out what the matchups would have been in the last 10 years if the CIF were to create an Open Division state semifinal doubleheader in which the two final north and south teams are cross-matched.

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Note: It has been widely reported throughout the state that CIF commissioners will be meeting next week to discuss the merits of another new proposal for the CIF football bowl games that will allow every section champion to play in at least a regional game and would create a system with 13 separate state champions.

More teams definitely should be playing in these bowl games, but dropping the four-team Open Division bracket as was done this year seems premature, especially with Folsom in the north possibly having the best team in the history of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section but likely not going into the Open Division because of Concord De La Salle’s presence.

Even if the 13-division system passes, going back to a four-team Open Division bracket and doing it with a doubleheader semifinal should still be strongly considered. Not only would it match the current college system but it also makes it possible for two Southern California teams or two Northern California teams to play each other in an Open Division state championship game.

One of the primary reasons you even have an Open Division is to settle the question of which team really is the best in the state each season regardless of enrollment, playoff division or any other factor, which we think also includes geography.

Think for a moment how great it would be if the state’s top four section football champions could actually be brought together for one day of back-to-back big-play intensity. It would be great for the media, great for TV viewership and great for putting California’s top student-athletes on a grand stage. In short, it would immediately become one of the best prep football events in the nation.

In addition, it would give those two teams that don’t win in the Open Division semifinals the experience of playing in a true major, statewide event.

Sean McGrew of St. John Bosco darts for daylight in last year's CIF Open Division final vs. De La Salle. Photo: Scott Kurtz.

Sean McGrew of St. John Bosco darts for daylight in last year’s CIF Open Division final vs. De La Salle. Photo: Scott Kurtz.

If this year’s rankings were to hold true and a CIF Open Division state semifinal doubleheader were to be held with cross-matched north and south teams in which the No. 1 teams in the north and south are seeded, we’d get:

St. John Bosco (Bellflower) vs. Folsom
De La Salle (Concord) vs. Oceanside

St. John Bosco would currently be the team in the spot that basically would be reserved for the CIF Southern Section Pac-Five Division and you have to remember that only section champions still would get to advance to a CIF state or regional bowl game. This doubleheader also gives Oceanside the benefit of doubt of being an unbeaten CIF San Diego Section Open Division champion and we’re a long way from that.

If such an Open Division semifinal doubleheader were to have been played last year under the same parameters, it would have been:

De La Salle (Concord) vs. Centennial (Corona)
St. John Bosco (Bellflower) vs. Folsom

If Folsom players and fans would have been able to participate in an event like that instead of just going to Diablo Valley College to play De La Salle for the second straight year in a NorCal Open Division final, don’t you think the experience would have muted all of the criticism leveled at the CIF because another team from the Sac-Joaquin Section (Del Oro) got to play in CIF state bowl game?

We don’t think anyone would care because again a CIF Open Division state semifinal doubleheader would be one of the best prep football events in the nation and who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

Here are some other doubleheaders that would have happened under this format:

De La Salle (Concord) vs. Centennial (Corona)
Narbonne (Harbor City) vs. Folsom

Narbonne was ranked higher than Centennial prior to the SoCal Open Division game that Centennial later won. This was the first year of the regional bowl games.

De La Salle (Concord) vs. Santa Margarita (Rancho SM)
Westlake (Westlake Village) vs. Bellarmine (San Jose)

Santa Margarita was the CIFSS Pac-Five champion for that season but had two losses so unbeaten Westlake was given the nod to the Open Division. This was the last year without regional bowl games.

De La Salle (Concord) vs. Centennial (Corona)
Servite (Anaheim) vs. Folsom

Eventual CIF D2 champ Folsom was ranked ahead of eventual CIF D1 champ Palo Alto before the CIF bowl games were played. Palo Alto still would have obviously gotten a game in this system but it would have been in Division I and not in the Open Division and the Vikings would have played a different opponent instead of Centennial (which was the team they beat in the D1 bowl game that was played).

Crenshaw (Los Angeles) vs. Rocklin
De La Salle (Concord) vs. Oceanside

Servite also was 13-1 before the bowl games and won the CIFSS Pac-Five title but the four listed above were all unbeaten. If there had been a doubleheader under this format and Servite had been voted in, which definitely could have happened, Oceanside likely would have been the team playing in Division I instead of the open. This was another of the last years in which the CIF used enrollment to determine state bowl games, which is why Servite was D2 in 2009 and not D1.

Sacramento Grant's Darvin McCauley had a huge game when Pacers beat Long Beach Poly in 2008 CIF Open Division final. Photo: Scott Kurtz.

Sacramento Grant’s Darvin McCauley had a huge game when Pacers beat Long Beach Poly in 2008 CIF Open Division final. Photo: Scott Kurtz.

Grant (Sacramento) vs. Centennial (Corona)
De La Salle (Concord) vs. Long Beach Poly

This was the first year of the Open Division and was the most controversial selection ever made by the CIF commissioners with Grant of Sacramento going instead of De La Salle. In the doubleheader system, however, it would have made no difference because both teams would have been headed to Carson and would have simply flipped opponents from the ones they actually did play.

De La Salle (Concord) vs. Birmingham (Lake Balboa)
Centennial (Corona) vs. Oak Grove (San Jose)

This was the year in which Birmingham lost in a close vote to Corona Centennial for the only SoCal D1 berth. It was before the Open Division began. In the doubleheader system, both teams would have gone except that Birmingham would have been the one that played De La Salle.

Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) vs. Grant (Sacramento)
Lutheran (Orange) vs. De La Salle (Concord)

Canyon of Canyon Country, which upset DLS in the first CIF D1 state final, actually was ranked behind both Oaks Christian and Orange Lutheran after the section finals. In this system combined with the current one, Canyon would have faced Clovis East in the SoCal D1 regional bowl game and both Grant and Clovis East would have gotten games. It also would have made both Mike Alberghini of Grant and Tim Murphy of Clayton Valley (formerly at Clovis East) a little less salty any time 2006 is brought up.

St. Bonaventure (Ventura) vs. Del Oro (Loomis)
Crenshaw (Los Angeles) vs. De La Salle (Concord)

We ranked Dominguez of Compton (with Richard Sherman) higher than Crenshaw, but the CIF voted for Crenshaw in a mock vote of teams conducted after the season. For purposes of this topic, we’ll go by what the vote showed and not our own rankings. Dominguez would have played in a divisional bowl game instead.

That’s just the last 10 years of what a CIF Open Division doubleheader semifinal in football would have been like. We also can see some years going back in which the CIF Central Section (counted on as from the North) would get in, such as in 2004, which was the year when Clovis West got a win over De La Salle.

The irony of the CIF passing a new 13-division bowl game system while at the same time getting rid of matchups that the public is much more interested in (De La Salle vs. Folsom) is that it will be adding a bunch of games combined that won’t generate nearly as much interest.

Let’s hope when the commissioners get together to talk about all this that they don’t focus on all the new schools in Division 2A or Division 4AA that will now all get to hoist a plaque but think about ways to enhance the Open Division as well.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports

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  1. paul_johnson884
    Posted October 24, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Great suggestion.

  2. dmur
    Posted October 25, 2014 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    is there any scenario in which Folsom would get selected for the open over DLS? for example.Servite seems likely to miss the playoffs and if Byrnes(sc) does not win state.Coupled with Cathedral Catholic and Clovis North both winning section along with Folsoms tougher playoff bracket.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted October 26, 2014 at 12:10 am | Permalink

      I guess if all that happened you can make a case that Folsom should play in the Open Division instead of DLS. However, they already have Del Oro as a common opponent and DLS won by larger margin. In the end, when you have two teams like this who have actually played twice in the last two years and one team won easily that’s going to be pretty difficult to overcome.

      • dmur
        Posted October 26, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        The CIF takes into account past years results to determine this years state bowl games? asking because I dont know.

        • Mark Tennis
          Posted October 26, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

          They won’t have anything else to go by comparing DLS and Folsom. They’ll both probably be unbeaten and both will have rolled over everyone on their schedules.

  3. grant
    Posted October 26, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    I still do not see why 2008 is still considered so controversial. DLS had one or two losses while Grant was undefeated with two out of state wins over eventual champions. Grant beat the number 3 team in the country and 1 in CA in LBP and you still say DLS should have been there. DLS should not be guaranteed a spot in the open just because they are DLS. It is time to give Grant the respect they deserve…the CIF made the right call.

    Still unbelievable you made DLS your team of the year despite Grant’s win. Wow!

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted October 26, 2014 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      What are you talking about? We didn’t pick DLS as State Team of the Year. Whoever told you that is simply lying. We picked Corona Centennial over Grant and stand by that call. Unless the Centennial guys in the NFL right now sucked in high school (they didn’t). Don’t know who had LB Poly No. 3 in the nation but nobody we know. If you recall, many in SoCal actually thought Centennial was better than Poly as well. It was four top teams pretty closely bunched together. Believe me, if Grant had been in the D1 game instead and had beaten Centennial it would have been just as big of a win as beating Poly. The two state champions Grant beat were from those power states of Utah and Idaho and good for Pete Saco that he convinced the other commissioners that was a big deal and I’m very happy Grant got its state title because Alberghini has always been one of my favorites.

      • grant
        Posted October 27, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        Ok I mispoke about State Team of the Year but I still believe that Grant winning was a bigger achievemant than Centennial beating DLS, especially because DLS had multiple losses. It just seems that no matter what a Sac-Joacquin section team does it will never be as good as DLS. It is true DLS has a phenomenal program that is unmatched and I have huge respect for them but that doesn’t mean that they should always be looked at as the best in Norcal and potentially all of CA every single year. I am afraid that even if Folsom, Grant or someone else was to beat DLS Cal Hi would still be there to somehow naysay the victory or not give due credit. There may be a year that a Sac-Joacquin Norcal team may legitimately better than DLS but somehow DLS (unless they have 2+ losses) still deserves the open. This comes from someone who has been following HS football for awhile and consistently feels like you are all on the DLS bandwagon and will never get off.

        As far as who had LBP at # 3 in the country I believe it was Maxpreps but it has been 6 years.

        • Mark Tennis
          Posted October 27, 2014 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

          When De La Salle loses to a Sac-Joaquin Section team (it never has) then the team that does it will of course receive its just due. So will any other team in Northern California (north of Fresno anyway) but that hasn’t happened in 23 years. It’s too bad the CIF took it out of Folsom’s hands this year. That team would have had a shot for sure.

        • Mark Tennis
          Posted October 27, 2014 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

          By the way, DLS did not have multiple losses prior to its loss to Corona Centennial. It’s only loss was 23-21 to Don Bosco Prep of New Jersey, which was nationally ranked and much better than the mighty state champs that Grant beat from Utah and Idaho. And while we had Grant No. 2 behind Centennial, we also ranked them higher in the national FAB 50 for ESPN than many others ranked them nationally.

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