Pac-5 Showdown: How Big Is It?

State Junior of the Year Javon McKinley is about to score in CIFSS Pac-5 final vs. St. John Bosco. Photo: Mark Bausman/OC

State Junior of the Year Javon McKinley of Corona Centennial is about to score in last year’s CIFSS Pac-5 final vs. St. John Bosco. Photo: Mark Bausman/OC

One national ranking has it as a No. 1 vs. No. 2 and in some ways it’s even bigger than the famed 1956 CIF Southern Section Major Division Championship between Downey and Anaheim that set a state playoff record with 41,393 on hand. But the Corona Centennial vs. St. John Bosco titanic has one huge difference. The winner will still have one game left to play and that game isn’t going to be a walk in the park, either.

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If anybody knows much about Southern California high school football history, the 1956 CIF Southern Section Major Division title game between 12-0 Downey and 12-0 Anaheim at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the one they call “A Game For The Years.”

It really was a perfect storm for a massive crowd to show up to see it. First, in 1956 there was only limited pro sports in Los Angeles and in that season neither USC and UCLA football was going to the Rose Bowl and in those days there were no other bowls for them to play in.

And not only were the two teams unbeaten and eyeing each other all season long, they also were led by two dynamic running backs who both captivated many fans and sportswriters – Randy Meadows of Downey and Mickey Flynn of Anaheim. They both averaged more than 14 yards per carry and Flynn was nicknamed “The Fabulous Flying Phantom from Fantasyland,” a reference to a brand-new theme park that had opened in Anaheim.
In the semifinals, both teams rolled to set up their showdown perfectly. Downey battered Antelope Valley of Lancaster 46-13 while Anaheim got past Redlands 42-20.

Despite foggy conditions, long lines of fans formed early at the Coliseum. As more and more people arrived, CIFSS officials decided to delay the game for 15 minutes and also at one point stopped selling tickets and just let people throw cash into boxes. The official attendance has always been 41,393 (still the most for any playoff game in state history) but press reports estimated that it may have been more than 50,000.

Flynn and Meadows both scored on long touchdown runs during the game itself, but in the fourth quarter with the score tied neither team could do much so it ended 13-13.

If you look at the grid logs of the two teams involved in 1956 and compare to Saturday’s matchup at Angels Stadium between 13-0 Corona Centennial and 13-0 St. John Bosco of Bellflower for the CIFSS Pac-5 Division title, it’s easy to see that this year’s teams have dominated their competition even greater than the ones 59 years ago.

There also were no weekly national rankings or even weekly state rankings in 1956 to further promote those two teams.

Still, with so much different from 1956 to 2015, it’s almost like comparing apples and oranges. Nobody expects 40,000 to be in the house on Saturday night.

Mater Dei coach Bruce Rollinson and team played before more than 30,000 and 26,000 in consecutive weeks in 1994.

Mater Dei head coach Bruce Rollinson’s team played before more than 30,000 and 26,000 in consecutive weeks in 1994.

A better comparison to this year’s Centennial-Bosco matchup might be in 1994. In that season, Bishop Amat of La Puente was not just No. 1 in one national ranking (to be fair, Bosco is No. 1 in more than one). The Lancers were No. 1 by everybody since the preseason.

Then came the CIFSS Division I playoffs and there happened to be two Orange County powerhouse teams that also were unbeaten – Mater Dei of Santa Ana and Los Alamitos. When they played at Angels Stadium in the semifinals, it drew 30,065. Then after Mater Dei survived in an unforgettable game, the Monarchs played Bishop Amat and won in an upset before more than 26,000.

In 1991, Eisenhower of Rialto also was No. 1 in the nation by all heading into the CIFSS Division I final and played Mater Dei, which wasn’t unbeaten but on a roll. That one drew 33,265. Needless to say, the CIFSS would have to be ecstatic if there is 30,000 for Saturday’s game. People just have so much going on and it’s on TV.

While MaxPreps does have it as a No. 1 vs. No. 2 for its national rankings, USA Today (who we’ve never been a fan of for its rankings) has Bishop Gorman of Las Vegas in its No. 1 position and Bishop Gorman can at least claim correctly that it beat both Centennial and St. John Bosco last season.

In the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings, now in the 37th season, both teams have been No. 2 and No. 3 behind Concord De La Salle, which has won five of the last six CIF Open Division state titles and was preseason No. 1 in the nation but lost its first game to Trinity of Texas in a matchup the Spartans probably shouldn’t have taken when they couldn’t get the CIF North Coast Section to allow them more than a few practices beforehand. Since then, DLS has often looked like its preseason acclaim. It’s also always been figured by many, including those doing other rankings in Southern California such as the L.A. Times and CIF Southern Section Pac-5 poll, that who’s No. 1 or who’s No. 2 between Bosco and Centennial hasn’t mattered much because the two probably were going to play in this week’s game.
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For sheer anticipation on the statewide level, it’s hard to beat that 2001 matchup in the regular season between De La Salle and Long Beach Poly. This was when the Spartans, of course, and legendary head coach Bob Ladoucuer were in the midst of their 151-game national record winning streak. Poly was not only the CIFSS top division champ in 2000 at 14-0 but also was the CIFSS champ for 1999. Both teams also returned a wealth of starting talent and it was the first No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup of teams in the national football rankings. There were differences in which team was No. 1, but everyone had it as No. 1 vs. No. 2.

De La Salle’s presence also takes away some of the significance of Saturday night’s matchup since the winner is very likely going to be facing the Spartans at Sacramento State in two weeks. They are playing 12-0 Foothill of Pleasanton in the CIF North Coast Section D1 final in a game on Saturday that will be starting approximately one hour before Centennial-Bosco.

In the last CIFSS Pac-5 matchup of two 13-0 teams, Servite of Anaheim topped Mission Viejo 41-27. Two weeks later, Servite took on De La Salle and got routed in the rain, 48-8. Since then, the Spartans also have won CIF Open Division state titles in 2011, 2012 and 2014.

On the other hand, if the winner on Saturday goes on to beat DLS in the CIF Open Division state bowl game by a greater margin than it wins by this week, then perhaps we’ll have a new candidate for “A Game For The Years.”

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. Dave
    Posted December 4, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    With the bye, does DLS play 2 – 3 local public schools for its auto path to the Open State Chamipoinship Game?

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      It would play three.

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