On Saturday, they each looked on as teams expected to take the D-II spots in their respective regions lost, St. Mary's of Stockton losing to Napa and Crespi of Encino falling to Long Beach Poly. Step two complete. On Sunday, they both heard their names called when the D-II berths were handed out, and on Saturday night, Oceanside and Novato will meet for the CIF Division II state title.
Novato comes in with a 13-0 record and winners of 25 straight, having lost last in the 2006 opener. Oceanside has reeled off 12 straight since dropping their opener to La Mesa Helix.
The Hornets won the CIF-North Coast Section 2A title last weekend while the Pirates won the CIF-San Diego Section Division II title. For each school, it was their third straight section title. But never before has either team played for stakes this high.
Novato is led by do-everything running back/linebacker Jose Mendez. During his memorable senior season, Mendez has rushed for 1,110 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 377 yards and scored three more touchdowns. Defensively, he has 107 tackles with 16 being for loss and eight quarterback sacks.
Jeff Stephens leads the Novato offense at quarterback, and he's especially adept at throwing under a tough pass rush.
Jamil Wade has been the top defender for the Hornets, and he's had some clutch interceptions this season when Novato needed them most.
Travis Brackett's Novato squad has four shutouts this season.
The Pirates have long been one of the elite programs in Southern California, especially in San Diego, and John Carroll's crew has been lighting up the scoreboard in 2007. The last two weeks, though, they've relied on their defense to make plays in some tougher than expected games.
Junior quarterback Jordan Wynn has been a major cog in the Pirates offense this fall, having thrown for 2,397 yards and 17 touchdown passes.
His top targets have been Lamont Enyard, who has 34 catches for 696 yards and six touchdowns and Frank Zimmerman, who has 32 receptions for 603 yards and four scores.
Armani Taylor has been the top ball-carrier for Oceanside this year, rushing for 1,790 yards and 25 touchdowns and scoring three more through the air. The ground game has a major boost thanks to the offensive line play of Sam Brenner, the Utah-bound lineman.
Defensively, the Pirates are led by Erik Middleton, Richard So'oto and Rene Siluano.
Novato knows how to win the close games and how to come from behind. But Oceanside's balance on offense could be the difference in this one.