At Edison International Field in Anaheim, the CIF Southern Section Div. I semifinals will feature Poly of Long Beach (11-1) vs. Mater Dei of Santa Ana (9-3) in the first game and then Los Alamitos (11-0-1) vs. Loyola of Los Angeles (9-3) in the nightcap.
At Network Associates Coliseum in Oakland, the CIF North Coast Section Class 4A and Class 3A East Bay title games will be held involving Monte Vista of Danville (12-0) vs. San Ramon Valley of Danville (10-2) in the first game and then De La Salle of Concord (12-0) vs. San Leandro (12-0) in the second.
Initial published reports seem to indicate expected crowds of close to 20,000 in Anaheim and more like 15,000 in Oakland. If inclement weather hits, both crowd counts could be lower and the UCLA-Washington State game on TV may keep a few folks home as well. We'd, of course, love to see a combined total closer to 40,000 or above. Even some Texans might be a bit impressed with that.
In recent years, the CIF Southern Section has tended to only have one game -- the Division I final -- at the big stadium. Last year, a title game doubleheader was held with the Division II final played first. This year, a Div. I semifinal plus the addition of the Div. VI final has been added to the Edison International schedule. That's a lot more kids that will now be able to play on the same field in which Game Seven of the 2002 World Series was held.
CIF North Coast Section officials have had a hard time in recent years scheduling even one of their title games at the Coliseum. De La Salle has not played there since the final game of the 1997 season. Its last four title games have been at Diablo Valley College.
This year, an away game on the Oakland Raiders' schedule and the willingness of the Raiders and the Coliseum to let the kids get on the field for one weekend enabled a doubleheader to be scheduled. NCS officials chose the 4A final -- which would most likely involve De La Salle -- and the 3A East Bay final, which as it turns out this year will involve two of the nation's top quarterbacks.
The Coliseum also is being used on Friday night for the annual Oakland Section Silver Bowl championship game, this year matching Skyline (10-0-1) vs. McClymonds (9-2, not including forfeit losses).
Here's our preview and prediction for each of the four games that will be played on Saturday at the big stadiums:
Long Beach Poly vs. Mater Dei, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. at Edison International Field. Based on Mater Dei's three losses and on Poly's recent run of four CIFSS Div. I titles in the last five years, the first inclination here would be to pick Poly by three or four touchdowns.
But there's something about Mater Dei when it plays at the Ed. Other than one horrible night in 1993 when the Monarchs got destroyed by Eisenhower of Rialto, the Ed has definitely been like a home away from home for them. Even in their two losses to De La Salle, Mater Dei played very well and nearly won both times.
Last week's 30-12 win over an Esperanza of Anaheim team that barely lost to Los Alamitos also says that this young Monarchs team is capable of playing at the highest level. Poly's schedule -- other than its trip north fo play De La Salle -- is still a questionmark, too. Here we are at week 13 and the best team Poly has played in Southern California is Lakewood? That could play to Mater Dei's advantage as its schedule has been one of the best.
Still, even with all that, Poly will win. It just won't be as lopsided as some might expect. The Jackrabbits have played in the big stadium twice already this season and the team's passing game, with Leon Jackson at QB and Derrick Jones at WR, will be very difficult for Mater Dei's defense to slow down.
Prediction: Long Beach Poly 28, Mater Dei 22.
Los Alamitos vs. Loyola of Los Angeles, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. at Edison International Field.We look at this as sort of like a hump game for Los Al since the Griffins, for all that the program has done under coach John Barnes, have not yet been able to even appear in the CIFSS Div. I final let alone win a title. Loyola, on the other hand, is like a grizzled veteran when the playoffs roll around. The Cubs are going for their sixth appearance in the finals since 1990.
Loyola's Serra League schedule has gotten it ready for the prime-time, but Los Al's overall regular season schedule was even tougher. The Griffins played and tied nationally-ranked Hart of Newhall and played and won over playoff foes St. John Bosco, La Habra and Carson.
Loyola blitzed Bosco by 38-8 in last week's quarterfinals and the Cubs can upset Los Al if they play that way again. Watch for the matchup of Cub DB Quentin Daniels when he covers either of the two main Griffin wideouts. That could hold one key to the game.
The major advantage for Los Al is balance. The Griffins can run it with Ryan Bagley or quarterback Jeff Kline or they can drop back Kline and have him chuck it to either Brandon Tripp or Jeremy Childs. Loyola is easier to defend with the offense still mostly run first, primarily with senior banger Bo Renaud.
Prediction: Los Alamitos 24, Loyola 14.
Monte Vista of Danville vs. San Ramon Valley of Danville, Saturday, 4:00 p.m. at Network Associates Coliseum. Don't you hate it when NBA marketing types say an upcoming game will be T-Mac vs. Shaq or Michael vs. The Mailman? It would be easy to do that in this one as QB Kyle Wright and the Mustangs will try to wrap up a 13-0 season against QB Sam Keller and the arch-rival Wolves.
The last time these two met it was a 46-44 win for Monte Vista as Wright threw a five-yard scoring pass to Sam DeSa with four seconds to play. San Ramon Valley had taken a 44-40 lead only 36 seconds earlier on TD pass by Keller to Mike Jaeger.
Both QBs threw well in the encounter as the Miami-bound Wright was 20 of 34 for 374 yards and six touchdowns while the Michigan-bound Keller was 22 of 37 for 346 yards and four scores. Both also have a pair of speedy, sure-handed wideouts to throw to, Wright with DeSa along with Kale Turner and Keller with Angelo Richardson and Brodie Stringer.
There were 9,000 who crammed into Monte Vista's stadium for the first game and the resulting media hype afterward should result in even more turning out for this week's rematch.
The difference in favor of Monte Vista might be its running game. Last week, when Wright was off to a slow start, junior Tom Haug stepped up to rush for 213 yards and four TDs. The consensus feeling among those we surveyed after the game was that San Ramon Valley played way above its head and that Monte Vista could still do better.
The Wolves could certainly play that well again and it wouldn't be a major upset if they win, but our feeling is that this game will more resemble the teams' meeting of last year rather than their game of three weeks ago.
Predicted score: Monte Vista 49, San Ramon Valley 34.
De La Salle of Concord vs. San Leandro, Saturday, 7:15 p.m., Network Associates Coliseum -- It's doubtful that San Leandro will catch the Spartans being flat. It'll be the last game for the current seniors at De La Salle and that always gets the emotions flowing no matter who the Spartans are playing.
San Leandro made last year's game a bit interesting due to Dennis Dixon throwing a long touchdown pass to Sam Cheatham and the Pirates converting a turnover into a touchdown. For the upset to take place, Dixon's going to have to go deep at least twice and there will have to be even more turnover help from De La Salle.
What should really help the Spartans is their previous experience of playing Long Beach Poly and its corps of quick, fleet receivers. San Leandro will offer similar challenges, although Dixon might be a better QB than Poly's Leon Jackson.
The other problem for San Leandro is its defense figuring out a way to slow down De La Salle. Jackie Bates is starting to look better and better, which means you can't just key on Maurice Drew any more. Britt Cecil has proved he can throw it, too. Bob Ladouceur better start thinking about how he's going to answer those inevitable comparison questions about this year's team vs. the others he's had.
Predicted score: De La Salle 42, San Leandro 20.