California to readies for first-ever State Championship Games

California high school football rankings

For the first time ever, California will be crowning a state champ in three divisions. The games will be played next week and include De La Salle, which is ranked #1 by USA Today, playing in the Division I title tilt.

De La Salle will play Canyon, in Division II Palo Alto will play Orange Lutherna and in Division III nationally-ranked Oaks Christian will play Cardinal Newman.

And since there is no formal statewide bracket to determine the finalist, here’s how the CIF explains how the six finalist were chosen: To be eligible for the state championship bowl games, teams must have been their respective CIF Section Champion. There were a total of 47 Section Champions – 23 from Northern California and 24 from Southern California. Guidelines used to select the teams included won-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and common opponents. Various rankings and media reports were also used in the selection process. Margin of victory or  anticipated fan support were not factors in team selection.

DIVISION I
DE LA SALLE, CONCORD vs. CANYON, CANYON COUNTRY
De La Salle High School (13-0) was the Class 4A East Bay Champion from the North Coast Section. The Spartans are  coached by Bob Ladouceur. They will face Canyon High School (11-2, 4-0) which was the Northern Division Champion  from the Southern Section. Canyon is coached by Harry Welch.

De La Salle was selected based on its undefeated record and strength of schedule as its opponents fashioned a combined  record of 95-50. The Spartans won three intersectional games against Mission Viejo (SS), Palma (CCS) and Serra (CCS).  Nearly 50% of its opponents’ points have come in the fourth quarter when the outcome of the game was already decided.
Nine of its 13 opponents reached their section playoffs.

Canyon was selected based on its strength of schedule. Its opponents were a combined 101-55. Five of its opponents were  league champions, while 11 of its 13 opponents reached their section playoffs. The Cowboys’ two losses were to Notre  Dame of Sherman Oaks by one point and St. Bonaventure by seven in the first three games of the season. Since then, they  have 10 straight victories. Canyon, champions of the Foothill League, defeated the same team, Moorpark, in both its first  and last games of the season.

DIVISION II
PALO ALTO vs. ORANGE LUTHERAN
Palo Alto High School (12-1, 6-0) was the Open Division Champion from the Central Coast Section. The Vikings are coached by Earl Hansen. They will face Orange Lutheran High School (13-1, 4-1) who was the Pac-5 Division Champion  from the Southern Section. Orange Lutheran is coached by Jim Kunau.

Palo Alto was selected based on its strength of schedule and its wins over Palma and Oak Grove in the section playoffs.  Palma had been one of the top ranked teams all season, and the victory against Oak Grove in the section finals avenged an  early season loss. The Vikings play in the CCS Open Division, which is comprised of the section’s top eight teams.

Orange Lutheran was selected based on its strength of schedule. Its only loss of the season was in double-overtime to  league opponent Servite. It won what many consider to be the toughest league and division in the Southern Section.  Eleven of its opponents reached their section playoffs.

DIVISION III
CARDINAL NEWMAN, SANTA ROSA vs. OAKS CHRISTIAN, WESTLAKE
Cardinal Newman High School (13-1, 6-1) was the Class 3A Champion from the North Coast Section. The Cardinals are  coached by Paul Cronin. They will face Oaks Christian High School (14-0, 5-0) which was the Northwest Division Champion from the Southern Section. Oaks Christian is coached by Bill Redell.

Cardinal Newman was selected based on its strength of schedule and its head-to-head victory against Central Catholic of  Modesto. In addition, the Cardinals avenged their only loss of the season with a victory against Montgomery of Santa Rosa in the section playoffs. Ten of their 13 games were against teams that reached their respective section finals, and  they defeated six teams that were league champions.

Oaks Christian was selected based on their undefeated record and their strength of schedule. They currently have a 45- game win streak and could have up to nine seniors sign NCAA Division I scholarships. Ten of their victories were against teams that reached their section playoffs. The Lions began to state their case for a state berth in week three of the season
when they defeated highly regarded St. Bonaventure, 59-13, in a nationally televised contest.

All three state football championship games will be played Saturday, December 16, at Home Depot Center in Carson. The Division III game will begin at 11 am, followed by Division II at 3:00 pm and Division I at 7:30 pm.

All games will be broadcast live on FSN Prime Ticket (Southern California) and FSN Bay Area (Northern California),  with the lone exception being the Division I game which will be shown on tape-delay in NorCal due to a previous FSN scheduling commitment. It will air live on FSN Bay Area Plus for those who have access to satellite or digital cable.

Live audio and written play-by-play will also be available on the internet for all three games. Please visit www.kbcsports.com to listen in to all the action, and www.cifstate.org for written play-by-play.

In addition to the three state football championship games,State other gameday events include: the California State High School Cheerleading Championships; a High School Football Coaches Clinic featuring Dan Hawkins, head coach at University of Colorado and Tyrone Willingham, head coach at University of Washington; as well as an opportunity for  high school football players to get a SPARQ Assessment and Rating. Please visit www.cifstate.org for more information on how to register for these events.

Tickets for the 2006 CIF State Football Championship Bowl Games are now available at the Home Depot Center Box Office, local TicketMaster outlets or ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for high school students (with a valid ASB card), seniors (60+) and children. All tickets are for general admission seating and are valid for all three games.

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About the Author

Jeff Fisher

Jeff is an award-winning journalist and expert in the field of high school sports, underscored with his appearance on CNBC in 2010 to talk about the big business of high school football in America.

Jeff turned to his passion for high school football into an entrepreneurial venture called High School Football America, a digital media company focused on producing original high school sports content for radio, television and the internet.

Jeff is co-founder and editor-in-chief of High School Football America, which is a media partner with USA TODAY High School Sports.