One team was penciled in for the Open Division Southern California Regional Bowl Championship Game after just a couple games. The other certainly wasn't forgotten, but was definitely overshadowed and considered an underdog in its section title game.
Don't call Centennial (Corona)
a surprise entrant, and don't call Narbonne (Harbor City)
a shoo-in for the state title game, though.
The teams will do battle Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Cerritos College in Norwalk, a location that is a tiny bit closer to Narbonne, but definitely a neutral site. And what should be expected is great skill players on offense. Or as the
Los Angeles Times put it: A track meet
"It's a track meet," Narbonne coach Manuel Douglas told Eric Sondheimer.
"I think it will be a fun game," Centennial coach Matt Logan told the Times.
"We have relative familiarity with each other. It will be interesting to
see who has a twist to make it work."
You are likely to see a healthy amount of points and few huddles. After all, Centennial averages 51.1 points per game and Narbonne averages 42.
But defense is likely to be the key to victory, so while there aren't expectations for a shutout, some team will need to make plays to stall the other team's offense if it wants to win. Narbonne yields just 7.3 per game, so it's the most likely team in the matchup to get some big defensive stops.
Defense was what propelled Centennial (13-1) into this regional contest, and it pushed it into the No. 24 spot in the Xcellent 25. The Huskies traveled to nationally ranked Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) and forced four turnovers in the red zone to help escape with a 30-28 triumph over the team that had been penciled into this spot for a long time. They were up 11 in the fourth quarter in the Southern Section Inland Division title game and ended the Broncos' 27-game on-the-field win streak when Gavin Andrews got just enough defense on star Su'a Cravens as he jumped for the potential game-tying 2-point conversion pass
“The defense has gotten better from Week 1. We lost a lot of kids before
the year even started to injuries, so to come through what they’ve been
through, I couldn’t be more proud of the team,”
Logan told the Press-Enterprise
Logan and Centennial are in the state playoffs for the fourth time, which is second place to De La Salle's six appearances.
For the 14-0 Gauchos, ranked No. 9 in the Xcellent 25, they took a second-straight Los Angeles City Section Division I title with a 25-0 thumping of Crenshaw (Los Angeles) Saturday. The City Section isn't a minefield of stellar teams like the Inland Division, so after Narbonne dispatched Division I regional team Long Beach Poly, Division II regional team Serra (Gardena) and Pac-5 Division finalist Mater Dei (Santa Ana) in the preseason, the Gauchos were expected to reach the section title game and then favored to beat Crenshaw.
They did just that, using defense to stifle Crenshaw thanks to three turnovers, according to the Torrance Daily Breeze.
"The defense was huge," Narbonne's Robert Wood told the Daily Breeze's Tony Ciniglio. "We knew we had
to step up, especially with Troy being hurt last week. We came out and
got our doughnut."
"Troy being hurt" is one of this game's biggest storylines. Narbonne quarterback and Washington commit
is dealing with a separated shoulder that he suffered in the semifinals, and he was observed to be in noticeable pain against Crenshaw.
"My arm was on fire, but I'll be
all right," Williams told the Daily Breeze. "I always seem to be hurt for the
championship games. It was bothering me, but I knew I had to tough it
out. I'll keep rehabbing it, and I should be fine for next week. If it hurts, it hurts."
Want another great storyline? The LA Times reported that the Narbonne coaches learned their no-huddle system from Logan when they took a trip to study at Centennial back in 2008.
In the Freeman Rankings, Narbonne is ranked No. 2 in the nation and No. 1 in the state. Centennial is 12th in the nation and third in the state.