The stage is set. Drum roll please.
All the games are in – at least in California.
All the shoulder pads, helmets and cleats are put aside for a day.
Today is a time for an eraser board, coffee and a bottle of aspirin.
Ten commissioners will gather in a board room at the Home Depot Center in Carson and handpick the 10 best section champions – five each from Southern and Northern California – to play in next weekend's sixth annual CIF Bowl Championships.
Below is who we think the commissioner's will pick. And frankly, it might be the shortest meeting they've had since starting this process. These are fairly clear cut as you'll see below.
The games are Dec. 16-17, also at the Home Depot Center. Check in later today - approximately 3 p.m. - to see the picks.
To give a sense of how hotly debated these choices will take, we've put a time table on each selection. OPEN DIVISIONNorth: De La Salle (Concord)
12-1 – One blinkSouth: Westlake (Westlake Village)
14-0 – two blinks
This, frankly, is a slam dunk. There's no real debate, so we won't bother. Westlake came into the week No. 7 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25
national ranking and De La Salle No. 19. DIVISION INorth: Bellarmine (San Jose)
12-1 – five minutesSouth: Bakersfield
13-0 – 45 minutes
Though Granite Bay
(12-2) and Bellarmine would be a great playoff game, the Bells get the emphatic nod because one less loss, which was a double-overtime thriller to De La Salle, the obvious Open Division winner.
The South debate will be bitter but we think the unspoken pressure to pick a Central Section team for the first time – plus a perfect season – will pull Bakersfield through over two-loss but deserving Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita)
. The Eagles won the Southern Section's gold standard, the Pac-5 Division. Perhaps the best team of the bunch is Vista Murrieta-Murrieta
(9-5), which is 14-0 on the field but forfeited five games due to using an ineligible player. Though Vista turned itself in – noble – the commissioners would take too much heat for letting in a five-loss team, even if that includes an asterisks. Poway
(12-0-1) will also demand attention especially after a 56-0 win in the San Diego Section finals against Vista. DIVISION IINorth: Del Oro (Loomis, Calif.)
13-1 – 1 minuteSouth: Helix (La Mesa, Calif.)
12-1 – 40 minutes
Del Oro's only loss came in overtime to the best team in Southern California, Westlake, so it is surely in. Vacaville
(13-1) had a shot, but it needed a strong showing from Marin Catholic, the team it lost to. Marin Catholic was upset in the North Coast Section finals, thus ending Vacaville's hopes.
Helix, Arroyo Grande
(13-1) and Rancho Verde-Moreno Valley
(14-0) are extremely tight. However, Helix's 44-6 beat down of two-time Bowl champion Oceanside was the knockout blow it needed to bowl over the commissioners. Arroyo Grande has won 13 straight since a 10-point season-opening loss to unbeaten and likely Division III bowl-bound Lompoc. A 35-16 win over previously unbeaten Palm Springs in a Southern Section finals will bolster Rancho Verde's case. DIVISION IIINorth: Campolindo (Moraga)
14-0 – 1 minuteSouth: Lompoc
14-0 – 15 minutes
Campolindo, a true Cinderella story, was picked to finish last in its league but just beat everybody in its wake, including back-to-back victories over undefeated and previous bowl participants Cardinal Newman (Santa Rosa)
and Marin Catholic (Kentfield)
Lompoc gets the edge over another perfect Central Section squad, Washington Union-Fresno
, (13-0) which made a strong case in its championship game, a 55-12 win over Wasco. SMALL SCHOOLNorth: Le Grand
12-0 – 10 secondsSouth: Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth)
14-0 – 10 seconds
Clearly, the two best teams left standing and the only unbeaten qualifiers in this Division. Slam dunk.