It's high school football championship week in Southern California, with 16 championship games scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
The festivities begin Monday when the Southern Section holds a luncheon in Long Beach honoring each of its 26 finalists. USC Coach Steve Sarkisian will be the guest speaker. He better be careful not to say anything to rile up St. John Bosco quarterback Josh Rosen, who begins the winter quarter at UCLA on Jan. 2. Of course, future Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold of San Clemente will be there too, so let the one-liners fly.
The most notable story line this week shows again that to make it to a final, teams can't be one dimensional. Being able to pass or run when needed is the secret to success.
"It wears down the defense, it chews up the clock, and it gives the best opportunity to win," said Corona Centennial Coach Matt Logan on running the ball.
The matchup between Centennial (11-2) and St. John Bosco (12-1) — dynamic teams with offenses that can score at a moment's notice in a variety of ways — in Saturday's Pac-5 Division final at Angel Stadium should produce as much excitement as a Mike Trout home run.
The last time these teams played, St. John Bosco won, 70-49, in a state bowl game last year. Logan remembers seeing the back of Sean McGrew's jersey. The running back torched the Huskies for 367 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. McGrew is back, but Centennial's defense is better.
Centennial's offense, despite losing running back JJ Taylor to an appendectomy, has plenty of weapons. Junior receiver Javon McKinley has had playoff games of 240 yards and 282 yards.
"It's definitely going to be a shootout," McGrew said.
This week shows what happens when playoff divisions and leagues are revised every four years in the Southern Section. Four schools that previously competed in the Pac-5 — Mission Viejo, Trabuco Hills, San Clemente and Newbury Park — will be playing for championships in other divisions. If they hadn't been moved, they would have had difficulty getting past St. John Bosco or Centennial.
In the City Section, for the first time, three championship games will be played on Saturday at the Coliseum.
The Division I final at 7 p.m. is a rematch between Marine League powers Narbonne (9-4) and Carson (10-3). Carson, which has the City Section's best player in Jabari Minix, beat the Gauchos, 39-35, on Halloween night.
In the Division II final at 3 p.m., Hamilton (10-3), which hasn't looked this good since the days of Warren Moon at quarterback in 1973, plays surging Sylmar (11-2), which has scored 70 and 68 points in its last two playoff games.
In the Division III final at 11 a.m., Los Angeles (11-2), a team that was 1-9 last season and hasn't won a City title in 49 years, plays Monroe (11-2), whose 5-foot-8 quarterback, Luis Dorame, has a 4.2 grade-point average and more than 3,500 yards passing. Monroe hasn't been to a final since 1971, when Guy Benjamin was its quarterback.
From Orange County to the Antelope Valley, the championship games should be filled with moments to savor.