It took seven weeks of games, but barring any major injuries, it's clear high school football has a Fab Four this season: Bellflower St. John Bosco (7-0), Santa Ana Mater Dei (7-0), Gardena Serra (7-0) and Mission Viejo (7-0).
There are other quality unbeaten teams, such as Rancho Cucamonga (7-0) and Newhall Hart (7-0). And 19-time champion Long Beach Poly (7-1) can never be underestimated.
But the Fab Four have separated themselves in a number of ways.
First, each has a quarterback playing at a high level. Josh Rosen (St. John Bosco), Chase Forrest (Mater Dei), Jalen Greene (Serra) and Ian Fieber (Mission Viejo) are passing tests in dealing with pressure, expectations and performance.
Each team has a true standout rising up to set an example for others. At Mater Dei, it's defensive back-receiver Jonathan Lockett. At St. John Bosco, it's defensive back-running back Jaleel Wadood. At Serra, it's running back-cornerback Adoree' Jackson. At Mission Viejo, it's defensive end Michael Mathewes.
To win a championship, depth is a must, and the four teams have had backups make important contributions. Who would have thought Serra could get this far after losing its best running back, Malik Roberson (torn knee ligament), in the spring?
Look how well Mater Dei has done while waiting for the versatile Ben Humphreys to return. Backup QB Andrew Katnik bailed out the Braves for two games without Rosen. And Mission Viejo has an 82-man roster, giving Coach Bob Johnson plenty of options.
In the coming weeks, three of the Fab Four will be tested. Serra passed its big challenge Friday, routing West Hills Chaminade, 36-0. The Cavaliers are the most likely of the Fab Four to go 14-0.
Mission Viejo gets its toughest South Coast League game Friday at home against Tesoro (6-1). St. John Bosco and Mater Dei are on a collision course to meet Nov. 1 at St. John Bosco, where there probably aren't enough seats to handle the many who will want to attend that game.
Then, you don't need a crystal ball to figure out what's going to happen. The Pac-5 playoffs will bring together Mission Viejo, St. John Bosco, Mater Dei and Poly. Then, the CIF state championship Southern California bowl game will match the Pac-5 champion against Serra. And the winner surely will take on Concord De La Salle at StubHub Center in Carson on Dec. 21.
There is a lot of exciting football still to be played, but knocking off the Fab Four from the pedestal won't be easy.
Preparing for test
For all the importance of preparing for a football game with practices and meetings, the most important test for running back Jacob Knight of Crenshaw is Saturday's SAT. If he can score well, he could be headed to Harvard, Yale or Dartmouth.
"It means a lifetime for him," Coach Robert Garrett said. "He's been studying pretty hard."
Said Knight: "I want people to know that neighborhood kids have great potential. It doesn't matter where you live."
Garrett will even offer Knight a couple of days off from football practice this week if that's what it takes to prepare for his biggest exam of the season.