Will Santa Ana Mater Dei finish the season the way it started, as the Southland's No. 1-ranked team? Can Cathedral and Manhattan Beach Mira Costa survive their four-hour road trips and prevail? Will Dwayne DeSpain of Hacienda Heights Los Altos go down in the record books for most titles won by a coach?
These are some of the questions that will be answered Friday and Saturday, when 14 championship games in the City and Southern sections are held.
Here's a look at the matchups:
CITY SECTION DIVISION 4-A
San Pedro (13-0) vs. Woodland Hills Taft (13-0)
Friday at Coliseum, 8 p.m., Channel 58 (KLCS)
There is a changing of the guard in the City Section with relative newcomers San Pedro and Taft meeting after each going through the season without a loss. The teams played in the 3-A final in 1992 with San Pedro winning, 24-7, but both have improved and moved up to 4-A since then. The Pirates lost to Dorsey in last year's 4-A championship game, 10-8. The teams rely heavily on their quarterbacks. San Pedro's Melvin Yarbrough has passed for 1,774 yards and 22 touchdowns; Taft's Nick DiPadova has passed for 2,581 yards and 31 touchdowns.
CITY SECTION DIVISION 3-A
Van Nuys (9-4) vs. Wilson (9-4)
Friday at Coliseum, 5 p.m.
Van Nuys is making its third appearance in a championship game since 1919 and its first since 1981. Wilson, which won four consecutive 3-A titles in the late 1970s, hasn't played in a final since 1983. Wilson usually sets up in a single-back offense, and quarterback Julio Briones, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound first-year starter, has passed for 27 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards. Van Nuys' offense is based on ball control, and senior running back Carlos Mack has rushed for 1,351 yards and 18 touchdowns.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION I
Loyola (12-1) vs. Santa Ana Mater Dei (13-0)
Saturday at Coliseum, 7:40 p.m. Channel 13
Loyola is the last roadblock to the Monarchs' second Division I championship in three years. Loyola will be playing in its second consecutive title game, having lost to Bishop Amat, 14-10, last year. Mater Dei quarterback Nick Stremick and receiver Rod Perry Jr. have been exceptional in the playoffs. Perry has 19 receptions for 417 yards and eight touchdowns, and Stremick has passed for 709 yards and nine touchdowns. For Loyola, Stephen Faulk, who has rushed for 945 yards and 15 touchdowns, and Wesley Willard, who has rushed for 981 yards and six touchdowns, lead a potent running game.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION II
Chino Hills Ayala (11-2) vs. Compton Dominguez (12-1)
Friday at Cerritos College, 7:30 p.m.
If not for an upset by Paramount on Nov. 7, Dominguez might well be playing for the top ranking in the Southland. The Dons have outscored opponents, 496-84. The key is quarterback Jason Thomas, who is also one of the area's top basketball players. Thomas, who sat out the Paramount game for disciplinary reasons, has rushed for 821 yards, has two receptions for 50 yards, 1,326 passing yards and 36 touchdowns, including four on defense. Ayala utilizes a balanced-attack on offense. Quarterback Mike Frost has had several big passes in the playoffs, and running back Matt Johnson had 140 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 30-10 victory over Palmdale Highland.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION III
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (12-1) vs. Camarillo (12-1)
Friday at Camarillo High, 7:30 p.m.
The talents of quarterback Joe Borchard of Camarillo and running back Justin Fargas of Notre Dame will be showcased in a game matching high-scoring teams. Camarillo and Notre Dame each has averaged 44 points a game over the past six weeks. Borchard has passed for 2,675 yards and 29 touchdowns. Fargas has rushed for 2,774 yards and 31 touchdowns. Notre Dame relies on ball control and playing mistake free: Quarterback Jorge Piedra has thrown only two interceptions.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION IV
Corona Centennial (12-1) vs. Alta Loma (12-1)
Friday at University of Redlands, 7:30 p.m.
Making its first appearance in a championship game since the school opened in 1989, Centennial will count on its defense to try to contain Alta Loma's speed. Senior linebacker Shanga Mike Wilson leads the team with 180 tackles. Senior running back Damion Barton has gained 1,910 yards and 25 touchdowns. Alta Loma will try to win its second section title in three years. The offense is led by senior tailback Ighe Evero, who has rushed for 682 yards and six touchdowns, and senior receiver Carlos Bocanegra, who has 44 receptions for 688 yards.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION V
Santa Margarita (12-1) vs. Newport Harbor (12-1)
Saturday at CS Fullerton, 7:30 p.m.
Santa Margarita beat Newport Harbor, 36-22, in a Sea View League contest nearly two months ago, and the rematch should prove to be just as explosive. Newport Harbor led, 22-20, in the second half, but a fumble and a late Santa Margarita drive made the first meeting appear to be more of a wipeout than it was. Running back Ray Ohrel, who gained 272 yards in 34 carries and scored once the first time around, has to be equally sharp, as does Santa Margarita running back Billy Newman, who had 247 yards and two touchdowns in 24 carries.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION VI
Hacienda Heights Los Altos (9-3-1) vs. Hacienda Heights Wilson (13-0)
Friday at Mt. San Antonio College, 7:30 p.m.
In two years, Wilson Coach Tom Caines has taken a team from a 3-7 record to 13-0, and the Wildcats are going for their first football title. Their closest game was a 22-20 victory over Los Altos for the Miramonte League title. Defenses have slowed Percy Arceneaux, who has rushed for 1,680 yards and 16 touchdowns, during the playoffs, but Wilson has successfully countered with fullback Marvin Barrear, who has rushed for 540 yards and eight touchdowns in three playoff games. Los Altos will be shooting for a section-record eighth title under Coach Dwayne DeSpain. Eddie Santos, a middle linebacker who took over the quarterback duties after the sixth week, has passed for 957 yards and nine touchdowns.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION VII
Bloomington (12-1) vs. San Bernardino Pacific (11-1-1)
Saturday at University of Redlands, 7:30 p.m.
Top-seeded Bloomington, which won the Division VIII championship in 1994, has rushed for more than 4,000 yards. Running back Cedric Mullins leads the way with 1,379 yards. David Smith has rushed for 1,329, and John Luna has rushed for 1,044. Looking to win its first Southern Section championship, Pacific has averaged more than 34 points a game in the playoffs.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION VIII
Garden Grove Pacifica (10-3) vs. Aliso Viejo Aliso Niguel (13-0)
Friday at Orange Coast College, 7 p.m.
Top-seeded Aliso Niguel was expected to be here, but Pacifica wasn't supposed to make it out of a first-round game against third-seeded Laguna Hills. The Mariners, who began the playoffs as an at-large entry after finishing fourth in the Garden Grove League, have momentum and maybe destiny on their side. Pacifica's J.D. Stern has passed for 2,274 yards and 18 touchdowns. Aliso Niguel has outscored its playoff opponents, 92-16.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION IX
Atascadero (10-3) vs. Mira Costa (10-3)
Saturday at Atascadero High, 7:30 p.m.
Lightning struck near Atascadero High on Monday, forcing Coach Larry Welsh to stop practice. That is about the only thing stopping the Greyhounds, who have won three consecutive Division IX championships. Quarterback Ryan Canfield has passed for 1,294 yards and nine touchdowns and Treyvon Russell has rushed for 1,531 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Mustangs, who are in the final for the third time in the past four years, have scored 40 or more points in seven of their last eight games and accumulated 5,003 yards in offense. Kevin Cooper has passed for 2,469 yards and 36 touchdowns.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION X
Ojai Nordhoff (12-0-1) vs. Ventura St. Bonaventure (11-1-1)
Saturday at Nordhoff High, 7:30 p.m.
The all-Ventura County matchup features the division's first- and third-seeded teams in Nordhoff and St. Bonaventure, respectively. Nordhoff is making its second title-game appearance in the last three years, having lost to Atascadero in the Division IX final in 1994. Russell Farrar leads the Rangers in rushing with 1,507 yards and 11 touchdowns. St. Bonaventure features the tandem of Teohua Sanchez and Pepe Villasenor. Sanchez has passed for 2,822 yards and 25 touchdowns, and Villasenor has 103 receptions for 1,192 yards and 13 touchdowns.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION XI
Cathedral (12-1) vs. Yucca Valley (7-6)
Friday at Yucca Valley High, 7:30 p.m.
Cathedral is making its first appearance in a title game since 1930. Second-year Coach Kevin Pearson has quickly turned things around for a team that hadn't won a league title in 16 years. The Phantoms use a wing T offense modeled after the one used by Bloomington. Sebastian Castellon and Chris Hanks each has rushed for more than 2,000 yards. Yucca Valley has the worst record of any team in the finals, but Coach Mark Beckham attributes that to a tough early schedule and several injuries. Things have also turned around since Kevin Lesko was moved from receiver to quarterback a month ago.
SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION XII
Redlands Arrowhead Christian (13-0) vs. Hesperia Christian (10-3)
Sat. at Hesperia Sultana High, 7:30 p.m.
In the first year of the new division, Hesperia Christian will play Arrowhead Christian in a rematch. Arrowhead won the Christian League game, 38-12, on Oct. 19. Hesperia Christian wingback Phil Kudrle has 1,158 yards and 15 touchdowns and is also one of the team's leading tacklers. Arrowhead Christian, making its first championship appearance at the 11-man level, is led by junior wing back Trevor Wilson, who set a school record with 39 touchdowns and 26 two-point conversions while rushing for 1,985 yards.
Staff writers Eric Shepard, Paige Leech, Mike Terry, Steve Henson, Dave McKibben, Paul McLeod and correspondent Sean Waters contributed to this report.