The inaugural CIF State Football Championship Bowl Games, which take place Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, have been criticized for the format used to select the six participating teams and for extending the high school season an extra week.
But Bill Redell, coach of Westlake Village Oaks Christian, the Southern California representative in the Division III game, defended the format Monday during a luncheon at the stadium.
"Playing these three games are a big plus for California high school football," Redell said. "I think it should have been done a long time ago.
"I'm sure there are some bugs they have to work out and make it better. But you can't do anything until you get it started."
Santa Rosa Cardinal Newman (13-1), the Class 3A champion from the North Coast Section, is eager to get the season's final chance against Oaks Christian (14-0), which has won 45 games in a row.
"For us, it's a big adventure to come down here and do something," Principal Graham Rutherford said. "At this point, we're just trying to get it all figured out."
As Redell noted, there were plenty of fans who wanted to see Oaks Christian, ranked No. 2 in the state by calhisports.com, play No. 1 Concord De La Salle.
But De La Salle's Bob Ladouceur and Redell have faced each other, as coaches, in the 1988 Shrine all-star game.
"I remember he had a lot of talented kids on his team then," Ladouceur said. "As I remember, they beat us 24-7."
Harry Welch, coach of Canyon Country Canyon (11-2), doesn't expect his players to be overwhelmed by De La Salle (13-0), which won 151 games in a row in before losing on Sept. 5, 2004, to Bellevue, Wash.
Nonetheless, Welch expressed more than a passing admiration for the Spartans.
"The name 'De La Salle' lingers, it haunts and it intimidates," Welch said. "They are disciplined, play with marvelous enthusiasm, and they're better drilled than some Division I college teams."
Wasn't it just a few years ago that Orange Lutheran (13-1) was struggling to win a Southern Section Division XI title? And now they are the Pac-5 champions and Southern California's representative to the Division II game against Palo Alto (12-1).
"It has been a steady climb over 14 years with regard to the level we're playing at," Coach Jim Kunau said. "The thing we've kept our focus on is the values we try to teach on a daily basis. That's not changed one iota."