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For some in Southern Section championships, it’s a last hurrah with childhood teammates

San Marino quarterback Carson Glazier, left, and receiver J.P. Shohfi have been best friends since grade school.

San Marino quarterback Carson Glazier, left, and receiver J.P. Shohfi have been best friends since grade school.

(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

There was a luncheon this week for representatives from the football teams that will be playing for championships in the Southern Section’s 13 divisions. It was a nice event where everyone gets to feel good, feel appreciated, feel that they are on equal footing.

In truth, nothing is equal. That was obvious two hours before the buffet, when Pac-5 Division coaches and players from Corona Centennial and Bellflower St. John Bosco were the only ones present. A door was closed to prevent interruptions.

“It’s for TV,” Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons said.

Yes, that’s what it’s come down to. It’s about money. Without money, there are no sports teams. Everyone gets it.

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Television runs college and pro sports and it’s influencing high school sports too. Centennial versus St. John Bosco is a great matchup of teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 nationally by several organizations. Their rosters are filled with future college players. Top players have found their way to Bellflower and Corona wanting exposure and great coaching. It’s all part of the choices available to parents in 2015.

But let’s not forget the true mission of high school sports.

The vast majority of the athletes won’t be playing competitively beyond their senior year. These championship games are their last hurrah. Their journey navigating the ups and downs of sports competition is supposed to help prepare them for adulthood.

In this era of transfers and schools building all-star teams, everyone needs an occasional reminder of what high school sports used to be like. There are still communities hanging on to old-school values.

San Marino, which is 13-0, has a group of seniors that mostly has been together since elementary school. They’ve shared cupcakes at youth games, splashed at neighborhood pool parties, blown out candles at birthdays and competed in ping-pong, soccer, basketball and flag football.

Now they’re playing for the Central Division championship Saturday night against Covina Charter Oak at Citrus College.

“It’s awesome,” San Marino receiver J.P. Shohfi said. “Being able to play with them my whole life creates a special team.”

Added quarterback Carson Glazier, “We’re all homegrown San Marino guys.”

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At San Clemente, standout lineman Tucker Scott soon will be playing college football for Utah, but the Southwest Division championship game against La Habra on Friday night at Cerritos College means he’ll be playing for the team he has been watching since second grade.

“It’s been an awesome experience,” he said.

Coach Jaime Ortiz joked that “there’s programs out there where you need a GPS device to keep track of kids coming and going.

“Our motto is one town, one team. Kids grow up wanting to be a Triton.”

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Camarillo’s 13-0 team has a core group of players who’ve known each other since kickball and tetherball days. In the school-of-choice era, they made one choice: to stick with their friends.

“It’s fun going out there with your buddies knowing you’ve come this far with each other,’' receiver Ryan Muscarella said. “You’ve been dreaming about it since you were a little kid trying to get to this level, and now we’re here.”

Camarillo hosts Thousand Oaks on Friday in the Northern Division final.

“We’ve been playing basketball and football since we were 8 or 9,” Camarillo quarterback Jake Constantine said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

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Added linebacker Brett Herron: “We’ve all had dreams we’d do something together. It’s awesome it’s actually happening.”

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATSondheimer


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