Concord De La Salle always puts on its calendar a yearly bus trip to Southern California or Sacramento to play in a CIF state championship bowl game.
That’s what happens when you’ve won 28 consecutive North Coast Section football titles. The only change is that De La Salle (12-1) is no longer beating up on Southern California opponents, having lost three consecutive bowl games.
The Spartans figure to be the underdog again on Dec. 14 when they face Southern Section Division 1 champion Bellflower St. John Bosco (12-1) for the Open Division championship at Cerritos College.
De La Salle and St. John Bosco have met for the championship in 2013 and 2016. Each time the Braves prevailed. The games have been intense, entertaining and full of big plays.
State bowl pairings were announced on Sunday. While St. John Bosco and De La Salle have byes this week, the other section champions will be playing regional bowl games on Friday and Saturday while seeking to advance to state championship bowl games on Dec. 13 and 14. The matchups are based on competitive equity.
Four teams from the City Section — Lake Balboa Birmingham (Open Division champion), Reseda (Division I), Canoga Park (Division II) and Gardena (Division III) — will make their debuts in the state playoffs.
“It’s a great opportunity and amazing experience,” Reseda coach Alonso Arreola said.
Birmingham is hosting Oxnard Pacifica in a Division 2-A game Saturday. Canoga Park is at South Torrance on Friday in Division 6-AA. Reseda plays Anaheim Esperanza on Saturday at Yorba Linda in 5-A. Gardena is at San Diego Francis Parker on Friday in Division 7-AA. Games kick off at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday.
Chatsworth Sierra Canyon earned the second-highest bowl berth from the Southern Section and will be at La Mesa Helix, the San Diego Section Open Division champion, on Friday night in Division 1-AA. Corona del Mar will play Oceanside in Division 1-A on Saturday at Newport Harbor.
One champion chose not to participate in the bowl games — unbeaten Crescenta Valley (14-0). The Southern Section Division 10 champion turned down an invitation for safety reasons, coach Hudson Gossard said.
“It really came down to the health of the team and not feeling we could put a team out there in a way that was in the best interest of the health of the players,” he said.
Players were informed of the decision on Saturday after consultations with the school administration. Gossard also received input from players. Gossard said his entire starting offensive line has been dealing with injuries, and many of his players go both ways.
“We just felt, ‘Hey, 14 games for a high school season is a lot. It’s taxing.’ We felt it wasn’t in the best interest health wise for the team.”
St. John Bosco came back from a 23-point first-half deficit to stun unbeaten Santa Ana Mater Dei 39-34 before 9,933 at Cerritos College on Saturday night to earn its bowl berth.
Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei passed for a school-record 444 yards and five touchdowns to help the Braves avenge a 38-24 loss in Trinity League play to the Monarchs. Sophomore Nathan Burrell recorded two sacks and intercepted a Bryce Young pass after tipping it up from his defensive end position.
St. John Bosco fans ran onto the field after Kris Hutson made an interception in the end zone on the game’s final play. The Braves have reached the Division 1 final seven consecutive years under coach Jason Negro, winning three times.