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Carlos Rivera and Birmingham are in position to win City football title

Carlos Rivera of Birmingham is a four-year starter and has come back from a broken collarbone this season.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

Carlos Rivera, a four-year starter for Lake Balboa Birmingham’s football team, looks at the City Section Open Division championship game against San Pedro on Saturday at Pierce College as the culmination of a period in which he faced adversity and learned plenty.

It was last spring when he suffered a broken collarbone in the first game of the shortened COVID-19 season after months of preparation. It sent him to the sideline and forced him to watch in disappointment while trying to recover to make sure his senior season would not go to waste.

He has been a key player for the Patriots at offensive tackle and defensive tackle. At 6 feet 3 and 285 pounds, Rivera has taken advantage of his size, experience and strength. Has this season made up for last spring?

“It doesn’t really make up for it, but it gave me a chance to bounce back,” he said. “I’m 100% healthy and ready to play in this championship game.”

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Birmingham (7-5) started the season 0-5 against Southern Section teams, but has routed every City Section opponent during a seven-game winning streak. The defense has stopped the run in recent weeks behind linebacker Delamonte Barnes, and the offense is flourishing behind receiver Arlis Boardingham.

San Pedro has the size up front to challenge the Patriots, especially if the Pirates can get the ball to their playmaker, receiver Robert Sarmiento.

Rivera’s presence and experience could give the Patriots an edge. When he’s healthy, he’s very effective, and right now he’s feeling more than good.

He said the first five losses were because of Birmingham’s failure to come together as a team. He offered no excuses. But now, he says, “We finally came together at the end.”

Floyd Chalk running wild: There’s no running back in Southern California on a bigger tear than senior Floyd Chalk of Mission Hills Bishop Alemany.

Running behind a powerful offensive line, Chalk is up to 1,566 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns. Last week against Inglewood, he had 231 yards rushing and five touchdowns. Against La Puente Bishop Amat in another playoff game, he had 293 yards rushing and five touchdowns.

Bishop Alemany plays host to Orange Lutheran on Saturday in the Southern Section Division 2 championship game.

The Warriors’ running attack has been so good that fellow running back Jaylen Thompson is also closing in on 1,000 yards, with 922 yards.

Bowl games: Every Southern Section and City Section football champion will advance to next weekend’s Southern California regional bowl games.

Former football coach Jim Fenwick comes back from a second bone-marrow transplant 17 years after the first one thanks to granddaughter Kyleigha.

Teams and pairings will be announced on Sunday afternoon by the CIF. The Open Division selections will have a bye next week into the championship game on Dec. 11 at Saddleback College. Saddleback College will host five CIF state championship bowl games.

National attention: The California School for the Deaf in Riverside has been receiving lots of attention while trying to win its first football championship and will play Canoga Park Faith Baptist on Saturday at JW North High in Riverside for the Southern Section Division 2 eight-man championship.

Players and coaches all use sign language to communicate during games.

Going for No. 20: Long Beach Poly is seeking the school’s 20th football title in the Division 4 championship game at La Cañada St. Francis on Saturday night.


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