The Pac-5 Division has been long considered the strongest in Southern California football. In the five years of CIF state championship bowl games, the Pac-5 champion has been chosen four times to play at the Home Depot Center.
This season, the debate is going to be loud and furious about whether the Inland Division champion deserves to be chosen over the Pac-5.
There are two bowl games available (Division I and Open Division) among the champions from the City Section and the Pac-5, Inland and Northern divisions. Westlake Village Westlake is 12-0 and the leading candidate to represent Southern California for the Open Division bowl game if it wins the Northern Division. The Division I bowl game should come down to the Pac-5 or Inland champion based on strength of schedule.
The 10 section commissioners who choose the bowl participants put great emphasis on strength of schedule and also use common opponents to separate teams. And two influential regular season games could leave the Pac-5 champion out and the Inland Division champion in.
Those games were Redlands East Valley defeating Mission Viejo and Corona Centennial knocking off Santa Ana Mater Dei.
The four remaining Pac-5 teams — Mission Viejo (10-2), Santa Margarita (10-2), San Clemente (11-1) and Tesoro (8-4) — are going to have a difficult time overcoming the effect of those losses when comparing the four remaining Inland teams — Centennial (11-1), Upland (12-0), Vista Murrieta (7-5, with five forfeits) and Rancho Cucamonga (11-1).
If Mission Viejo wins the Pac-5, the Diablos lost to Redlands East Valley, which lost to Rancho Cucamonga, which may lose to Centennial. If Santa Margarita wins, the Eagles lost to Mater Dei, which lost to Centennial, which may win the Inland.
If San Clemente wins, the Tritons lost to Mission Viejo, which lost to Redlands East Valley, which lost to Rancho Cucamonga, which lost to Upland, which could win the Inland Division and be 14-0.
Tesoro, with four losses, would be an unlikely pick for a bowl game.
San Clemente is the one Pac-5 school with a chance to reverse its lone defeat if it gets a rematch against Mission Viejo in the Pac-5 final.
"I think this year both divisions are, at the very least, very comparable," Centennial Coach Matt Logan said.
Tesoro's 24-20 upset of No. 1-seeded Anaheim Servite in the Pac-5 Division quarterfinals caught many by surprise. But Tesoro Coach Brian Barnes had confidence in his players to come back from a 20-3 halftime deficit.
"The way our kids have improved this year, I'm so proud of them," he said.
Blake Rodgers, known more for playing linebacker, took over at running back because of an injury and ran 51 yards for a decisive touchdown.