By Gary Montgomery
BVN Staff Writer
Fans of the Collegiate Bowl Championship Series must love what the CIF has concocted. CIF's version of the Bowl Championship Series has all of the same drama, intrigue and second guessing as its big brother, using a near identical version of the NCAA's system. The CIF Bowl selection committee calls a huddle after the section championships are decided, they toss the top seven team names in a hat and pluck out a winner. Not exactly, but that's what some fans from the LA City Section suggested as they lobbied for LA's Birmingham High School to get the nod.
Other teams considered were Bakersfield, El Dorado, J.W. North, Long Beach Poly and Poway of the San Diego Section. But in the end Corona Centennial (13-2) got the invite primarily on the strength of their regular season schedule which included perennial powerhouse Santa Ana Mater Dei. Mater Dei gave the Huskies their only loss of the season in a shoot-out that saw Centennial roll-up over 600-yards of offense in a 37-51 loss. At the time Mater Dei was ranked number 2 in the state pools.
After losing to Mater Dei, the Huskies steamed through the remainder of the season averaging 51-points per game while holding opponents to an average of 9-points per game. Centennial became the first Inland Empire school to play for the State Championship in only its second year back after an eighty year hiatus. In 2005, the CIF competion committe proposed a return of the State Championships and launched the inaugural game last season. Canyon Country, the 2006 winner upset Concord De La Salle 27-13 in the Division I title game.
With the Northern California fans for some reason chanting Beat LA, (Obviously not knowing where Corona was) the Spartans proceeded to try and run Centennial out of the arena by building a 24-7 half-time lead. De La Salle's spread offense and precision passing attack seemed to have the Huskies completely baffled. Not to help matters, Centennial turned the ball over three times in the first half, all leading to Spartans touchdowns.
Concord De La Salle is one of the most respected and revered programs in the country. They are always rated at or near the top of the prep polls. During former UCLA and current Jacksonville Jaguars star Maurice Drew's senior season, the Spartans ran up a 151 game wining streak. No high school football program in California has had more success and after losing in the Championship game last season the Spartans were set for revenge.
Not only was Centennial facing an experienced opponent with a chip on its shoulder, but it also needed to prove that their selection was warranted. The Huskies stormed out in the second half and scored 17 unanswered points to tie the game at 31-31. "We are a second half team. We came here to play and we proved that we belonged here," said senior linebacker Jerry Hardeman.
Late in the fourth quarter Ryan Bass slashed of tackle and broke a 65-yard scamper to the end zone but the play was nullified by a holding call. Two plays later a second holding call stalled the drive and gave the ball back to the Spartans who would score the go ahead touchdown with 5:09 left in the game making the score 31-37 after missing the extra point conversion.
"We made some key mistakes at crucial times in the game. They don't need that kind of help. They are too good to give them that kind of help, said Centennial coach Matt Logan.
Down by only 6-points, Centennial had a chance to win the game on its final drive. With the ball inside the Spartan 30-yard line the Huskies failed on a fourth down attempt and turned the ball over on downs ending their hopes of a State Championship for this season.
"We wanted to win a state championship. We played our hearts out, but it didn't happen," said Huskies receiver Ricky Marvray. Marvray's two second half touchdowns keyed the Huskies exciting come from behind effort.
"We started out a little bit slow and probably got too far behind. We haven't played a tough game like this where we had to go all the way since the Mater Dei game. That could have hurt us a little," said Huskies quarterback Matt Scott. "We played hard and represented the IE. They are a great team and you can't take anything away from them," continued Scott.
The CIF competition committee will meet next week to determine the future of the Bowl Championship Series. Although, there is no indication which way the committee might vote, it would be a shame to see the Championship Series go away for other 80-years.
GMontgomery can be reached @ firstname.lastname@example.org