CARSON -- At long last, everyone knows. The secret is out.
The showdowns for next weekend's CIF football state championship bowl games were revealed Sunday afternoon at the Home Depot Center. For the most part, things went according to plan as several highly anticipated matchups came to fruition. The waiting game was merely a formality for some teams. There were, however, more than a few surprises along the way.
“There are always some surprises with the bowl selections and this year is no different from the rest,'' said Mark Tennis, deputy sports editor for ESPNHS.
Westlake Village Westlake (14-0) faces Concord De La Salle (12-1) in the Open Division on Saturday at 8 p.m, as expected. All signs pointed to this marquee game being one of those classic no-brainer type of decisions for the panel of 10 section commissioners.
All of the games will take place at the Home Depot Center.
The Warriors will be making their first state bowl appearance.
The Spartans, on the other hand, are no strangers to making a deep run during postseason play. The perennial powerhouse from Northern California boasts a 3-2 record in bowl games, which includes a 48-8 victory over Anaheim Servite in the Open Division final last year.
“Our goal all year long was to make it to a bowl game,'' Westlake junior quarterback Justin Moore said before learning the Warriors secured a berth. “We worked hard in the spring and summer. To win it all would be something I can could tell my grandchildren some day.''
Things were not quite as easy to determine in the Division I bowl, where Santa Margarita (12-2) and San Jose Bellarmine (12-1) will meet on Friday at 8 p.m.
Some were under the impression that Vista Murrieta (9-5) was worthy of a selection after the Broncos won the Southern Section Inland Division title this past weekend. Moreover, their five losses were by forfeit for using an ineligible player earlier in the season, a violation the school self-reported to the section office.
Nevertheless, Santa Margarita will represent the Southland.
“All we ever wanted is a chance to win the state title, it's something everyone on this team has dreamed out and worked hard for,'' said Santa Margarita's Max Tuerk, a USC commit. “We have been focused since Day 1. If we play our game, we are tough to beat.''
Not to be outdone, Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (14-0) was rewarded for its rather remarkable run over the course of the past couple of months. The upstart Trailblazers from the San Fernando Valley, will play Le Grand (12-0) in Friday's Division IV bowl at 4 p.m.
In the Division II bowl, Moreno Valley Rancho Verde (14-0) was left on the outside looking in after winning the Southern Section Central Division championship.
Behind venerable coach Troy Starr, San Diego Helix (12-1) plays Loomis Del Oro (13-1) on Saturday at 4 p.m. As most might remember, Starr was the head coach at Woodland Hills Taft before his current stint with the Highlanders. Chances are, Rancho Verde wishes he would have stayed with the Toreadors based on the fact that Helix received the nod.
There was also controversy in the Division III bowl selections as Fresno Washington Union (13-0) and Moraga Campolindo (13-0) are scheduled to meet Saturday at noon. There was sentiment that Lompoc (14-0), which won the Southern Section's Northwest Division championship and is riding a 20-game winning streak, would have been a good representative for the South.
With that, the wait is finally over. After weeks and weeks of speculation, for some, months and months of banter, the bowl games are set. All that remains is for the respective teams to line up next weekend at the Home Depot Center and decide things once and for all.
Friday, Dec. 16
Division IV: Sierra Canyon (14-0) vs. Le Grand (12-0), 4 p.m.
Division I: Santa Margarita (12-2) vs. San Jose Bellarmine (12-1), 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 17
Division III: Fresno Washington (13-0) vs. Moraga Campolindo (14-0), noon
Division II: La Mesa Helix (12-1) vs. Loomis Del Oro (13-1), 4 p.m.
Open Division: Westlake (14-0) vs. Concord De La Salle (12-1), 8 p.m.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.