Preview: Culver City at Arroyo Grande

At the beginning of the football season, there were not many observers predicting that Arroyo Grande and Culver City would be meeting in Friday night's CIF-Southern Section Western Division title game.

Back in early September, the so-called experts and fair-weathered fans, alike, appeared to be under the assumption the championship would ultimately be decided in a matchup between perennial powerhouse Gardena Serra and the Cavaliers' heir apparent, West Hills Chaminade.

Sante Fe Springs St. Paul and La Canada St Francis were a pair of programs also considered as threats in the grand scheme. That is, of course, during the early stages of the year. Shortly thereafter, Santa Monica and Ventura emerged as players in the postseason race.

Nevertheless, Arroyo Grande and Culver City stayed the course. A victory is the only thing separating both programs from winning it all, and finally, silencing the skepticism.

In retrospect, perhaps the Eagles (12-1) should have been given a bit more credit. After all, they lost to Serra in the title game last season and returned several skill-position players.

It begins, and ends, with Brent Vanderveen. The 6-foot-4, 205-plus pound senior quarterback has completed more than 57 percent of his passes for 2,244 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Oregon State commit threw for 140 yards and three scores last week against Chaminade.

His main target has been Garrett Owens. The fellow upperclassman has 758 yards receiving and six touchdowns. Owens also plays on the defensive side of the ball. In addition, he is considered one of the Southland's top kickers. Several colleges are interested in his services.

On the ground, senior Henry Adelman has gained 1,120 yards rushing and scored 16 touchdowns. He is another one of the many Eagles players who plays on defense as well.

Lastly, and arguably most important, Seth Jacobs anchors things from his linebacker position while the offense takes time to rest. The 6-1, 205-pound senior is one of the more sought-after recruits in California. Jacobs has scholarships on the table from seemingly every Pac-12 Conference program. Arkansas and Oklahoma State are in the mix too.

With that, it appears as if the odds are stacked against the Centaurs (10-3). They finished third in the Ocean League, behind first-place Santa Monica and runner-up Inglewood.

Culver City, in fact, ended up receiving an at-large berth in the playoffs, and started the postseason with an upset of top-seeded Serra.

As the old adage states: It's not where you start, but where you finish.

Vanderveen's counterpart, Lukas O’Connor, is not nearly as well-known. The senior has been equally effective, however. He has passed for 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns thus far. His 324 yards and three touchdowns were the difference against Santa Monica in the semifinals.

O'Connor's supporting cast includes Kevin Porche, who has amassed more than 1,000 yards of total offense and scored 11 touchdowns. Alex Jackson is another player to keep an eye on. He has 49 catches for 999 yards and 12 touchdowns. Akili Skannal has 577 yards rushing.

Both teams enter the showdown with plenty of momentum. And both have plenty to prove. Seemingly no one gave the Eagles or Centaurs much of a chance earlier this season. And now the time has come for one of them to prove the all of the naysayers wrong.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.