The questions, posed to the coaches of five football teams that played both Thousand Oaks and Channel Islands this season, were simple ones.
Which team will win the game for the championship of the Southern Section's Coastal Conference, and why?
The answers, however, were a bit more complex.
George Contreras, coach at Westlake, which defeated Thousand Oaks, 7-6, but lost to Channel Islands, 27-6, put it this way: "One day I go one way, and the next I go the other."
Said Carl Thompson of Camarillo: "If I had to vote, I'd split it one half one way and one half the other. It's that close."
So much for going out on a limb.
The teams met during the regular season with Thousand Oaks winning, 27-6. And what exactly does that mean? Well, that's the subject of some debate.
Harry Welch, whose Canyon team lost to Thousand Oaks, 13-10, and to Channel Islands, 42-6 last week, said the result of the first game is one factor that leads him to favor Thousand Oaks.
"They're playing on their home field and they have confidence in having defeated Channel Islands before," Welch said.
Ken Cook, whose Newbury Park team lost to Thousand Oaks, 38-6, and Channel Islands, 17-6, took the opposite view.
"The team that's been beaten--they're hungry for a second shot," he said. "I'd rather go in as the underdog. Channel Islands has something to prove. It's easier as a coach to get the kids sky-high for the game, although playing for a championship might negate that. If kids aren't high for that, there's something wrong."
Contreras said the game's key matchup was the Thousand Oaks defense versus the Channel Islands offense. "TO has played great defense all year long," he said. "The other side of the coin is that for the last four weeks the Channel Islands offense has been awesome."
Perhaps the teams swapped jerseys when they played Westlake and Camarillo.
Thompson of Camarillo said the key to the game's outcome could well be decided by the battle between Thousand Oaks' offensive line and the Channel Islands defense.
There was a consensus on at least one subject, however. Both teams have outstanding rushing attacks.
John Johnson and E. J. Miller of Channel Islands have combined for 2,466 yards rushing. Johnson, the tailback, has 1,577 yards and 26 touchdowns. Miller has 889 yards from the fullback spot.
Thousand Oaks has Ventura County's all-time leading rusher in tailback Marc Monestime, who has 3,984 yards in his career and 1,596 for the season. The fullback is Mike Moore, who scored three touchdowns the first time the teams met.
"We can debate for ever between Monestime and Johnson and Moore or Miller," Welch said, "but Thousand Oaks has the advantage at quarterback.
"Steve Sisco gives the Lancers a threat running and passing. Sisco has great feet, maturity and a good arm," Welch said. Channel Islands has alternated senior Vince Medina and sophomore Mark Contreras at quarterback this season.
"Sisco could be the deciding factor," Thompson said. "He can run and he's clever."
Field conditions limited Channel Islands' wing-T offense in its last game against the Lancers at Thousand Oaks.
"If it rains, it turns to soup," Cook said of the Lancers home field.
The majority of coaches agreed that similar conditions would again favor Thousand Oaks.
"They run straight ahead and have shown they play well in sloppy conditions," Cook said. "Channel Islands tries to get Johnson outside and on a sloppy field that's tough for him and his linemen."
Said Welch: "If it rains, the advantage goes to Thousand Oaks. If it's a fast track, it shifts to Channel Islands. Their two backs are quicker."
So, with all that said, here were the coaches' picks:
Said Contreras: "I've always said that defense wins championships and TO has played outstanding defense all season long. For some reason I think it's either going to be 10-7 and a tight, defensive struggle, or a 48-42 shoot-out. I don't think it will be a medium-range score."
Said Thompson: "Thousand Oaks may be a little better, but Channel Islands is hot right now. I'd say Thousand Oaks by a touchdown."
Said Welch: "Both teams have very good fullbacks, blue-chip tailbacks, classy and knowledgeable coaching staffs, hard-nosed defenses, good kids in the secondary and big, strong offensive linemen. They have it all. I'd have to go with Thousand Oaks, but it should be very close."
Said Cook: "I watched Thousand Oaks against Palmdale and I thought they played a great game. Then, the next week, I watched Channel Islands destroy Canyon. They're both at the top of their games. If I had to bet, I'd take whichever team I could get points with."