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Canyon to play powerful De La Salle in bowl game

Cowboys will face the nation's top-ranked team in inaugural CIF state Division I title matchup on Saturday.

December 11, 2006|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

Canyon Country Canyon was a big winner Saturday with its last-second victory over Moorpark, and it was a big winner Sunday when it was selected to be Southern California's Division I representative in the inaugural CIF State Football Championship Bowl Games on Saturday.

Canyon (11-2) emerged from a pool of nine teams that included unbeaten Riverside North (14-0) and Carlsbad (12-0-1) and once-beaten Clovis East (12-1), which decisively avenged its only narrow loss by beating rival Fresno Clovis West, 33-14, in the Central Section championship game.

Canyon was chosen by 10 section commissioners of the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs high school sports in the state. The commissioners met Sunday at the Home Depot Center for about 3 1/2 hours to determine North and South representatives from Divisions I, II and III.

Southern Section teams were awarded all three bids for the South. Pac-5 Division champion Orange Lutheran (13-1) and Northwest Division champion Oaks Christian (14-0) will be in the Divisions II and III games

The South Division I choice generated the most debate, but Ken Gunn, director of the games, said that in the end Canyon's strength of schedule was the determining factor.

Canyon had nonleague games against Moorpark (11-3), Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (11-1), Ventura St. Bonaventure (10-2), West Hills Chaminade (9-4) and Encino Crespi (6-5), and it had playoff victories over Rio Mesa (10-2) and Westlake (12-1).

Canyon's losses were to Notre Dame, 18-17, and St. Bonaventure, 21-14, in the Cowboys' second and third games. It beat Moorpark twice, including Saturday's 24-22 victory on the strength of Chris Chapman's 18-yard field goal with 7.8 seconds left.

"We played two very, very strong teams while we were trying to get ourselves together," Coach Harry Welch said. "We feel we were within two plays of being undefeated."

Canyon, which once won 46 consecutive games under Welch, will face the standard-bearer for California high school football, five-time mythical national champion Concord De La Salle (13-0), which once won 151 consecutive games and currently has a state-record 41-game playoff winning streak in the North Coast Section.

"The person at the top of coaching legends, who's actively coaching, is Bob Ladouceur," Welch said. "To go against him, to have our Canyon Cowboys go against the No. 1 team in the nation, according to USA Today, is an honor and thrill. We're banged and bruised, but we're very happy to be representing our community."

The criteria for choosing teams were record, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and common opponents. Only two of eight undefeated teams were selected, and it was apparent that strength of schedule carried more weight than a team's record.

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martin.henderson@latimes.com

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