If Corona Centennial claims its third Inland Division title in four years this week, it can look back to Friday's 42-23 semifinal victory over Chino Hills as the bridge that got it there.
For the first time this season, the Huskies did not blow out an opponent and actually trailed for most of the first half before scoring two touchdowns in the last minute of the first half. But mistakes in the second half, coupled with the strong play of Chino Hills running back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, meant Centennial couldn't relax until the closing minutes.
"We needed something like this to happen," Centennial Coach Matt Logan said.
Huskies quarterback Michael Eubank, one of the most recruited players in the Southland, struggled at times but came through when needed. He played a decisive role in orchestrating the hurry-up offense to perfection at the end of the first half, connecting on four consecutive passes to find the end zone as time expired. He finished with 205 yards passing and and rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown.
"It wasn't his best game … but I was really happy with how he ran the ball in the second half," Logan said. "He kept his composure on a difficult night when things weren't always going our way."
Beating opponents by an average of more than 35 points per game may seem like a good problem to have, but Logan wanted his team to face a challenge before it had to play with a championship at stake.
"The game has helped us become a better team," Logan said.
Sacramento Grant was the heavy favorite to be selected as Northern California's representative to the CIF Division II bowl until it was upset by Folsom, 41-20, in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title game Friday.
Grant, which began last week as the top-ranked team in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, had defeated Folsom on national television in August and was expected to cruise to what would have been its second bowl-game appearance..
Folsom is the new front-runner to earn a Division II bowl berth and it probably will play Gardena Serra, provided the Cavaliers win the Western Division title next weekend.
Mission Viejo and two-time bowl champion Concord De La Salle remain on pace to meet in the Open Division bowl. Centennial is favored to play Central Coast Section Open Division champion Palo Alto in the Division I bowl.
Valley Center of the San Diego Section is the top contender for Southern California's Division III bowl selection and it probably will play the winner of the North Coast Section Division III title or Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV champion Escalon.
As for the Small Schools Division, it will not be clear who is on the short list of contenders until after next weekend's title games.
The gutsy play of the week should go to Whittier Christian, which went for a game-winning two-point conversion in a 43-42 overtime win over Granada Hills Village Christian in a Mid-Valley Division semifinal.
"I asked the kids if they were all right with going for two, and they were," said Coach Sergio Gradilla, who called a timeout to discuss the decision with his players. "I wanted to make sure they were all in on it."
Moments later, Grant Escobar was in the end zone, diving across the goal line after being hit two or three yards out.
The Heralds advanced to a division title game for the first time since 1990.
San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret's streak of four division titles came to an end with a 38-21 loss to Lancaster Paraclete in the East Valley Division semifinals. … Bishop moved closer to claiming its first Southern Section title since 1957 with a 44-14 victory over Pasadena Poly in a Northeast Division semifinal. … Chatsworth rallied with 21 consecutive points before Curtis Ervin scored on a seven-yard run in overtime in the Chancellors' 35-28 victory over Palisades in a City Section Division II semifinal. … Daniel Rodriguez rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown and Elsinore upset previously undefeated Kaiser, 20-12, in an Eastern Division semifinal.