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  By MARK TENNIS |   Whether there is a regional bowl game, open divisions in every section, or just about any other...


  Whether there is a regional bowl game, open divisions in every section, or just about any other tweak in format, the one factor for Northern California football that may never change is the dominance of De La Salle-Concord.

  The Spartans, who have won 21 straight North Coast Section titles, are heavy favorites to be unbeaten once again heading into this year’s CIF Northern California Open Division bowl game. They are going for their fifth straight state title and haven’t lost to a NorCal opponent (if you don’t count Fresno as being from NorCal) since 1991. 

  The CIF itself also has contributed to a lack of much suspense for the Northern California bowl games in the Open Division and Division I since there are just four teams that will be eligible for the four slots. In addition to De La Salle or whichever team wins from the NCS, the other three teams will be the Central Coast Section Open Division winner plus the Division I and Division II winners from the Sac-Joaquin Section. 

  One year ago, it was Sac-Joaquin Div. II champ Folsom that took a crack at DLS in the open division. And if the Bulldogs (with 15 returning starters) get past Granite Bay early on, they’ll most likely be in that game again with the CCS Open Division champ playing the Sac-Joaquin Div. I champ once again.

  Because of De La Salle and that format, analyzing the various CIF bowl divisions for Northern California becomes much more challenging for Division II, Division III and Division IV. 

  In Division II, can a team other than from the NCS or SJS get into the bowl game? Due to the CCS having its own open division and the Northern Section not being traditionally strong, that’s not likely. Therefore, squads like Oakdale, Vista del Lago, Inderkum and American Canyon from the SJS and Clayton Valley Charter-Clayton, Rancho Cotate-Rohnert Park and Casa Grande-Petaluma from the NCS should all be in the mix. 

  In Division III, you can slot the NCS champion as one of the two NorCal bowl teams right now. El Cerrito, the favorite to win that title, is one of the most talent-laden squads in the region regardless of class. But the Gauchos are no guarantee in the NCS with Marin Catholic-Kentfield and Cardinal Newman-Santa Rosa still looming. Sutter earned the other NorCal bowl bid in the division last year, but doesn’t figure to be as strong. The CCS could be a factor, especially if Carmel (loaded with top skill players) can get past Palma-Salinas in an early game. 

  Finally, in Division IV, that’s the one that gets confusing because of the SJS Div. IV bracket. If a school such as Central Catholic-Modesto or Capital Christian-Sacramento can come through and win that title, then that team (as history shows) has a very good chance of going all the way and winning the CIF Div. IV bowl game. If those two lose in the playoffs “” and remember that teams have to win a section title to be eligible for a CIF bowl game “” then that opens the door for others. On that list of contenders would be those from a smaller division in the SJS, such as Le Grand and Brookside Christian-Stockton, or those from other sections, such as McClymonds-Oakland and Ferndale.

  Mark Tennis is the co-founder of Cal-Hi Sports, and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports is the authority in state rankings for football, basketball, baseball and softball, as well as the recognized state record keeper for all high school sports. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter, @CalHiSports.

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