Here are the top 10 rankings for this division in Southern California by Cal-Hi Sports after all section championships are complete (previous ranking in parentheses; teams with asterisk are ineligible for bowl game):
1. (1) Westlake (Westlake Village) 14-0
2. (3) Vista Murrieta (Murrieta) 14-0 (9-5 incl. forfeits)
3. (5) Santa Margarita (Rancho SM) 12-2
4. (7) Bakersfield 13-0
5. (4) Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) 11-3*
6. (2) Centennial (Corona) 12-2*
7. (8) Upland 12-1*
8. (9) Mission Viejo 10-3*
9. (6) San Clemente 12-2*
10. (10) Servite (Anaheim) 10-2*
Other section champs also eligible: Narbonne (Harbor City) 11-3, Poway 12-0-1.
Case for Westlake:
1. After going 14-0 and not being selected two years ago, the time has come for the Warriors to not just be chosen for a bowl game but for the Open Division.
2. Westlake is the top-ranked team in every poll in Southern California and along the way defeated Oaks Christian of Westlake Village twice. Oaks Christian’s only other loss was to Bellevue of Washington, which is No. 10 in the POWERADE FAB 50.
3. Westlake has a win over Del Oro of Loomis in the first game 30-27 in overtime. Del Oro went on to finish 13-1 and is the odds-on favorite to be chosen for the CIF Division II bowl game.
Case for Vista Murrieta:
1. The Broncos won arguably the toughest divisional title in Southern California this season with their 35-28 triumph on Friday night against Corona Centennial. When their divisional playoffs began, the field included unbeaten Upland and unbeaten Redlands East Valley. They beat Upland 39-18 in the semifinals.
2. Vista Murrieta did not lose a game on the field during the season. Other wins on-the-field came against quality opponents Crespi of Encino, Chaparral of Temecula and J.W. North of Riverside. Crespi and J.W. North were both in the top 25 of the state rankings at various points this season.
Case for Bakersfield:
1. If the CIF counts the forfeit losses against Vista Murrieta, then the Drillers come into the picture. If they don’t, then Vista Murrieta appears to be the selection due to strength of schedule.
2. Bakersfield closed the season with two very strong wins. The first was a 31-14 triumph over Clovis in the Central Section Division I semifinals, followed by a 38-3 win over Bullard of Fresno in the final.
3. While the Drillers did not play any quality teams from outside the section, they certainly took care of business against everyone they played.
4. The CIF Central Section has not had a team selected to a CIF bowl game yet and this may be the best chance. That is not supposed to be part of the criteria, but the voters in the room are human and it could be.
5. Bakersfield is a great choice for historians. The school has more than 600 all-time wins and won four CIF state titles in football during the 1920s.
Case for Santa Margarita:
1. The Eagles won what is traditionally the strongest divisional title in the Southern Section with their victory over San Clemente on Saturday.
2. Although they have two losses, one was in overtime to Servite of Anaheim when the Friars were No. 2 in the state. The other loss is a tougher one to Mater Dei. On the plus side, coach Harry Welch’s team had wins over teams like Tesoro, Carson, Lutheran of Orange, St. John Bosco of Bellflower, Bishop Amat of La Puente, Long Beach Poly and Mission Viejo.
3. There may not be a better offensive line in the state. With USC-bound Max Tuerk leading the way, Santa Margarita’s massive front tends to wear down opposing teams. That’s partly why the Eagles have become such a good second-half team.
3. If the Eagles get a chance, coach Harry Welch would be going for his third CIF state title from a third different school. No other coach has even won a title from two. His two earlier state bowl wins came when he was at Canyon of Canyon Country (2006) and St. Margaret’s of Rancho SM (2008).