Los Angeles Preps: Lukas O'Connor

Western: Arroyo Grande 42, Culver City 14

December, 10, 2011
ARROYO GRANDE -- The Arroyo Grande Eagles had been here before.

Clinching an at-large postseason bid out of the PAC-7 League a year ago, the Eagles rode a lightning-in-the-bottle hot streak all the way to the CIF-Southern Section Western Division final. But in arguably one of the biggest games for the program, the Serra Cavaliers knocked Arroyo Grande off its feet one step shy of making history.

This season, the Eagles made sure that didn't happen again.

"I never did imagine myself being a head coach and leading my team to a CIF championship, " Eagles coach Tom Goossen said after a 42-14 victory over Culver City. "We know that it starts and ends with the players. And they're the ones that did all the work, committed and did everything else."

The victory clinches the fifth title in program history. The Eagles had made two appearances -- in 2000 and 2010 -- in the past 11 years. Neither, however, ended with Arroyo Grande walking away victorious.

On Friday night, with two fists raised to the sky and a Gatorade-drenched blue and yellow windbreaker, Goossen and his team did.

"It's been a long time," Goossen said. "The kids have worked so darn hard."

One kid, in particular, stole the spotlight. Arroyo Grande's 5-foot-7, 145-pound running back Gabe Deleon scored three times -- from 22, 58 and 15 yards in the second half -- turning what was a 21-14 lead at the break to a 42-14 advantage.

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Underdog Culver City still dancing

December, 7, 2011
Culver City looks like the team of destiny.

No one expected the Centaurs to make it past top-seeded Gardena Serra in the first round, let alone make it to Friday night's Western Division championship game at Arroyo Grande.

The team's three representatives were all smiles Monday morning at the CIF-Southern Section championships luncheon in Long Beach. But don't think they're happy just to have made it this far.

"We've taken that underdog role through this playoff run," senior receiver Alex Jackson said. "We're the Cinderella team."

The dance began with a complex waltz against local giant Serra. Culver City (10-3) came away with the surprise of the playoffs.

"It was a big win for us," senior captain Kevin Porche said. "Serra had been there many times before but we played hard."

Then, after a second-round blowout of Santa Maria Righetti, the Centaurs drew Ocean League rival Santa Monica, which had taken league and beaten Culver City 17-14 in November.

"We wanted the revenge," said senior quarterback Lukas O'Connor, who has passed for 3,002 yards and 32 touchdowns. "They beat us on our senior night and we wanted to beat them to get to the championship."

Said Jackson: "It was good that Santa Monica got the Ocean League title, but it was bigger for us to get to the divisional championship."

Now the Centaurs, making their first title game appearance in 33 years, travel up the coast to face Arroyo Grande (12-1), which aims to avenge last year's championship loss to Serra.

And if everything goes right, you can bet they'll dance on the bus ride back to Culver City.

All 170 miles.

Blair Angulo covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.