LONG BEACH — With their opponents seated just mere feet away, members of the Los Altos and Pomona high school football teams ate well and smiled large on Monday afternoon while knowing the rest of the week would be all business.
The Conquerors and Red Devils were the local representatives at the 39th CIF-Southern Section Championship Luncheon held at The Grand in Long Beach for teams playing in division championships this weekend.
“I’ve never seen anything like it and I actually loved it,” Los Altos defensive back Daniel Valdez said of the luncheon. “All the food was pretty good. I stuffed myself, I had two plates.
“Los Altos hasn’t been in this place in a long time and for us to be in this spot, it’s a great life experience for all of us and I hope we just get the win.”
Los Altos (8-5) will host Colony (11-2) in Saturday’s Central Division championship. A site for the game has yet to be cemented. The Conquerors would prefer to play at home, but Colony has balked at the idea due to concerns over the playing surface.
If the game is moved, Walnut HS, Cal-State Fullerton and Mt. San Antonio College have emerged as the front runners.
Pomona (9-4) will be on the road in Friday’s Mid-Valley Division championship against Paraclete (10-3). The game will be held at Antelope Valley College.
“It was a great experience,” Pomona interim head coach Keith Richardson said of Monday’s luncheon. “The atmosphere is just great. It was a great spread. The kids enjoyed the atmosphere. It was a great place to be.”
Los Altos was represented by head coach Dale Ziola, assistant coach Steven Burke, athletic director Andrew Formano and principal Cheli McReynolds. The Conquerors players in attendance were senior quarterback Lorenzo Silva, senior lineman David Tolmachoff and Valdez.
Los Altos is bidding for the 12th CIF championship in school history and the program is making its 15th appearance in a championship game. Los Altos entered the postseason as the third-place team out of the Hacienda League, but no opponent has been with single digits of the Conquerors at the final gun.
Los Altos beat Palomares League champion South Hills, Rio Hondo League champion and No. 2 overall seed Monrovia and at-large Bonita to reach Saturday’s finals.
“It’s very special,” Ziola said. “I’ve never been a part of anything like this and neither have the kids or coaches. My father-in-law was a high school head coach for 35 years and was only here once. We’re just soaking up the moment.
“There’s not that much to say because it’s so awesome and it’s so tough to describe. To be here and soak it in with these guys, it’s just special.”
Pomona was represented by Richardson, athletic directors Anthony Rice and Albert Adu, and principal Roger Fastin. The Red Devils players in attendance were wide receiver/defensive back Shawny Wilson and wide receiver/defensive back Desmond Bobo.
Pomona, the No. 3 seed in the division, beat McAuliffe, San Dimas and No. 2 seed Sierra Canyon to reach Friday’s final.