CARSON -- In the eight-year history of the CIF state football championships, perhaps no matchup has created a greater buzz than Saturday's Open Division final between De La Salle and St. John Bosco-Bellflower.
The Spartans (14-0) are aiming for a fifth consecutive title in the state's premier game and haven't lost to a California team since 2008. They also haven't missed a beat since legendary coach Bob Ladouceur handed over the program to longtime assistant Justin Alumbaugh in January.
And St. John Bosco (15-0), with at least a dozen NCAA Division I recruits and some mammoth linemen, might be the best Southern California team that the Spartans have faced since Long Beach Poly of the early 2000s and Mater Dei-Santa Ana of the late 1990s.
Alumbaugh and Terry Eidson, De La Salle's longtime defensive coordinator, both said Bosco's level of play compares with those talent-rich SoCal squads that provided famous tests during the Spartans' national-record 151-game winning streak.
"We've played a lot of teams from Southern California over the years and they're definitely at the top of the heap," Alumbaugh said of Bosco. "They don't really have any weaknesses, they have strengths all the way across the field. They're the real deal."
"They have size, speed, everything," Eidson said.
Kickoff is 8 p.m. at the StubHub Center.
De La Salle has won 40 straight games and is the only program to reach the state bowl series each season.
St. John Bosco is also undefeated this season and has crushed some top-notch competition. One of its closest games was a 42-21 victory over Servite-Anaheim, which De La Salle beat 35-10.
The Spartans and Braves are ranked in the top five nationally by most publications.
"The only thing that would make it bigger is if were for the mythical national title," Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis said. "But other than that, it's about as big as it's going to get."
Booker T. Washington of Miami appears to have already wrapped up USA Today's mythical championship, though Bosco could finish atop some computer rankings with a win over the Spartans.
Tennis said the only other bowl game that may have been as anticipated as this one was between De La Salle and Centennial-Corona in 2008.
"But that was before the Open Division and De La Salle had a loss," Tennis said.
Adding intrigue to Saturday's game is that De La Salle and Bosco share the same strength. The Spartans feature their biggest offensive line in school history, but they haven't lost their trademark precision and quickness. The unit is led by Oregon State-bound Sumner Houston (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) and Larry Allen III (6-3, 285), the son of recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Larry Allen.
Bosco's offensive line is even bigger, averaging more than 300 pounds, and includes one of the most coveted players in the nation in 6-5, 353-pound Damien Mama.
The Braves have explosive receivers in USC-bound Shay Fields and UCLA commit Jaleel Wadood, a junior quarterback (Josh Rosen) who is considered one of the best in the nation at his position, and a secondary also loaded with Division I recruits.
But De La Salle has one major advantage -- it's been here before. The Spartans prepare every year with the goal of peaking for the playoffs and winning a state championship.
"Our kids refer to them as a machine, and a lot of people from down here and around the country do, too," Bosco coach Jason Negro said of De La Salle. "They're an absolute football factory and do some tremendous things on the offensive and defensive lines."
Bosco is playing in a bowl game for the first time. How it handles the experience could be a determining factor.
For Alumbaugh and the Spartans, the game plan is simple.
"We're going to have to play a really physical and disciplined game," he said.
And don't be surprised to see a few wrinkles reserved only for a game of this magnitude.
open division title game
De La Salle (14-0) vs. St. John Bosco (15-0), 8 p.m.
Saturday CSN Plus