When Gardena Serra football coach Scott Altenberg learned on Sunday that his team will face Long Beach Poly in a CIF Southern California Division 1-A regional bowl game on Saturday at home, he was pleasantly surprised.
“It’s a really cool matchup. I didn’t think they would do it,” he said.
Poly and Serra have engaged in highly competitive nonleague games. Altenberg and Poly coach Stephen Barbee have built a strong relationship of mutual respect that rubs off on their players.
“We’ve had some great games,” Altenberg said. “If it’s not overtime, it’s down to the last play. It’s been nuts every time.”
The one suspense to come out of Sunday’s announcement involved which team would represent Northern California against unbeaten Santa Ana Mater Dei in the Open Division championship game Dec. 11 at Saddleback College. San Mateo Serra was selected, ending Concord De La Salle’s streak of representing Northern California in every Open Division game since 2009.
Patrick Walsh, who helped convince state officials to bring back high school sports during the COVID-19 stoppage in 2020, is Serra’s coach.
“I feel honored and humbled we’re playing the highest level of high school football our state has to offer,” Walsh said.
Serra is the alma mater of future Hall of Famer Tom Brady. Walsh knows that 11-0 Mater Dei will be tough to beat.
“I know Mater Dei would beat a lot of junior colleges,” he said.
City Section Open Division champion Lake Balboa Birmingham, on an eight-game winning streak, will play at San Diego Patrick Henry on Saturday in 3-A.
In Division 1-AA, San Diego Cathedral will take on Orange Lutheran on Friday at Orange Coast College.
Here’s the link to complete pairings.