first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals “It’s like a dream. This just seems so unreal,” Hawkins said. “I’ve never been to anything like this, and I’m not used to it.” The boys even took home party favors, such as CIF Championship hats and new Spalding footballs. “It’s pretty cool to take a break from school and come here for something like this,” Casselberry said. “You get to relax and enjoy a free meal.” The players also appeared to enjoy a keynote speech from Fox Sports Net TV commentator Chris Rix. A former star quarterback at Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita and four-year starter at Florida State before trying out for the San Diego Chargers, Rix talked about the glory of his high school and college days and about learning to overcome adversity for the sake of his team. He also talked about the importance of planning a future beyond football. A future beyond football? The players will have plenty of time to do so – but this was their chance to bask of the celebrity of reaching a section final. And the excitement and prestige of transferring the Hart-Canyon rivalry from Santa Clarita to a genuine football stadium wasn’t lost on the youngsters. Canyon beat Hart 16-14 in the regular-season finale last month, and the teams will meet again on the grandest of stages in front of a crowd expected to be close to 20,000. Monday marked the beginning of what figures to be constant stream of hype and anticipation. “I’m excited because there’s a little bit of a revenge factor,” Sarkissian said. “We lost to Canyon last time, but this time it’s a lot bigger game. “Obviously, the championship means a lot more.” Added Vittallo: “I can’t wait. We want to show everyone that last game wasn’t anything compared to this game.” Canyon already has gone through the formality of defeating an opponent twice in the same season, eliminating Foothill League rival Valencia in the Saturday’s semifinal. Now they simply have to do it again – against Hart – to capture a section football championship for the first time since 1985. “It’s always fun to play a rival,” Leary said. Added Hawkins: “Yes, especially for the championship.” Second-seeded Canyon is ranked higher, but Hart has momentum after a semifinal victory over top-seeded Mission Viejo, ranked No. 2 in the nation by USA Today. “Beating Mission Viejo was a big victory for us, and we want to make sure there’s no letdown in the championship game,” Lyon said. Considering the ferocity of the Hart-Canyon rivalry, perhaps the stats and stories won’t mean much by the gametime Friday. The showdown figures to hinge on such factors as adrenaline, energy and grace under pressure. On Monday, the players learned what it’s like to feel like superstars. On Friday, we’ll see if they can play like superstars. Gerry Gittelson’s column appears in the Daily News three times a week. He can be reached at (661) 257-5218 or [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! What figures to be a unforgettable week started in style for a group of high school football players from Hart and Canyon. While their classmates trudged through a typical Monday back at school, the players spent most of the morning and early afternoon at the annual Southern Section championship luncheon, a catered affair at The Grand, in preparation for Friday’s 7:30 p.m. Div. II final at Home Depot Center in Carson. Instead of hassling with English, math and history, Hart’s Tyler Lyon, Patrick Sarkissian, Robbie Casselberry and Ricky Vittallo, and Canyon’s Austin Civita, J.J. DiLuigi, Garrett Leary and Tyler Hawkins enjoyed a spread that included fresh salad, grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes, sauteed chicken and steak and hearty desserts such as strawberry cheesecake and pecan pie. They dined with their coaches and administrators, then stood up for introductions and applause while taking occasional breaks to appear on television and be interviewed by newspaper reporters. last_img