Vista Murrieta and Heritage high schools each found early success on the football field. This weekend, each will be seeking its first CIF championship.
Both schools will host a California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section title game. Vista Murrieta will play Corona Centennial at 8 p.m. Friday in the Inland Division and Heritage will welcome Fontana Summit at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Eastern Division.
Vista Murrieta, which opened in 2003 in the Murrieta Valley Unified School District, will be appearing in its third consecutive championship game, and hosting its second.
Heritage, which opened in 2007 in the Perris Union High School District, is playing in its first final in just its fourth varsity season.
"It's an extremely exciting time for everybody here," said Heritage Activities Director Renee Garcia. "The staff is excited, the students are excited ---- especially since we're such a young school."
The Heritage Patriots are 12-1 after winning their second consecutive Sunbelt League title.
Summit, also 12-1, is traveling to Southwest County for the second year in a row in search of a championship. The SkyHawks lost at Elsinore, 21-7, in last year's Eastern Division title game.
The Heritage football team will be recognized at two events on campus Friday. A legacy walk, where players will march through the school, will be held at 7:45 a.m. and a pep rally is scheduled for 1:20 p.m.
Saturday, tailgating will begin at 4:30 p.m. and gates will open at 5:45.
Game tickets will be available at Heritage from 7:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday and also at the tailgate party and stadium.
The cost is $9 for general admission and $5 for students.
The stadium holds 4,000 fans, but Heritage Athletic Director David Drake said he doesn't know how many people to expect.
He said the school's isolated location off Highway 74 in Romoland and the fact the game isn't being played on a school night could deter a large crowd.
"Getting kids to come back to school on a Saturday for a football game, I don't know what to expect," Drake said.
Fans who cannot attend can watch the game live online at foxsportswest.com .
Vista Murrieta is anticipating a large crowd for its rematch against perennial power Centennial.
An estimated 7,000 people attended the 2009 title game on the campus and portable bleachers will be brought in for Friday's game, bringing seating capacity to about 5,000.
The Vista Murrieta Broncos will be seeking revenge. The Huskies defeated them, 45-21, in last year's Inland Division title game, which was played in Corona.
Vista lost 13-9 to Chaparral in the 2009 championship game .
Vista Murrieta has a record of 8-5, but has won all 13 games it's played. The Broncos had to forfeit five victories for using an ineligible player.
The top-seeded Huskies (12-1) have won seven section titles in the last 11 years and are the No. 4-ranked team in the state according to calhisports.com .
Vista Murrieta is ranked fifth.
Kickoff isn't until 8:07 p.m. because the game is being televised by Prime Ticket.
Vista Murrieta Athletic Director Ray Moore said the later start won't be a problem.
"To be playing in mid-December is a pretty good bonus," he said. "We'll play at midnight if they want. We'll play with Frisbees if they want."
Tickets will be available at Vista Murrieta through Thursday and then at the game. Gates will open at 6 p.m.
Murrieta City Councilman Alan Long, who played football at Temecula Valley High before there were any high schools in Murrieta, said a title game is a boon for the city.
"It gives you a sense of community pride," he said. "It plays a role in the quality of life we offer residents."
Long said that adding the school's athletic accomplishments to its success in academics and the arts shows that there are a lot of good things going on in the city.
Having the game televised is a bonus as well, Long said.
"It puts Murrieta on the map," he said. "It's one more thing people can start talking about."
Police and school officials are suggesting fans arrive early to both games and be prepared for cold weather.
Temperatures are predicted to drop into the mid-30s both nights.
Besides a coat and hat, fans may want to wear comfortable shoes. Although both schools have ample parking spots, some are quite a hike from the stadium.
"Our parking here is not good for football because the football field is at the far end of campus," Heritage's Drake said. "Get here early and don't plan to be in a hurry to get out."
There will be a large police presence at Vista Murrieta, both inside and outside the stadium, Murrieta police Sgt. Dave Baca said.
"Just bring a positive attitude and enjoy the spirit of competition," Baca said. "We don't anticipate any problems, but we'll be there in case there is."