It has been a topic of debate for years in Northern California.
Who plays the best brand of high school football? The Bay Area or Sacramento Valley?
That argument will be settled to a degree on the field next week with the introduction of the Northern California Regional Championships.
In short, this year's Sac-Joaquin Section champions including Sacramento-area teams in Divisions I, II and possibly III will compete against Bay Area teams Dec. 7-8 in five NorCal title games. Bragging rights and CIF State Bowl bids will be on the line.
This Sunday, 10 of 22 section championship teams from all divisions will be selected by Northern California section commissioners to play in five NorCal regional games in Divisions I-IV and the Open division.
In the past, the state's 10 section commissioners voted on a considerably larger pool of championship teams to compete in five CIF State Bowl games in Carson.
Qualifying criteria remain total wins, strength of schedule, comparative scores and tradition.
But for every elated team picked before this new concept, scores of jilted schools groused about the injustice of commissioners dictating their fate behind closed doors.
"The feeling now is, 'Let's decide it on the field,' " said Pete Saco, the Sac-Joaquin Section commissioner who hatched the state bowl and regional concept years ago. "Are we going to make everyone happy? No. But it's a great start."
Sacramento-area coaches like the new plan and the potential of showcasing their product.
"We've got great football in this area because (it's) loaded," said Folsom coach Kris Richardson, whose 13-0 team likely would earn a NorCal Open shot at national power De La Salle of Concord with a section D-II win Saturday night over Elk Grove. "I'm from the Bay Area. I know those teams. I know we can all compete with them.
"I think we can all agree that it's better to play a NorCal game than to send commissioners in to vote."
Teams can decline a regional invitation, but they are not allowed to pick an opponent or division.
California is one of the few states without a full-fledged playoff, partly because there are so many schools (more than 1,500) and the season would stretch into January. Progress, however, has been swift.
In 2006, Saco's state bowl concept came to life with three divisions I, II and III. In 2008, an Open division was added for elite programs.
Grant was voted by the 10 section commissioners to represent Northern California in the Open game, and the Pacers rewarded the show of confidence with a victory over national No. 2 Long Beach Poly.
In 2010, a small-school bowl game was added.
On Sunday, commissioners will vote on which section champions will advance to the regionals.
"I'd be surprised if at least two of those regional games aren't held at Sacramento State," Saco said.
"I've talked to a lot of kids over the years who played in our state games, and they'll say, 'Mr. Saco, it was a great memory,' " Saco said. "That's my goal as a section commissioner: to create memories of a lifetime."