A little over an hour before kickoff Friday night at Canyon, Golden Valley fans and coaches alike quietly trickled around the stadium.
There was a calm before the storm vibe, but also a vibe of genuine curiosity.
After all, this was Golden Valley’s first appearance in a CIF title game. The Grizzlies were tasked with facing Bishop Diego for the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 title.
A handful of Bishop Diego players were out around midfield, testing the turf out on the field where their title hopes rested. Their side of the bleachers were nearly empty while Golden Valley’s was a little less than half full.
FOX Sports’ Prep Zone crew set up just outside the stadium in a large white van, testing out their plethora of TV monitors and other various pieces of equipment.
DeGabriel Floyd was the only Golden Valley player out on the with an hour until kickoff, seemingly embracing the chance to playing football in December. Floyd was all business, though, with his earbuds in and singing along with whatever he was listening to. Countless hands on deck were prepping all the ambiance for the game, but Floyd’s mind was simply focused on the trainer tapping him up and his music.
Floyd appeared in a CIF-LA City Section title game last season while still with Hawkins, which lost to Los Angeles High School in the championship. His laser focus matched the rest of the Golden Valley staff, even down to the people responsible for blowing up the team’s inflatable to perfection.
Shortly after Floyd walked off the field, he reemerged with teammates like Carson Farber and Ahvie Harris, who took in the surroundings, and flashed smiles, but not too wide.
It was safe to say there was optimism pregame at Canyon, though that optimism was mixed heavily with the anxiousness of what was to come in the team’s first CIF final appearance.
Meanwhile, at Valencia high school, the student parking lot filled up quickly.
With a little over an hour until kickoff, the Vikings bleachers were a sea of purple and packed tightly and a handful of alumni clad in varsity jackets stood in a clump on sideline near the scoreboard. Alumni ranging from Aaron Thomas to Manuel White made appearances.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was in attendance to watch an Oaks Christian player in action.
The crowd let out a roar when a dozen players took to the field to begin warmups a mere 20 yards away from Oaks Christian. As stoic Valencia coaches roamed the field, Viking after Viking filtered trod onto the field.
Just like at Canyon, Fox Sports stood in a corner, cameras at the ready, but the attention was on the Vikings student section, which was giving a pregame show unlike any other.
The softball team and the volleyball team competed in a tug-of-war, with the volleyball team emerging as the victor. Chants and music were endless. Signs hung on every inch of railing.
The hype was real, and it was up to the Vikes to capitalize on it.
Signal sports editor Haley Sawyer and staff writer Ryan Posner both contributed to this report