The gridiron battle between Ramona and Riverside Poly High Schools has been an enduring duel in CIF Southern Section history for over six decades. The storied rivalry, originating from their days in the old Citrus Belt and Ivy Leagues, has seen its fair share of blowout losses, nail-biting wins, high drama, and spirited trash talk. Yet, none of the preceding 49 encounters carry the weight of significance looming over this Friday night’s clash as the two schools vie for the CIF Division 11 Championship at M.L. King High School, kickstarting at 7 pm.
This monumental game, deemed by many in town as “historic,” marks the first time these arch-rivals face off for a CIF Championship in any sport. The anticipation is palpable as both schools gear up for a showdown that extends beyond the football field to claim the ultimate city bragging rights.
Adding an intriguing twist to the narrative is the unexpected journey each team has undertaken to reach the title game. Under the helm of first-year head coach Jarron Gilbert, the Poly Bears saw early-season struggles, with a 1-6 start. However, they mounted an impressive comeback, winning six consecutive games, including three in the playoffs. Their success has been fueled by a consistent offense and a stalwart, tough-nosed defense that proved their mettle when it mattered most.
Meanwhile, Ramona, led by the seasoned 7th-year coach Ken Mushinskie, secured a playoff spot as a 4th-place finisher with a 5-5 record, earning an at-large berth. The Rams showcased dominance on both sides of the ball, clinching three consecutive victories in the playoffs.
The historical rivalry has Poly leading the all-time series at 30-18-1. Still, recent history favors the Rams, who have claimed victory in five straight encounters, including this season’s hard-fought 35-28 triumph, decided in the final minutes.
“A CIF championship game is, by itself, exciting to be a part of,” noted Mushinskie. “But when you add the city rivalry aspect to it, it becomes even more so. It is a very positive thing for Ramona and Poly but also a very positive thing for the City of Riverside.”
"We are excited to compete," says Coach Gilbert. "The opportunity to play in a big game for the city is not something we're taking for granted."
As the city collectively holds its breath, the stage is set for a football spectacle that transcends decades of rivalry, bringing the very nature of Riverside’s sportsmanship and pride to the field. The stakes are higher than ever as these two powerhouse teams vie for a place in history and the coveted CIF Division 11 Championship.