EAST CHICAGO | E.C. Central and West Side are like the two Christmas shoppers fighting for the last sale item.
Central had to first eliminate Griffith from the Class 4A Sectional semifinal picture Friday night, with West Side doing the same at Highland.
The two winners would then meet for the first time since 2000 to decide the championship.
Neither the Cougars (7-4) nor the Cardinals (9-2) have yet to win a football sectional and that will change next Friday as East Chicago carried out its half of the bargain by rolling over Griffith, 51-19.
"It's a great matchup," said Cardinals coach Stacy Adams. "(Coach) Jason (Johnson) and I played against each other in high school. He went to West Side. I went to Wallace. We won."
The Cardinals overpowered Griffith (3-8) with great balance as six different players scored, led by Carlos Fernandez's two touchdown passes and a pair of scores by Martayveus Carter and Juan Sepulveda.
"This means something special to me," said Sepulveda, a Gavit transfer who celebrated his 18th birthday with 120 yards rushing and TDs of 42 and 49 yards. "My offensive line opened holes for me and carried out its assignments to a T."
A sectional title would be his dream come true.
"I'd get to do something that I'll be remembered for at Central," Sepulveda said.
Carter added 107 yards rushing and returned one of Kyle Buikema's two interceptions 25 yards for a score.
East Chicago has spent this season proving once again it is not only a basketball school, thanks to Adams. Griffith had to contend with a team averaging 34.3 points while allowing only 12.4.
"We've got to do it that way," Adams said of a balanced attack. "When they kill the run, we've got to pass the ball well. It's hard to stop the option offense when you can do that."
Fernandez connected with Deonte Rush and Tre'Quan Burnett for first-half touchdowns and a 20-7 lead which grew like weeds.
Griffith, held to 127 first-half yards, had four turnovers for the game. Only receiver Matt Colomes posed any real threat with two catches for 106 yards and two TDs. Explosive Justin Green had three catches for 67 yards but was held to 22 yards rushing.
The Cardinals take a five-game win streak into the sectional title game.