Early December is tournament time in two major sports. But the stakes involved are as different as filet mignon and ground round.
Five football teams from the Valley area have reached the finals of Southern Section and City playoffs. Win or lose, memories of the games last the entire off-season, if not for a lifetime.
"This is the pinnacle," said Montclair football Coach John Hazelton, whose team faces Tehachapi on Saturday in the finals of the Inland Conference.
Most basketball teams from the Valley area also are competing in tournaments, but memories of those games--win or lose--usually are washed away in the postgame shower. Although there is prestige in winning the tournaments, they are forgotten by February when playoff berths are awarded on the basis of league standings.
"We're happy if we win tournament games, but we realize the most important games lie ahead," Royal basketball Coach Jack McCrory said.
It's Tough at the Top: Chatting after a Simi Valley Tip-Off Classic basketball tournament game were Simi Valley basketball Coach Bob Hawking and Hart football Coach Rick Scott.
What was Scott doing at a basketball tournament?
His striped shirt was a clue. After putting his Hart team through a two-hour football practice, Scott turned to refereeing basketball. He changed shirts but didn't change whistles.
The subject of their conversation: the troublesome nature of high expectations.
"We're picked at the top of every poll because of two sophomores who haven't played a minute of varsity basketball," Hawking said. "My kids might get big heads."
Replied Scott: "Tell me about it."
Hart, of course, also is a young, talented team that topped nearly every poll before the football season began. The Indians, perhaps with one eye on their newspaper clippings, lost three games and tied a fourth before breaking into the win column.
Don't feel too sorry for Scott and Hawking, though.
Hart (9-3-1) has won every game since and will meet Muir tonight at College of the Canyons in the Coastal Conference final.
High expectations haven't taken a toll on Simi Valley--at least not yet. The Pioneers, led by sophomores Don MacLean and Shawn DeLaittre, are 4-0 and won the inaugural Simi Valley Tournament. And Hawking couldn't be too upset if his Pioneers finish like Scott's Indians.
Add Hart: Scott isn't much on sympathy these days.
After Muir Coach Jim Brownfield went on at a press conference this week complaining about the small size of his players, Scott was asked about the Hart team.
He began by saying: "Well, I don't play the violin very well. . . ."
Add Simi Valley: The Pioneers had a tough time with Notre Dame in the final of the basketball tournament, winning, 55-54, but the rest of the competition was mild. Hawking hopes to attract a stronger field in coming years.
"Most teams commit to tournaments long in advance," he said, "so we brought in the best we could. Our goal is to attract the top teams in the area, and build this tournament to the level of the best in Southern California."
Squelch a Rumor: Junior running back Sean Hampton of Sylmar, who was named to the All-Valley first team, said rumors that he will transfer to Granada Hills next season are false.
"My family might move," Hampton said, "but I'm playing football at Sylmar."
Mountie Creed: Neither sleet nor snow nor a three-hour bus ride can keep Montclair from its appointed round of football at Tehachapi Saturday in the Inland Conference final.
"We are expecting the worst in weather and have adjusted," Hazelton said. "We've changed our power play from a pitchout to a handoff and can vary the splits our linemen take according to the weather. If it's mushy, we'll go shoe to shoe and pound out some yardage."
Montclair has the right guy to do the pounding in Riche Swinton. The senior tailback has 2,120 yards and 24 touchdowns this season.
Things apparently are back to normal at San Fernando after three players were disciplined this week following a shouting incident that occured last Friday in the fourth quarter of a basketball game at Van Nuys.
Richard Terry, Shelton Boykin and Reggie Prince received one-day suspensions from school and were held out of Tuesday's game against Dorsey, according to San Fernando Coach Dick Crowell. Terry will remain off the Tiger roster indefinitely.
"I've had meetings with each player involved," Crowell said, "and resolutions have been reached."
According to Crowell and Van Nuys Coach Kevin Duford, the game was halted with 1:34 remaining after loud, verbal exchanges erupted between San Fernando players and Van Nuys fans, most of whom were students. Van Nuys won, 79-63.
"My kids were out of line and did not respond well to the situation," Crowell said. "The only people at the game were Van Nuys fans and they were very demonstrative. All the San Fernando fans were at the football game."
The San Fernando football team had lost in the City 4-A playoffs to Banning last Friday.