George Contreras has done well to muffle the hollow ring to his argument. His football team, on top of the Marmonte League a month ago, suddenly faces the possibility of another season with no ticket to the playoffs, and Contreras has begun his sales job.
"We control our own destiny and that's a great situation," the Westlake High coach said Tuesday. "We're playing for the league championship and that's the position we'd like to be in."
But that position has a downside. "We're playing for first place or no place," said Contreras, whose team lost to Camarillo on Friday, 10-0.
A Westlake win Friday over Channel Islands at Hueneme High earns the Warriors (6-3, 4-1) at least a share of the league title and the team's first trip to the Southern Section Coastal Conference playoffs since 1982. But a loss, coupled with a Camarillo win over Royal, could topple Westlake from first to fourth, enabling Thousand Oaks (8-1, 4-1), Channel Islands (7-2, 4-1) and Camarillo (5-4, 3-2) to advance to the playoffs.
Westlake would rank as a long shot for the conference's at-large berth. Quartz Hill (5-4, 1-3) of the Golden League is a heavy favorite to beat Burroughs of Ridgecrest and thus earn the inside track for the conference's 16th berth.
History is working against Westlake, which lost out to Glendale for the conference's at-large berth last year. In the past three seasons, Westlake is 0-5 in its last two games of the season, and the Warriors have lost three of the past four meetings with Channel Islands.
Worse, they enter Friday's game without Bob Grandpre, their senior quarterback and linebacker, who broke his left collarbone against Camarillo.
"There was quite a bit of depression at Monday's practice," Contreras said. "You would have thought everybody's parents had died. But we're not going to talk about any negatives this week. Lots of teams would like to be in our position."
Other conference league races:
Golden League: Canyon (7-2, 4-0) and Palmdale (8-1, 4-0) play for the league championship. Antelope Valley (6-3, 2-2) will extend its season with a win over Saugus (4-5, 1-3). A Saugus victory coupled with a Burroughs of Ridgecrest win over Quartz Hill sends Saugus to the playoffs. A three-way tie for third would be broken by a coin flip.
Channel League: Ventura (8-1, 5-1) and Hueneme (7-2, 5-1) have qualified and everyone else in the eight-team league is still breathing, pending the tiebreaker system league officials agree on this week. Oxnard (3-6, 3-3) can settle matters and qualify with a win over Ventura. Rio Mesa (3-5-1, 2-3-1) needs a win over Santa Barbara (4-5, 2-4), and losses by Oxnard and Dos Pueblos (3-5-1, 2-3-1), which plays Hueneme, to clinch third place.