Some are frantically jostling to gain entry. Some had the door rudely slammed in their faces weeks ago. A few are secure and merely hoping to stay healthy.
Getting into the playoffs is a preseason goal of any high school football team. But with the regular season down to its final week, wishful thinking has, in most cases, been replaced by cold facts.
The top three teams in each Southern Section league automatically qualify for postseason play, and the best fourth-place team in each five-league conference is given an at-large berth so each conference tournament has 16 teams.
The playoff picture of each local league follows:
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. Ventura fell from the ranks of the unbeaten last week at Santa Barbara, losing 27-25. Because Ventura defeated Hueneme, the Cougars would enter the playoffs as league champion if both teams win 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.
Because only two teams in the league have overall records of better than .500, the fourth-place team has no chance to gain the at-large berth.
Marmonte League--Westlake (4-1, 6-3) can be either league champion or be shut out of the playoffs depending on the outcome of its game against Channel Islands on Friday.
If Westlake wins, it is league champion by virtue of its win over Thousand Oaks (4-1, 8-1). Should Channel Islands (4-1, 7-2), Thousand Oaks and Camarillo (3-2, 5-4) all win, Westlake would be relegated to fourth because Camarillo defeated the Warriors last week.
"We're playing for first place or no place," Westlake Coach George Contreras said.
Westlake 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. Worse, they must play Channel Islands--which has beaten the Warriors three of their past four meetings--without quarterback Bob Grandpre, who broke his left collarbone last week.
Camarillo or Westlake could gain the at-large berth with a 6-4 overall record, although Quartz Hill of the Golden League cannot be counted out.
Frontier League--Agoura (6-3, 3-0) plays Santa Clara (7-2, 3-0) for the league championship Friday night. Santa Paula (4-4-1, 1-2) can assure itself of a third-place finish by defeating Nordhoff (4-5, 0-3). A Nordhoff win forces a three-way tie for third and puts Calabasas (2-7, 1-3) in the playoff picture. A third-place tie will be decided by a coin flip.
"It's pretty amazing it works out that way," Santa Paula Coach Mike Tsoutsouvas said. "Nordhoff looks at us as a rival, too."
There is an outside chance that the at-large team could come from the Frontier League, but more likely it will come from the Sunkist League, where five teams have overall records of better than .500.
Tri-Valley League--The three playoff berths already are fixed: Carpinteria (9-0, 5-0), Santa Ynez (6-3, 4-1) and the league's surprise team, Oak Park (7-2, 4-2), will advance.
Carpinteria, which has defeated Agoura and Santa Paula of the larger Desert-Mountain Conference, is a heavy favorite to win the conference.