Thirteen of the 16 football teams in the Central Conference playoffs are from Orange County, and seven of the eight first-round games will be played in Orange County, which leads to this daring California Promise:
An Orange County team will win the Central Conference championship.
Call it madcap, call it intuitive, call it 81% of the teams and four of the five leagues in the conference are from Orange County.
Since the Southern Section went to the conference format in 1977, only one team from outside Orange County has won the Central Conference title. That was Norwalk in 1977.
Since then, only one non-Orange County team has appeared in the final. That was La Mirada, which lost to Fullerton, 17-7, in 1984.
OK, now that the geography is out of the way, let's get specific.
Your 1987 Central Conference champion is:
Bolsa Grande. The Matadors scored 41 or more points five times this season. They scored more than 50 points twice.
Bolsa Grande's option offense is so high-powered that one coach, when asked to name a school that handled the Matadors defensively, suggested Pacifica.
Bolsa Grande beat Pacifica, 31-17. Actually, it was the Matadors' lowest point output of the season.
They ended the season with their second straight Garden Grove League championship, a 10-0 record, a 19-game winning streak (longest current streak in the Southern Section), ranked No. 1 in Orange County and the No. 1 seed in the Central Conference.
Which allows Greg Shadid, Bolsa Grande coach, to say: "I think we have a chance."
Ooooh. Bet that finds its way to some team's bulletin board.
Bolsa Grande is the only team in the Central Conference playoffs using the option, an advantage at face value.
"The very fact that no one practices against that thing gives them an advantage," said Tim Devaney, Sunny Hills coach. "Add to that the fact they run it so well, and they are very, very tough to beat."
Running back Ricky Lepule has rushed for 1,049 yards and 12 touchdowns. Travin Lui has rushed for 1,028 and 17 touchdowns. Quarterback Damon Fisher has run for 972 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Lui is the Clydesdale among race horses, averaging a paltry 8 yards a carry. Lepule and Fisher are each averaging 11 yards a pop.
So, can anyone beat these guys?
"I think the only chance anyone has is to hit Fisher on every play," said Mark Miller, Rancho Alamitos coach. Rancho Alamitos held Bolsa Grande to 14 points in the first half of their Garden Grove League game before losing, 34-14.
"He is such a good player, and he runs the option so well. He's the key to the whole thing. If you can stop him, you might stop their run game and might have a chance."
Which brings us to:
The teams with a good chance:
Western (7-2-1) has a huge line and a good defense.
Valencia (8-2) has been the conference's dominant team through the '80s. This season, with its usual great running attack, Valencia won its fifth straight Orange League championship and is the No. 2 seed.
Saddleback (5-4-1), the 1985 champion is fast and quick, though not as fast and quick as in the past.
Corona del Mar (5-5) won its last four games and the Sea View League championship.
Tustin (6-3-1) was the only Sea View League team to beat Corona del Mar.
Artesia is 9-1. OK, OK, so it was in the Suburban League.
All of them have a chance.
The team with the best chance:
Sunny Hills. Before giving up 30 points to La Habra in the regular-season finale, the Lancers (9-1) had given up only 18 points and had shut out six opponents.
On paper, they seem to be the best defensive team in the conference playoffs. What doesn't bode well for them is that La Habra scored its 30 points using the option.
La Habra quarterback Matt Shackelford gained 236 yards in 20 carries and scored 18 points--three touchdowns--midway through the second quarter.
Shackelford was very good, but . . .
"Damon Fisher is the best high school option quarterback I've ever seen," Devaney said. "I'm not sure how you stop him."
Devaney's quarterback, David Chisum, ended the season as Orange County's top-rated passer. He has completed 62% (98 of 159) of his passes for 1,509 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has thrown only five interceptions.
Sunny Hills has averaged 24 points a game.
"The thing about Sunny Hills, is all the time they give Chisum to throw," said Jeff Brinkley, Newport Harbor coach. "The protection by their offensive line is unreal. That kid will pick you apart with that kind of time."
Newport Harbor is Sunny Hills' first-round opponent. It is also:
The Dark Horse:
Newport Harbor (7-3) beat Santa Ana, 15-14, in the first game of the season. Many think that this alone qualifies the Sailors as contenders.
"You beat a team like Santa Ana and you've got to be good," said Dave Holland, Corona del Mar coach.
But Newport Harbor lost to Corona del Mar in the final game of the season and had to settle for a wild-card berth. Usually, wild-card teams draw the No. 1 seed. It didn't happen, which is just fine with Shadid.