Carson High is the defending City Section 4-A Division champion. The Colts have allowed only 41 points and are undefeated at 9-0, which includes five shutouts. They are ranked No. 3 in the nation by USA Today.
El Camino Real is . . . well, suffice it to say the team is lucky to be in the playoffs. With a record of 0-7-2, the Conquistadores might become cannon fodder for Carson when the teams meet in a first-round game Dec. 4.
Discounting one victory by forfeit, El Camino Real has not won a game since 1985, which means its winless streak stands at 22 games. This season, El Camino Real has scored less than 10 points in six of its games.
Yet, because Kennedy finished 0-3-1 in Valley 4-A League play and El Camino Real was 0-2-2, the Conquistadores advance to the playoffs, where Carson likely will eat up huge chunks of El Camino Real estate.
El Camino Real is believed to be the first team to qualify for the playoffs without a win in the regular season.
Because there are only two 4-A leagues and 11 teams, eight advance--four from each league. El Camino Real, which has been hit hard by decreasing enrollment, had only 24 healthy players at practice last week.
"We're just going to have to do the best we can," said Ralph Stam, an assistant coach. "And hope we can stay with them."
El Camino Real isn't exactly riding into the playoffs on a wave of momentum. Against Cleveland on Friday night, the Conquistadores were leading by one point when Cleveland quarterback Jamie Grossman hit receiver Mario Hull for a 16-yard touchdown with 1:43 left to win, 19-14.
"That would have helped morale," Stam said. We could have used that win. But kids are resilient."
El Camino Real's last victory came in the sixth week of the 1985 season, a 23-7 win over Cleveland.
Study session: Monroe's Curtis Scott is familiar with the role of the understudy. All season, he split time at tailback with John Diaz. When Diaz, a senior, fractured a wrist against Canoga Park last week, Scott decided it was time to take the spotlight himself.
Scott, a junior, rushed for a career-high 202 yards in 23 carries and had 3 touchdowns in the Vikings' 36-22 win over Birmingham. His sister, Tasha, is a 15-year-old actress who appeared on "Star Search" on Saturday night.
If Monroe (4-4) is conducting a similar search, it might have found just the guy for prime time next season.
Scott said it was the first time he had carried the ball more than 10 times all year. For his efforts, some friends treated him to lunch Saturday.
"I'd promised them I'd get a touchdown," Scott said. "I ended up with three."
Co-Coach Frank D'Alessandro obviously hopes Scott's reviews are as positive next year.
"He's a good back," D'Alessandro said. "He runs the 40 in 4.6. You can bet we'll use him next year if he's still around."
Scott, who entered the game with 542 yards, has moved around before. His family moved to California from Kentucky two years ago so his sister would have greater access to show-business types.
"She's doing real well," Scott said. "She's been on lots of TV shows."
Her big brother is starting to get some pretty good notices, too.
Turnovers, turnaround: Canoga Park turned the ball over five times in Friday night's 27-21 loss to Taft, so it didn't take Canoga Park Coach Rudy Lugo long to find a reason for the defeat.
Good thing, because he doesn't have much time--Canoga Park (6-3) must play Locke (6-3) for an at-large berth in the 3-A playoffs Monday at 3 p.m. at Fairfax High.
"I'm very disappointed," he said. "We weren't able to do the things we set out to do. But we can't afford to be down. We took a shot and missed. We have to have a hit this time."
Canoga Park could have won the Sunset League with a win Friday, but instead, the Hunters will be battling for playoff life. "We can't afford to think about last Friday or it'll be all over when we play Monday," Lugo said.
The City allowed each team to have a two-hour practice session Saturday. In the California tiebreaker format, both teams run eight plays from the 50-yard line. The team that scores the most points or makes the deepest penetration into the opposition's territory wins.
Meanwhile, teams from the other two 3-A leagues advanced with inferior records. Fairfax (3-6), a member of the Crosstown League, plays Sunset champion Chatsworth on Dec. 4.
"That's the way the rules are," Lugo said. "I can't really worry about that right now."
The winner of the Canoga Park-Locke game will visit Palisades (7-2) on Dec. 4.