Believe it or not:
Carson, the defending L.A. City 4-A champion and the No. 3-ranked football team in the nation by USA Today, will open the playoffs Dec. 4 against a team that has not won a game on the field in two years.
El Camino Real (0-7-2), the fourth-place finisher in the Valley League, is believed to be the first team to qualify for the city playoffs without a win in the regular season. Discounting one victory by forfeit, the Conquistadores own a 22-game winless streak dating back to the sixth week of the 1985 season.
The funny thing is, Carson Coach Gene Vollnogle says El Camino Real is not all that bad.
"They're the best team I've seen that has not won a game," he said. "They don't have a lot of depth, but they have three or four really good players.
"That's what I'm trying to tell my kids, 'Don't take them lightly, because they can sting you.' "
So far, only El Camino Real has been stung.
The team has scored less than 10 points in six of its nine games, yet because Kennedy finished 0-3-1 in league play and El Camino Real was 0-2-2, the Conquistadores earned a spot in the playoffs.
Despite what Vollnogle says, don't expect a close game when Carson (9-0), the Pacific League champion, and El Camino Real meet Dec. 4 at Gardena High. Carson has outscored its opponents, 353-41, and has no two-way players. El Camino Real reportedly only had 24 healthy players at practice last week.
"We're just going to have to do the best we can," said Ralph Stam, El Camino Real assistant coach, "and hope we stay with them."
If Carson wins, it would be the 200th victory in the school's 25-year history.
Because there are only two 4-A leagues (Pacific and Valley), eight of 11 teams--four from each league--advance to the playoffs. Apparently some of the Pacific League coaches consider the current setup unfair.
At the all-league meeting Tuesday night, Fremont Coach Taja Rodisha jokingly suggested to the Gardena coaches that they attempt to move to the Valley League. Fremont and Gardena are the Pacific League teams that failed to qualify for the playoffs.
"Hey, let's go out to the Valley League," he said, "where you don't have to win any games to get into the playoffs."
Three of Banning's starting football players, including tailback Chris Griffieth, are ineligible for the 4-A playoffs because they failed to meet academic requirements.
Along with Griffieth, the team's leading rusher, Banning lost defensive tackle Jagade Freeman and cornerback Eric Williams on Monday, when results of the 10-week grading period were reported.
Athletes in the L.A. City Section must maintain a C average with no F's to remain eligible.
The loss of the starters figures to hurt Banning (6-3) when it opens the playoffs on Dec. 4 against Cleveland at Harbor College. Griffieth, a junior, led the Pilots to a 28-27 win over Cleveland earlier this season at Harbor.
Coach John Hazelton isn't worried, however.
"After a couple of weeks of practice, we'll be all right," he said. "I'm not greatly concerned about it."
Carson lost four players to grades, but none are starters.
"Grade-wise, this is the best we've ever snuck by," Vollnogle said. "We had more kids miss practice than ever before to have tutoring. I don't know if that's the difference, but it's the only thing we've done differently."
Gardena lost several starting linemen on Monday, just hours before the team fell to Crenshaw in a tiebreaker to determine the fourth and final playoff spot from the Pacific League.
It appears that the South Bay's CIF-Southern Section public high schools will be competing in two eight-team leagues starting next school year.
Because of the imminent closure of Miraleste, South Bay schools were forced to scrap a league realignment proposal that would have left three leagues in the area--Bay, Ocean and Pioneer.
Instead, school administrators voted last week to eliminate the Pioneer League, thus forming larger and vastly different Bay and Ocean leagues. The proposal will be brought before the CIF Executive Committee next Thursday for approval.
The proposed league alignments would be as follows:
Bay League--Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, Hawthorne, Leuzinger, Inglewood, Beverly Hills, Torrance and Santa Monica.
Ocean League--West Torrance, Mira Costa, Redondo, Culver City, Centennial, North Torrance, South Torrance and Morningside.
El Segundo, where enrollment has been steadily dropping in recent years, moves to the parochial Camino Real League. In football, the Eagles will compete in the Santa Fe League.
The new proposals for the Bay and Ocean leagues, which are currently six-team leagues, are not welcomed by everyone.
John Mihaljevich, starting his 21st season as Palos Verdes' basketball coach, says the new league alignments would reduce the number of playoff spots available to South Bay teams and break up some natural rivalries.
"Administrators make these decisions, and then it's up to the coaching staffs to deal with the constant shake-ups," he said. "It's obvious to me that there was little if any input from coaches. I think if coaches had the opportunity to determine the leagues, they certainly wouldn't have voted for the (leagues) that came out of the administration meeting."
Mihaljevich said he would have liked to see the Bay League remain the same and the Ocean and Pioneer leagues go to five-team alignments.