The season is over for Lynwood High, which had been in the Southern Section football playoffs 12 straight years. Dana Hills, with a 7-3 record, was selected over the 5-5 Knights for the at-large berth in Division III.
Between 50 and 100 Lynwood students, mostly football players, staged a peaceful demonstration at the school Wednesday to protest Dana Hills' selection.
"It's an unfair situation," said Lynwood Coach Joe Hembrick. "I guess Orange County schools rule out over little ghetto schools."
Hembrick contends that the selection committee didn't follow guidelines in the Southern Section handbook. According to those guidelines, categories considered are overall record, strength of league, strength of schedule and strength at end of season, "with each area having no specific weight and/or order of preference."
"The only one they had us on was won-lost record," Hembrick said. "I don't think their league is stronger. And we played nationally rated teams (in preseason)."
Lynwood finished in a three-way tie for second place with Dominguez and Gahr in the San Gabriel Valley League. Dana Hills finished fourth behind 10-0 Capistrano Valley, 9-1 El Toro and 8-2 Mission Viejo in the South Coast League. The Dolphins lost to all of those teams.
In non-league games, Lynwood lost to L.A. City powers Crenshaw, 35-22, and Carson, 10-6, and also to Bishop Amat, 28-21. Those three teams have a combined 20-7 record, and earlier in the season Carson had been listed among the nation's best teams by USA Today.
Dana Hills had non-league wins over San Diego Ramona, Laguna Beach, Santa Ana Valley and University of Irvine. Those teams, which compete in lower divisions, were 12-27-1.
Lynwood won four of its last five games, including a 27-12 victory over league champion Paramount. Dana Hills won two of its last three games.
According to San Gabriel Valley League rules, if there is a three-way tie for second place, the three teams participate in a coin toss. Gahr won the toss and became the second-place team.
The third-place team is then decided by how the other two teams did against each other. Dominguez had defeated Lynwood, so Dominguez was officially named the third-place team. In Division III each league is guaranteed three playoff entries.
Thus, the only way Lynwood could get into the playoffs was by being named an at-large team.
Bill Clark, a Southern Section administrator, said Dana Hills' superior record was the determining factor in its selection.
"I've discussed it with the Lynwood coach and principal," Clark said. "It was a tough call. It's tough that both couldn't get in."
Clark said that Dana Hills hasn't been to the playoffs since 1975.
He also said that of the four members of the selection committee, only one is from Orange County.