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October 20, 1994|SEAN WATERS

Although only four weeks remain in the high school football season, that is plenty of time for a team such as Palisades to reverse course and become a playoff contender.

But whatever twists and turns are in store for City Section teams, a trip to the City title game will follow a different course thanks to a radical change in the playoff system. That change has some coaches pleased and others scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Under the revised playoff system, teams are no longer designated to be in the 4-A or 3-A division at the beginning of the season. Instead, a selection committee will meet at the end of the season and select the top 16 teams to compete in the 4-A playoffs and a second 16 to compete in the 3-A playoffs.

Only the six conference champions will gain automatic berths and the remaining 10 at-large spots will be determined by a nine-member selection committee. Those at-large teams and all of the 3-A playoff teams will be selected based on record, strength of conference and strength of nonconference schedule.

Of the 49 City Section schools, 32 will make one of the two playoffs.

Palisades (1-4), which normally competes in the 4-A division, would be out of playoff contention after losing its first four games. But under the new format, the Dolphins could win their remaining four games and be selected as at-large 3-A team. Friday's 21-20 win over Fairfax has given Coach Russ Howard and the Dolphins new hope.

"If we win three of our next four games, I think we have a shot at making the playoffs," Howard said. "I look down at the standings and I see 17 teams that are weaker than us."

With a month left in the regular season, a division has been formed between the haves and the have-nots.

Here's a look at the possible playoff teams.

In the 4-A Division, Sylmar (6-0) is the only City team ranked in the State by Cal-Hi Sports magazine. The 1992 City 4-A champions are ranked 14th and will be the top-seeded team if they remain undefeated. Taft (5-1) is another powerhouse team from the San Fernando Valley and will most likely win the Northwest Valley Conference.

The Coastal Conference champion should be determined Friday when Westchester (5-1) plays host to University (4-2). Even if they lose, the Comets have regularly made the 4-A playoffs and are a sure bet to receive an at-large berth.

The Southern Pacific Conference has dominated the City playoffs for the past three decades. Although they have mediocre records, Banning (3-2-1), Carson (2-4), Crenshaw (4-2), Dorsey (4-2) and San Pedro (4-2) should make the playoffs.

Bell (5-1), Fremont (4-1) and South Gate (5-1) are in a dogfight for supremacy in the Southeastern Conference, and any one of the three could drop to the bottom of the pack during the next four weeks. But as it stands, all three will make the playoffs.

Wilson (5-1) and Franklin (5-1) play for the Northern Conference lead Friday, but the loser will have a realistic shot at receiving a wild-card berth. The other wild-card berths should go to Granada Hills (4-2) and Van Nuys (5-1).

But there is plenty of time left for upsets and change of fortunes.

"I don't see a conference with a lot of super teams," Westchester Coach Larry Wein said. "There is a lot of evenness unless I'm missing something."


In the 3-A playoffs, 18 teams are competing for 16 openings. Although Manual Arts (3-3) upset Dorsey, the Toilers would be best served competing in the lower division. With games left against Westchester and Venice, they might not have a choice.

Venice (4-2) also has an uphill battle with games left against Westchester and Manual Arts. Friday's 19-17 loss to University cost the Gondoliers a realistic chance to make the 4-A playoffs.

In the Southern Pacific Conference, Gardena (3-2-1) and Washington (2-4) appear to be in and Narbonne (1-5) is out.

At least three teams from the Southeastern Conference will make the 3-A playoffs. Among the contenders are Garfield (3-3), Roosevelt (3-3), Locke (2-4) and Jefferson (2-4).

Eagle Rock (4-2) and Belmont (3-2-1) should represent the Northern Conference.

Cleveland (4-2), Kennedy (3-3) and San Fernando (3-3) should qualify from the Northwest Valley and Birmingham (3-3), Chatsworth (2-4) are on the bubble. From the Valley Pac-8 conference, Poly (3-3), Reseda (3-3) and Monroe (2-4) are in contention.

Hollywood (2-4), Palisades, Fairfax (1-5) are Westside schools that appear to be long shots at making the playoffs.


Mira Costa has lost only two games in two seasons, both to Culver City.

The Centaurs, behind the receiving of Jasiri Rodell, beat the defending Southern Section Division VII Mustangs, 33-21, on Friday to gain the upper hand for first place in the Ocean League.

Rodell caught nine passes for 220 yards and four touchdowns. He also had an interception.

"We jelled at the right time," Culver City Coach Robert Moore said. "Jasiri Rodell and (quarterback) Damon Williams came ready to play.

"The coaching staff also did a great job preparing the team during the week."

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