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November 10, 1994|SEAN WATERS

STREAKING COMETS

The Westchester High football team is headed in the right direction entering the final week of the regular season.

The Comets (8-1, 6-0 in the Coastal Conference) have clinched at least a tie for the best record in the conference and have won eight games in a row.

If Westchester wins today at Manual Arts, they are expected to be seeded among the top four teams in the City Section 4-A Division playoffs when the selection committee announces the 16-team brackets Saturday.

If the Comets lose, they could finish in a three-way tie with Manual Arts (6-3, 5-1) and University (6-3, 5-1), which plays at Hamilton (1-8, 1-5).

Would the Comets still get an automatic playoff bid because they have the best overall record?

Comets Coach Larry Wein said there are no guarantees.

"The only thing I know is that the conference champion is guaranteed a playoff spot," Wein said. "I don't know what happens in case of ties."

Wein is not the only coach confused by the new playoff format. For the first time, the City did not predetermine whether a team competes in the 3-A or 4-A divisions. Instead, the City Section chose to wait until the end of the season to select the 16-team brackets for each of the two divisional playoffs. Only the six conference champions receive automatic bids to the 4-A playoffs. The selection committee will chose the remaining 10 at-large teams for the 4-A playoffs and 16 at-large teams for the 3-A playoffs.

Adding to the confusion is that two perennial 4-A playoff teams--defending 4-A champion Carson and Locke--have losing records because they forfeited games for using ineligible players.

Should Carson make the playoffs with a potential 2-5 Southern Pacific Conference record and 2-8 overall record? Without question the Colts are one of the City's top six teams and compete in the toughest conference.

Wein says no.

"In my mind, the record should determine who goes to the playoffs," he said. "How can you justify any team going to the playoffs with a 2-8 record?"

The Comets have played the past four weeks without tailback Kaaron Conwright, who sprained his right ankle, and the past three weeks without tight end Tony Griffin, who strained a ligament in his right knee.

Westchester has proven to have plenty of depth with 5-foot-1 running back Darryl Dennis carrying the ball. In a 20-0 win over Palisades Friday, Dennis had seven carries for 112 yards and a touchdown. He also had another touchdown called back because of a penalty.

"Darryl is kind of fun to watch," Wein said. "He started the season as a fifth-string running back on the scout team and worked his way into the starting lineup.

"He's probably one of the best running backs in the conference."

During Griffin's absence, Comet quarterback Damion Ward has spread his passes around to William Reed, Courtney Brown and Louis Henderson.

Still, the Comets will have a difficult time against the Toilers, who beat City 4-A finalist Dorsey during a nonleague game.

"We can determine our own fate," Wein said. "We need to play good ball at this point of the season."

BRAGGING RIGHTS

Culver City Coach Robert Moore knew his team would not need to hold homecoming during the final week of the season because the Centaurs would be playing Beverly Hills.

"We always draw a big crowd for Beverly Hills," Moore said. "They play us tough every year."

The Centaurs (8-1, 6-0 in the Ocean League) can expect a capacity crowd for tonight's game against the Normans that will determine the Ocean League championship. With a victory, the Centaurs win the title outright. If they lose, they share the league championship with the Normans (6-3, 5-1).

Last Friday, the Centaurs won a share of the title with a 31-13 win over Redondo. Centaur quarterback Damon Williams completed 11 of 17 passes for 323 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Jasiri Rodell had five receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Jahmal Wright rushed 11 times for 71 yards and two touchdowns and caught two passes for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Despite the fact that the Centaurs are ranked second in Division VII, Moore considers his team to be underdogs against the 10th-ranked Normans.

"From what I hear, they are pretty pumped up about the game," Moore said. "I would say we're six-point underdogs."

SEEKING REVENGE

Beverly Hills Coach Carter Paysinger scoffs at the idea of the Normans being favorites against Culver City.

"They're 6-0 in league. What does that tell you?" Paysinger said.

Paysinger has not had a lot of success against Culver City. He lost twice to the Centaurs when he was a receiver/defensive back for the Normans in 1972 and 1973 and is 1-2 as a coach. His only win came in 1991 when the Normans rallied for a 22-21 victory to claim the Ocean League title.

"Beating Culver City has always been a top priority," Paysinger said. "This year or any year. We want to go to the playoffs, win our league and beat Culver City.

"We're getting calls every day from alumni about this game."

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