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November 17, 1994|ROB FERNAS

THE POSTSEASON

Let's face it, prep playoffs are a gas: a tournament of thrills, spills and surprises played out in the unforgiving format of single elimination. One loss and you're gone, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Good teams will lose sooner than expected and wonder why. Others will stick around longer than anyone thought possible and pinch themselves.

The South Bay will be represented by 12 teams in the Southern Section and City Section football playoffs, which start Friday night. (Yes, we know the eight-man playoffs started last week, but that's a different game).

Optimism runs high at this time of year, so it's a cruel and heartless job telling teams they haven't got a Democrat's chance in an election of reaching the second round. But someone has to do it.

Here is a look at the area's playoff entries, listed under categories rating their chances of winning a division title.

BEST BETS

Mira Costa (Southern Section Division VII)--Talent-wise, the Mustangs are nothing to get excited about. But you can't underestimate experience nor the impact Coach Don Morrow has had on this once foundering program. Mira Costa is 22-2 in two seasons under Morrow, whose ability to make key personnel changes has paid off again. After the Mustangs lost to Culver City, 33-21, in the sixth week, Morrow switched quarterbacks, promoting sophomore Kevin Cooper. The change has given the team a better passing attack to go along with the running threat of tailback Mike Fikes, who became eligible late last season and helped Mira Costa win the Division VII title. The second-seeded Mustangs would like nothing better than to reach the final and play top-seeded Culver City, the only team to beat them in the past two seasons.

Peninsula (Division II)--The second-seeded Panthers are undeniably the hottest team in the area, winning their last eight games by a combined score of 332-49 and running away with the Bay League title. Peninsula seemingly has all the qualities to challenge for the Division II title--a potent running game led by running back Petros Papadakis and quarterback Peter Krogh, a dominant offensive line and a strong defense. But one question remains: If the Panthers fall behind, can they pass the ball? Having a one-dimensional offense hasn't hurt Peninsula yet, but it could, especially in a division that boasts such talented teams as Newhall Hart, Compton Dominguez and Pasadena Muir.

Mary Star (Division X)--What's gotten into Mary Star? After enduring 1-9, 0-10 and 1-8 seasons, the Stars qualified for the playoffs with a 9-1 record and as co-champions of the Santa Fe League. Sure, leaving the more competitive Camino Real League helped, but it doesn't diminish the job done by first-year Coach Dino Andrie and his undermanned squad. This will be a season to celebrate, even if the fourth-seeded Stars bow out in the second round.

Carson (City Section 4-A Division)--Well, why not? Everything else has happened to the Colts this season, so what could be more fitting than a 2-8 team beating the odds to successfully defend their title? After forfeiting three conference victories because of an ineligible player, Carson knew it had to win last week to have a chance of making the playoffs. The Colts responded by routing Washington, 58-13. Franklin (9-1), Carson's first-round opponent, should be more than a little nervous.

LONG ROAD TO NOWHERE

Leuzinger (Division II)--For Leuzinger, road maps and bus rides seem to play as big a part in playoff openers as X's and O's. The Olympians went to Santa Barbara two years ago and lost to San Marcos, 24-7. Last season, they lost at Newbury Park, 39-6. Awaiting the not-so-happy wanderers Friday is a three-hour drive north to Burroughs of Ridgecrest, where nighttime temperatures regularly dip in the 30s this time of year. Leuzinger probably deserved a better draw after winning its last five games, capped by an impressive 20-8 victory over Hawthorne, to finish second in the Bay League. If the Olympians win, they'll most likely meet top-seeded Hart in the second round. Ouch.

Serra (Division III)--The Cavaliers avoided a disastrous season by winning their last two games to finish third in the Camino Real League and nail down the league's last playoff spot. Their reward? Having to drive to Santa Barbara to play Channel League champion San Marcos.

Torrance (Division II) and South Torrance (Division VII)--At-large berths are a strange accomplishment. Teams scramble to get them, then usually draw a powerhouse team and get hammered. Torrance and South, the fourth-place teams from the Bay and Ocean leagues, are headed down that road. Torrance plays at top-seeded Hart (10-0) and South plays at third-seeded Lompoc (9-1).

NOT THIS YEAR

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