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Football Playoff Capsules

November 17, 1998|MIKE TERRY

The Southern Section football playoffs appear to be more balanced this season than they have been in a long time.

Only two county football teams--Los Alamitos and Woodbridge--were unbeaten during the regular season. Los Alamitos hosts Lakewood at Cerritos Gahr Friday, the same night Woodbridge plays Saddleback at Irvine High.

Orange Lutheran, which kicks off postseason play Thursday by hosting Santa Paula at Brea Olinda High, is undefeated against California opponents. The Lancers lost their season opener at Tallahassee North Florida Christian.

And then there is Mater Dei, seeking its fourth championship of the decade. The Monarchs host Fountain Valley at Santa Ana Stadium Friday. If they reach the title game this season, they might get a rematch with undefeated Long Beach Poly, which beat the Monarchs in last year's Division I finale.

Two-time defending Division V champion Santa Margarita, which is competing in Division VI this season,finished third in the Sea View League. On Friday, the Eagles cross the Saddleback Valley to play at Aliso Niguel, which moved up two divisions. The Pacific Coast League champion Wolverines won the Division VIII title in 1996.

Here's a division-by-division rundown of the upcoming playoffs:

Division I

Defending champion: Long Beach Poly, which defeated Mater Dei, 28-25.

Seeded teams: 1. Long Beach Poly (10-0); 2. Los Alamitos (10-0); 3. Mater Dei (9-1); 4. La Puente Bishop Amat (9-0-1).

Dark horse: Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. Its only loss was to Bishop Amat by seven points, and it was the only team to defeat perennially strong Los Angeles Loyola.

Notes: The Division I playoff field features several strong teams. "Top to bottom, this is the best Division I has been in the last 10 years," Fontana Coach Dick Bruich said. Long Beach Poly enters the playoffs on a school-record 24-game winning streak. . . . Huntington Beach (6-3-1) received the wild-card berth in part because Rialto Eisenhower had to forfeit all its games because of an ineligible player. Oiler Coach Tony Ciarelli is happy to have made it, no matter the circumstances. "We had promoted to the kids all year that making the playoffs is the big thing," Ciarelli said. "Sure we'd like to win a league title, but that's icing on the cake. The thing is to be able to play 14 weeks. Making the playoffs was a big step for us." The Oilers' reward was drawing top-seeded Poly. "They may be the fastest team in high school football," Ciarelli said. "It will be a great challenge for our defense. We're a ball-control team on offense, and one reason our defense has looked good is they're not on the field the whole game." . . . Poly Coach Jerry Jaso's son, Ryan, attends Huntington Beach High. "He might be a little torn on Friday, but I expect him to be a Jackrabbits' fan," Jaso said. . . . Fontana's Bruich adds this about Poly: "Nobody talks about their defense, but it's extremely quick. You think you're going to make a big play against them but they don't allow it." . . . Los Alamitos may have been given the easiest first-round opponent in Lakewood. But Coach John Barnes said it will be very tough for all teams after that. "It's my guess you will have eight teams in Round 2 that could legitimately win it," he said. Lakewood Coach Tom Busch said the Griffins "are similar to Poly--they have speed and their quarterback makes good decisions. I'm hoping they are looking past us." . . . The first-round game between Mater Dei and Fountain Valley has added spice. In September, wide receiver Kelvin Millhouse transferred from Fountain Valley to Mater Dei. It was a transfer Fountain Valley officials challenged but lost. "It's still a sore point with our kids, so it will be a point of motivation," Baron Coach George Berg said. Millhouse has 42 receptions for 948 yards and 15 touchdowns. . . . Mater Dei's defense will be significantly upgraded if linebacker Kevin Mitchell, who missed four games with a pulled hamstring, can return this week. "We'll probably make a decision by Wednesday," Coach Bruce Rollinson said. . . . Loyola's running game could be in trouble if tailback John Grady hasn't recovered from injuries. . . . First-round opponents Esperanza and Trabuco Hills last met in the playoffs in 1994. Trabuco Hills won, 23-12. Esperanza Coach Gary Meek said he didn't know much about this season's Mustang team, but he'll learn quickly. "If they can do what they did to Fountain Valley [a 24-7 Mustang victory] they must be a pretty good team," Meek said.

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