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FOOTBALL '98: VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY

Top 10 Reasons to Question Poll

September 03, 1998|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

See the chart listing the region's top 10 teams? Well, take a good look at it.

Study it intently. Memorize it, if you like.

Got it?

Good. Now forget it.

It won't look that way for long. The end of the season? Forget that.

It will be merely a skeleton of itself after the first week.

Truth is, nobody knows how to rate the region's teams this early with such limited information. But, despite our better judgment, we do it.

What good is a sports section that doesn't give people something to complain about?

Preseason rankings don't carry much weight anyway.

"A lot of times you're just jumping on one or two kids' bandwagon," Westlake Coach Jim Benkert said. "Nobody really knows what to expect."

Last year, Crescenta Valley was not ranked in The Times' preseason top 10. The Falcons won 10 consecutive games and the Pacific League title.

Things didn't turn out as well for Saugus, ranked No. 10 in the preseason last year. The Centurions, picked by many to win the Foothill League title, finished 2-8.

Highland was ranked third, but the Bulldogs couldn't live up to the hype and finished 5-5.

Polls can also be used against ranked teams.

"It gives the teams that are not ranked something to shoot for when they play us," Benkert said. "Other coaches use that as a motivation."

So, for what it's worth, here's The Times' regional preseason top 10:

10. Hueneme--The Vikings haven't reached the playoffs since 1987. But Hueneme, with 43 of 51 players returning from a 5-5 team, could be the surprise of the region.

They'll stay in the top 10 if: They manage to hold leads late in games. Last year, Hueneme lost three times in the final 36 seconds.

9. Crespi--It seems whenever the Celts are ranked in a top 10, they don't stay long. But look for that to change. They no longer face Bishop Amat, Loyola and St. John Bosco, which handed the Celts three of their four losses last season. Crespi's other loss was to Notre Dame, still on the schedule. Five games are against teams the Celts defeated last year.

They'll stay in the top 10 if: They survive nonleague games against Chaminade and Quartz Hill, teams they beat by a total of seven points in their first two games last season.

8. Newbury Park--Air Hurley continues to soar in The Times' top 10, and as long as there's a Czernek playing quarterback, that probably won't change. Coach George Hurley's Panthers opened last season No. 6 and reached No. 1 by ending the regular season undefeated before dropping to No. 4 with a first-round playoff loss to Arroyo Grande.

They'll stay in the top 10 if: They survive an opening-week trip to Arizona for a game against Tucson Sahuaro and make it unscathed through their Oct. 2 Marmonte League opener against Royal.

7. Notre Dame--Justin Fargas has graduated, but it has been only nine months since his last game. That's enough to get the Knights ranked. A switch to the competitive Division I Del Rey League, which includes Bishop Amat, Loyola and St. John Bosco, makes the two-time Southern Section Division III runner-up the best bet not to be here by season's end.

They'll remain in the top 10 if: They survive an opening game against Sylmar and are able to step up to the competition of one of the state's toughest leagues.

6. Valencia--A newcomer to regional polls, the Vikings are only in their fourth varsity season. It's tough to get stodgy sportswriters to give a new school credit, but Valencia cracked the top 10 briefly last year after finishing the regular season 8-2.

They'll remain in the top 10 if: They're still unbeaten for a Oct. 29 Foothill League game against Hart.

5. Taft--Having become a City Section power, the Toreadors are now a favorite among pollsters. Guaranteed to win many games in the weak Northwest Valley Conference, Taft should stay in the top 10 all season, as it did a year ago when the Toreadors won 11 consecutive games before losing to San Pedro in the City Section 4-A final.

They'll drop out of the top 10 if: They don't beat the teams they are supposed to, which looks like everyone except Banning in the first week and Dorsey in the third week.

4. Antelope Valley--Some teams just have to be in the top 10, and Antelope Valley is one. Last season, because of an opening loss to Las Vegas Western and a Golden League loss to Palmdale, the Antelopes were left out of the top 10 all season. But they reached the Division II semifinals and ended up No. 5 in the final poll with an 8-4 record.

They'll drop out of the top 10 if: Tough nonleague games against Bakersfield, Sylmar, Bishop Amat and Dominguez take their toll.

3. Westlake--It's always tough to rank a Marmonte League team. Those guys always seem to beat up on each other. We'll see if the highly touted Warriors can live up to the hype that includes a No. 16 state ranking by Cal-Hi Sports.

They'll drop out of the top 10 if: Playing Royal, Newbury Park and Thousand Oaks in consecutive weeks to open league play proves too much.

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