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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | HIGH SCHOOL REWIND

Area Teams Go South Against Northern League

November 26, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN

The Northern League, an annual nemesis for regional playoff teams, appeared to have lost its luster this season.

Regular-season evidence: Ventura defeated Arroyo Grande, 41-28, Thousand Oaks beat San Luis Obispo, 33-21, and Agoura creamed Santa Maria, 42-0.

But the Northern League is back, as strong as ever.

Lompoc defeated top-seeded Westlake, 31-24, and Arroyo Grande eliminated No. 2-seeded Buena, 31-27, in Division IV quarterfinals Friday night.

Westlake couldn't stop the run, surrendering 321 yards, and Buena couldn't stop itself from fumbling, coughing up the ball twice in the fourth quarter.

"We had about five penalties that killed us, too," Buena Coach Rick Scott said. "They weren't aggressive penalties. We just lined up wrong."

As for the return of the Northern League. . . .

"They play good, smash-mouth football up there," Scott said. "They all kind of look alike and they all kind of run the same offense. But they do it well."

*

St. Francis might break somebody's scoreboard if this keeps up.

The Golden Knights defeated Antelope Valley in a Division III quarterfinal, 47-26, and surpassed 44 points for the fourth time in six games.

It's been a far cry from some of their early performances.

The Knights were listless in a 24-14 loss to Crescenta Valley in the second week and were anything but impressive in scoring 24 points against Harvard-Westlake a month later.

Since then, St. Francis (10-2) has been on a roll behind the fleet feet of Matthew Milton and the rifle arm of John Sciarra.

"It was a little hard being in a first-year program," said Coach Jim Bonds, who came over to St. Francis after three years at Alemany. "But we've got some balance going now. It's nice when you've got Milton and Sciarra."

St. Francis faces Hart (10-2) in a playoff rematch Friday at College of the Canyons.

The Golden Knights were eliminated by Hart in the quarterfinals two years ago and the semifinals last year.

*

It was the same old story for Notre Dame.

Just enough offense. And plenty of defense.

The Knights (11-0-1) returned a fumble for a touchdown and forced another fumble to end a deep Peninsula drive in the fourth quarter of a 24-14 victory in a Division III quarterfinal.

The Knights came into the game allowing only 178.5 yards and fewer than six points per game.

Is this Notre Dame's best defense ever?

"It's pretty good," Coach Kevin Rooney said. "We gave up a few yards [Friday night], but we managed to keep them out of the end zone."

Notre Dame plays Mira Costa on Friday at El Camino College.

*

Seven was anything but heaven for area City teams in the playoff quarterfinals.

For the first time since 1989, there will not be a team from the region in an upper- or lower-division City playoff semifinal.

Sylmar, Granada Hills, Taft, Birmingham, Chatsworth, San Fernando and Canoga Park had visions of advancing to the semifinals.

All lost, some in nail-biting thrillers (Sylmar, Granada Hills), others in blowouts (Birmingham, Canoga Park).

Four losses came in the upper-division City Championship.

They weren't a magnificent seven or a lucky seven. They were simply out of the playoffs.

"It's surprising," said Co-Coach Daryl Stroh of Granada Hills, who said City teams from the region simply can't match muscle with their playoff opponents.

"It's hard to be physical in the Valley. We just don't get the size that allows us to line up and play smash-mouth with those people. That's just the way it is."

The teams and the story of their losses:

* Birmingham: Only three weeks ago, the Patriots were 9-0 and thumping opponents by nearly 26 points a game.

Then came a puzzling loss to Chatsworth in a regular-season finale and a near-fall in a 53-47 victory over Palisades in the first round.

The end came in a 52-7 loss at No. 4-seeded Carson, a game that theoretically should have been much closer for the No. 5-seeded Patriots.

* Granada Hills: Traffic trouble. One of the Highlanders' team buses arrived half an hour later than the other one.

Granada Hills was gridlocked in the first quarter, recovered with 21 second-quarter points, but was shut out in the second half of a 28-21 loss to Banning.

* Taft: The recent past wasn't too kind to the Toreadors, who lost to top-seeded Crenshaw, 36-25.

But the future got a boost when Coach Troy Starr reneged on an earlier decision to retire after the season. After Wednesday's loss, he said he will return for a 10th season.

Another probable returnee: Sophomore Steve Smith, who finished with 18 touchdown receptions and more than 1,600 yards receiving.

Smith declined to comment on his future when Starr announced his decision last month, but will now probably return to the Woodland Hills campus.

* Sylmar: The Spartans had the best chance at making it to the championship, but fell to San Pedro, 24-17.

The killing blows were three consecutive failed attempts mere inches away from the goal line in the second overtime.

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