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This Was an Ugly Tie for Santa Margarita

Football: Controversial finish against Servite may have cost the Eagles a top-four seeding in playoffs.

November 12, 2001|BEN BOLCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Santa Margarita High Coach Jim Hartigan was irritated Sunday after learning that his team would enter the Southern Section Division I football playoffs unseeded after winning the Serra League title, but his grievance wasn't with the selection committee.

Hartigan was angry at game officials who had refused to allow the Eagles to play overtime Friday against Anaheim Servite after the teams had deadlocked, 16-16, in regulation. The game was ruled a tie, hurting Santa Margarita's chances to obtain one of the division's top four seeds.

"We wanted to finish the game and play overtime, and we didn't get a chance to do it," Hartigan said. Officials were unfamiliar with Serra League rules that call for the use of overtime periods, Hartigan said, and refused to listen to Eagle coaches who pleaded with them to allow the game to continue.

"The officials weren't going to let us play unless both sides wanted to," Hartigan said. "[Servite] didn't."

Santa Margarita assistant coach Adrian Peters said Servite Coach Larry Toner apologized Saturday at a league meeting after conceding that the overtime period should have been played.

Santa Margarita (7-1-2) still finished with a better record than fourth-seeded Los Alamitos (7-2-1)--a team the Eagles defeated, 21-14, in Week 2--but the selection committee was more impressed with the Griffins' late-season surge, section assistant commissioner Rob Wigod said.

Los Alamitos was 6-0-1 in its last seven games.

"[Santa Margarita] fell at the wrong time to one of the weaker teams," Wigod said. "The feeling of the committee was that that hurt them a little bit, so they dropped."

The Eagles will host Rialto (7-3) Friday at a site to be determined and could face Los Alamitos in the second round.

Another coach who was dissatisfied with the pairings was Fountain Valley's Eric Johnson. The Barons (6-3-1), one of three Division I teams to receive at-large berths, have to play top-seeded Long Beach Poly (8-1) in the first round--for the third consecutive year. Poly won the previous two meetings en route to division titles.

"We have the best record of the three [at-large teams], so I don't know how [the selection committee] figured it out," Johnson said.

Fountain Valley was hurt by the fact that it was the fourth Sunset League team in the bracket. Pairings protocol dictates that teams from the same league play in separate quarters of the bracket, and because Fountain Valley was the last playoff team from its league, its options were limited.

Huntington Beach Marina, the No. 3 entrant from the Sunset League, didn't fare much better. The Vikings (5-5) have to play second-seeded Redlands (10-0).

Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes doesn't mind his first-round opponent--Santa Fe Springs St. Paul--but would like to know where the game will be played. Long Beach Poly is using Veterans Stadium, where the Griffins play most of their home games, and Cerritos Gahr is using its field, the Griffins' backup site.

Barnes said the game will likely be played at Long Beach Millikan High or Cerritos College. St. Paul (4-4-1) seemed like a controversial at-large pick over Servite (5-4-1), which had defeated the Swordsmen, 14-7. But Wigod explained that the selection committee couldn't take a team that had finished fourth in its league (Servite) over one that had finished third (St. Paul).

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