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High Schools | FOOTBALL REWIND

Poly Seeks Nice Sunset Experience

November 18, 2002|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

Long Beach Poly has opened the last three Southern Section Division I playoffs against Fountain Valley from the Sunset League. This year, it's another case of deja vu, with a twist.

The three-time defending champion Jackrabbits, winners of the Moore League for the 11th year in a row, learned they open against another Sunset League team when the section's playoff pairings were announced Sunday.

This time around, it's Huntington Beach Edison, the team Poly beat, 42-28, in last year's section final.

Tommy Grady, who passed for 268 yards and four touchdowns in last season's title game at Edison Field, returns, but with a less productive cast.

The Chargers (4-6) finished fourth in their league and earned the division's only at-large berth that was not awarded to a Serra League school.

"Obviously, they're a threat to us," Poly Coach Raul Lara said. "They still have a great quarterback and great coaches who come up with great schemes."

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As expected, the Serra League became the first in section history to have all its teams make the playoffs in 11-man football.

League champion Bellflower St. John Bosco (8-2) is seeded No. 3 in Division I and will open against Fountain Valley (4-6). Long Beach Poly (9-1) and Los Alamitos (9-0-1) are seeded Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.

Other games involving Serra League teams: Runner-up Santa Ana Mater Dei (7-3) plays host to Redlands East Valley (6-3-1), third-place La Puente Bishop Amat (5-5) is at Redlands (7-3), fourth-place Los Angeles Loyola (7-3) is at Lakewood (8-2), and fifth-place Anaheim Servite (7-3) is at Rialto Eisenhower (6-4).

The division's most intriguing game -- and maybe the entire first round's: Last-place Santa Margarita (6-4) plays fourth-seeded Anaheim Esperanza (9-1) at Placentia Valencia.

Esperanza, in Coach Gary Meek's final season before taking over as the school's athletic director, finished second to Los Alamitos in the Sunset League.

"If we had won league, it would have been different," Meek said. "We play Santa Margarita and then Mater Dei. It's going to be a tough road for us."

The Pacific Coast League managed to get a fifth-place team into the Division IX field when it submitted Laguna Beach as its fourth-place entrant.

Laguna Beach finished 5-5, 1-4 in league, behind fourth-place Santa Ana Calvary Chapel (4-6, 2-3). Teams with at least .500 records are given consideration for at-large berths before teams with poorer records.

League coordinator Mark Cunningham, the coach at Irvine University, approached Calvary Chapel Athletic Director Mike Rausch and Coach Jay Johnson with the plan to submit Laguna Beach as the fourth-place team.

"If Calvary Chapel said no, we would have respected that," Cunningham said. "If you don't have a chance and someone else in your league does, you ought to allow that to happen. And, it's legal."

It is the first time Laguna Beach has made the playoffs since 1987.

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The most hotly contested at-large berth race was in Division VI, where six teams were vying for one spot.

Irvine (6-4), which finished in a three-way tie for second in the Sea View League, won out and will play second-seeded Orange Lutheran (8-2) at Brea Olinda.

Villa Park (7-3), credited last week with a forfeit victory over Placentia Valencia, and Bellflower (7-3) had better records than the Vaqueros, but the seeding committee is not obligated to base its decision strictly on that.

"Strength of league is a strong factor," said Rob Wigod, section assistant commissioner in charge of football.

"That Irvine beat two of the top teams in the division [Santa Ana Foothill and Newport Harbor] was pretty compelling, as well."

It made sense to Irvine Coach Terry Henigan.

"There's a difference between finishing fourth," he said, "and tying for second and losing a coin flip."

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Earlier this season, Lancaster Paraclete had its 28-game winning streak ended by Fontana Kaiser. On Friday, it lost its first league championship in six years. Chase Twedell rushed 34 times for 210 yards and two touchdowns, and returned the second-half kickoff 92 yards for another score to give Cerritos Valley Christian a 47-21 victory and the Olympic League title, its first since 1997.

"It wasn't a fluke," said Paraclete Coach Jeff Cortez, whose team has won five consecutive division titles and is in its first season in the Olympic League. "Their offensive line is really good."

Paraclete (7-3), which won four consecutive titles in Division XII beginning in 1998, is unseeded in Division XI, which it won in 1997.

"As far as I'm concerned, [Cerritos Valley Christian] is the team to beat," Cortez said. "We still expect to play in the championship game Dec. 14, and I expect Valley to be there."

Valley Christian (9-1) is seeded second behind Carpinteria (10-0).

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Jason Chamberlin, the offensive tackle for Glendale who was in a coma for two days after collapsing from heat exhaustion before the season began, returned to the lineup to play in the season-ending 31-0 victory over Glendale Hoover.

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