YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Tustin Finds Playoff Success After Living on the Edge

November 28, 2002|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

With two games left in the regular season, Tustin was looking at a losing record and needing to win those games to qualify for the Southern Section Division VI playoffs.

Coach Myron Miller told his players if they lost either game and needed a coin flip to gain the Century League's last playoff berth that he wouldn't even allow them that opportunity.

At-large teams must have at least a .500 record to be eligible.

"I came from a time when only league champs went [to the playoffs]," Miller said. "If we don't make it because we're not .500, I don't want to be in the playoffs."

Tustin won out, finished 5-5 overall, 4-1 in the Century League, and was seeded fourth.

The Tillers won their first-round game over Norwalk Glenn convincingly, 53-8, on Saturday behind Terrell Harris' four touchdowns and play at Placentia Valencia in a quarterfinal game on Friday.

Tustin got in its do-or-die situation because of its 1-4 record in nonleague games. The regular-season record of its nonleague opponents -- Santa Ana Foothill, Compton Dominguez, Anaheim Servite, Anaheim Western and Mission Viejo -- was a combined 39-11.

But Miller said it isn't easy to schedule opponents, especially because of his team's double-wing offense, which few teams run and is difficult to replicate in practice, and because the Tillers play very physically. Tight end Chris Barrett and offensive lineman Sam Baker are two of the top prospects in the country.

"Nobody really wants to play us unless it's a team that's not afraid of anybody," Miller said. "I don't get to play the teams that other guys are playing because they're using spread-out offenses and it's basically touch football.

"It's not all by design. I was just tired of going out to Riverside every week, so I took on some people who were pretty dang tough."


The Division XII quarterfinal game Friday between top-seeded Mammoth Lakes Mammoth (11-0) and rival Bishop (6-5) is set to become the biggest sporting event in region history. It will be broadcast on four radio stations and two TV stations.

"We're expecting maybe 5,000 people," said Bishop Coach Bill Egan, whose team will host the game. "If we get a crowd that big, it will be the biggest crowd that's ever seen anything in this town except for Mule Days."

Mammoth, located 150 miles south of Reno and 200 miles north of Lancaster, played before the largest crowd in school history, about 3,000, last Friday, scoring a 37-14 victory over Redlands Arrowhead Christian.

This week's game pits one of the Southland's leading rushers, Bishop's Ralph Cataldo (2,238 yards, 32 touchdowns), against its top-ranked passer, Mammoth's Juan Prieto (28 yards per completion, 15 touchdowns), and running back R.J. Flamson (1,376 yards, 19 touchdowns).

Bishop holds a 21-4-1 record in head-to-head meetings, but Mammoth has won three of the last five.

"These are rugged individuals who live here -- fishermen and hunters and snowboarders, skiers and rock climbers -- and this is the first real team sport where the community has gotten excited about it," said Egan, former coach of the U.S. men's ski team. "We have a football frenzy at the moment, especially in Mammoth."


Pomona's 21-7 victory over Garden Grove Rancho Alamitos at Ganesha High in a Division IX first-round game was delayed 90 minutes Saturday because there was no on-site doctor, a state requirement for playoff games.

Kickoff was delayed for the same reason for the Division I game between Anaheim Servite and Rialto Eisenhower.

"We have a team doctor, but unfortunately, he was out of town," Pomona Coach John Capraro said. "Rancho had a team doctor, but he was out of town."

At Eisenhower, the public address announcer asked if there were any doctors in attendance. No one responded.

Eisenhower Athletic Director Tom Hoak said the doctor got lost on the way, but arrived at about 7:40 p.m. -- 10 minutes after the scheduled kickoff.

"The official was not going to allow us to play the game," Hoak said. "He wanted to see the doctor face to face or he was going to cancel the game."


Traveling goes hand in hand with the playoffs, but some top teams will be on the road this week ... and then some.

* Monrovia (11-0), the second-seeded team in Division X, will travel 159 miles to play at Lompoc (8-3).

* Mission Viejo, the top-seeded team in Division II, plays at Canyon Country Canyon (10-1), an 82-mile trip.

* Newhall Hart (9-2), the second-seeded team in Division II, has to travel 62 miles to play Chino Hills Ayala (9-2).

Higher-seeded teams host first-round games. After that, the home team is determined by whichever team has hosted fewer games, or by coin flip if both have hosted the same number.

Championship games are at neutral sites. It is that way in all section playoffs.

"Last year, we were the No. 2 seed and we played two of our three games [before the championship] on the road," Hart Coach Mike Herrington said. "I've got no complaints. I've been involved with this so long, I don't even think about it anymore. It's just the way it is."

It doesn't have to be that way. School principals, who make up the Southern Section Council, can change the rules.

"If there's interest in changing the format and adjusting it to where higher-seeded teams remained at home, or [other] options that seem most fair, it's up to the membership to make those changes," said Rob Wigod, Southern Section assistant commissioner in charge of football. "If they want to change it, it could be in place by next year."

Los Angeles Times Articles