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High Schools | FOOTBALL REWIND

Pairings in Playoffs Are True to Form

November 17, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

There weren't a lot of surprises as the Southern and City sections set their playoff pairings this weekend. There are 240 teams hoping to win 15 division titles, 60 with creditable chances.

There is no dominant team in the Southern Section Division I playoffs, but there are two favorites to meet in the title game.

Top-seeded Long Beach Poly (8-2) is the fastest team in the division and has not lost to a Division I team from the Southern Section -- the Jackrabbits lost, 17-13, to Fresno Clovis East (ranked No. 14 in the state) and 28-27 to Division II champion Mission Viejo. The only other school that hasn't lost to a Division I team is third-seeded Redlands East Valley (8-1-1), a longshot to run the table.

Los Alamitos (9-1) -- which could face Redlands East Valley in the second round -- is another favorite. Its 21-16 loss to fourth-seeded Fountain Valley came in a game in which the Griffins committed seven turnovers.

There are four other teams to watch that appear especially dangerous right now: second-seeded Los Angeles Loyola (7-3), which has won four in a row in the Serra League; Santa Ana Mater Dei (6-4), which has won six of its last seven; Huntington Beach Edison (7-3), which has allowed more than eight points only once in the last nine games; and Lakewood (8-2), which nearly upset Poly two weeks ago.

Edison, a Sunset League tri-champion that lost a coin flip, could face Poly in the second round.

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It appears to be top-seeded Mission Viejo (10-0) against the Foothill League in Division II. The two-time defending champion Diablos are riding a 38-game winning streak, but play all their games on the road as a result of sanctions from last year's final in which they used an illegal football. They open against Burbank Burroughs (4-6), the fourth-place team from the Foothill League, and are likely to see the league's second-place team, fourth-seeded Canyon Country Canyon (9-1) in the semifinals. Canyon has a terrific offense, a porous defense.

Second-seeded Hart (7-3) lost its first three games of the season by a combined 11 points to three teams ranked among the top seven in the state.

Mission Viejo, by the way, is No. 1 in the Southland, No. 2 in the state. Hart is No. 7 in the state.

Hart needed a 21-point comeback last week to beat Valencia, 42-35, and could face the Vikings (7-3) in the semifinals. Hart lost to Mission Viejo, 10-6, in last year's championship game.

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Dion Bell didn't have a bona fide change of address, and that's the reason Compton Dominguez forfeited nine victories -- not including a 61-0 win over Downey on Friday.

Dominguez (1-9) is replaced in the playoffs by Paramount, which has a 2-8 record, including its forfeit victory. The Dons, ranked No. 13 by The Times last week, should have been no worse than the second-seeded team in Division III.

Last year's finalists -- top-seeded Mira Costa (10-0) and defending champion Notre Dame (8-2) -- should expect strong challenges from Santa Fe Springs St. Paul (8-2), Palmdale (9-1), Lynwood (9-0-1) and La Canada St. Francis (7-3) in one of the more open divisions.

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St. Bonaventure defeated Westlake Village Westlake, 40-14, for the Division IV title last year. The only team that seems to have a chance to break up a rematch is third-seeded Arroyo Grande (9-1), but its offense probably can't keep pace with either of the unbeaten favorites.

Arroyo Grande has scored 227 points, compared with top-seeded St. Bonaventure's 400 and second-seeded Westlake's 421. Also, top-seeded St. Bonaventure (10-0) and second-seeded Westlake (10-0) each defeated Hart, which beat Valencia, which is the team that beat Arroyo Grande.

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Top-seeded Riverside North (10-0) will probably have to go through three Mountain View League teams to win the Division V title. Third-seeded Norco (9-1) is looking more and more like a worthy challenger. Toby Gerhart has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the last three games, including down-to-the-wire victories over Corona Centennial (7-3) and Corona Santiago (7-3).

Second-seeded Colton (9-0) hasn't faced any teams of that caliber.

North could get face Corona in the second round and Centennial in the semifinals. Centennial beat North in last year's title game, 57-55, behind running back Terrell Jackson.

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Like the Division II matchup, two unbeaten teams should meet for the Division VI title. Top-seeded Hacienda Heights Los Altos (10-0) has a 16-game winning streak, and some coaches compare second-seeded Orange Lutheran (9-0) favorably to Mission Viejo. True or not, this one could be the best of the title games.

Few outside the program of third-seeded Villa Park (10-0) give the Spartans a chance against either.

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Instead of seeding teams one through 16 as it had in the past, the City Section this year seeded each league champion that remained in the Championship division so that each received a home game. Seven chose to stay.

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