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High Schools | FOOTBALL REWIND

The Upper Echelon Is Not Dominating Yet

September 29, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

Not that we're advocating running up the score, but ...

There doesn't appear to be a truly dominant football team in the Southland this year.

Los Alamitos, Mission Viejo, Riverside North and Westlake Village Westlake are all undefeated -- and, yes, Mission Viejo is riding a 31-game winning streak -- but after Week 3, no team has established itself as head and shoulders above all others.

"There's an upper echelon of teams, and then everyone else," said Newhall Hart Coach Mike Herrington, whose team has played No. 1 Los Alamitos, No. 6 Westlake and No. 7 Ventura St. Bonaventure and lost by a combined 11 points. "But of those upper-echelon teams, anyone could beat anyone."

Los Alamitos is the top-ranked team in the Southland and one of the most highly regarded teams in the nation this year. Yet, it defeated Hart in its opener by only three points, and that was a game in which Hart's quarterback, Sean Norton, didn't play in the second half because of an injury.

Last week, Los Alamitos defeated Brea Olinda, 24-14. Brea Olinda is 1-2 and unranked in the Southern Section Division VI coaches' poll.

The other team that seems most capable of claiming "dominant" stature is second-ranked Mission Viejo.

The Diablos defeated Fountain Valley in the first week by only one point, 14-13, when they stopped the Barons' two-point conversion attempt at the end of the game.

Mission Viejo was more impressive in Week 2 against Santa Ana Mater Dei in a 22-11 victory. Yet, twice the Monarchs (0-3) were in good position to possibly end the Diablos' streak.

"I think the talent level has increased and the quality of football is better, which has created better games," said Corona Centennial Coach Matt Logan, whose team lost to Clovis West, 44-40, Friday in a game pitting two teams ranked in the state's top 20.

"It used to be that Division I was the best, but I think the top teams from each division could compete with each other," Logan said. "I don't think the gap is as big as it used to be."

That theory could explain some of the scores put up by No. 8 Orange Lutheran, a Division VI school.

The Lancers defeated Mater Dei more convincingly than either two-time Division II champion Mission Viejo or Division V power North. The Lancers also beat Santa Paula by a larger margin -- 49 points to 42 -- than Division IV finalist Westlake.

Is there really that much difference between the top teams, and a team ranked No. 17, such as Fountain Valley, or a winless team, such as No. 25 Mater Dei?

No.

*

A two-point conversion with 41 seconds left that gave Westlake its 25-24 victory over Hart on Thursday has created some controversy.

Hart coaches believe a television replay from Fox Sports Net shows the knee of Tahj Mowry touching the ground before the ball crosses the goal line. The official, perfectly aligned to view the play at the goal line, ruled Mowry scored before his knee hit the turf.

Game referee Bill McCabe, who has been an NFL replay official for five years, said it wouldn't have mattered if Herrington, Hart's coach, had been able to throw a red flag to challenge the play because the replay was inconclusive.

"I looked at it on TV and that was a tough call," McCabe said. "In our replay world, we couldn't have done anything with it because of the camera angle."

Said Herrington: "If the referee said it would have been a tough call on replay, that means there is doubt. That means he viewed it and there's doubt that he scored."

Fox Sports Net had five cameras at the game. A typical Monday night NFL game has 29 cameras.

"I would guarantee [Westlake Coach] Jim Benkert would have been equally upset [if the call went against him]," McCabe said.

*

Ryan Mole is out about six weeks because of a broken collarbone for No. 20 Santa Maria Righetti (4-0). His replacement, Mark Melangko, rushed 22 times for 252 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-13 victory over Morro Bay (2-1).

Melangko needed only 12 seconds to end Morro Bay's shutout streak after two games, scoring on a 58-yard run. The Pirates had outscored their previous three opponents, 79-0.

*

For the second time this season, the Morton twins have delivered a touchdown on Riverside North's first offensive play.

Against perennial power Mater Dei on Friday, Damon Morton, who was double-covered most of the night, was inexplicably alone, and his brother, Dion Morton, connected with him on a 45-yard scoring pass in a 28-10 victory.

The duo also delivered in the season opener on a double-reverse pass.

Actually, the Mortons scored on the first play of all three games for North this season, but a penalty nullified a 67-yard touchdown pass play against Fontana Kaiser two weeks ago.

"The Morton twins," Coach Lou Randall said, "are just amazing kids."

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