In a dress rehearsal for next fall's state football bowl games, 10 section commissioners from the California Interscholastic Federation met for four hours in San Diego on Thursday before coming up with the six section championship teams who would have played in the games had they been held this season.
"It was a great learning process," said Ken Gunn, principal at Walnut High and the games' director.
Three state high school bowl games are set to be played Dec. 16 at the Home Depot Center in Carson in the first of a two-year pilot program.
The biggest controversy Thursday in the mock selection process involved the choice of the Southern California representative for the Division I game. City champion Los Angeles Crenshaw got the nod in a close vote over Compton Dominguez, the Southern Section Division III champion, and Canyon Country Canyon, the Division II champion.
Crenshaw's 37-35 triple-overtime victory over Dominguez in the second game of the season proved decisive in the commissioners' minds, Gunn said.
Crenshaw would have faced Concord De La Salle, selected as the Northern California representative.
In Division II, the commissioners chose Ridgecrest Burroughs as Southern California's representative and Loomis Del Oro for Northern California. In Division III, Ventura St. Bonaventure was picked to meet Oakland McClymonds.
Mike DiFiori, who coached at La Puente Bishop Amat the last seven years, has resigned to spend more time with his family. DiFiori, who has two sons, ages 9 and 7, said he is leaving on good terms.
"My 9-year-old played flag football, and I only saw two quarters the whole season," he said.
Despite victories over Los Angeles Loyola and Santa Ana Mater Dei, Bishop Amat (6-4) shared third place in the Serra League and failed to make the playoffs because it lost a series of coin flips.
Bishop Amat qualified for the playoffs four times under DiFiori, who was a defensive coach during the Lancers' championship seasons in 1992 and 1995. He will remain head of the school's science department.
Santa Ana Mater Dei junior Taylor King verbally committed to Duke, choosing the Blue Devils over North Carolina, Villanova and Gonzaga. King, a 6-foot-7 forward, is averaging 26.2 points and 13.2 rebounds for the Monarchs, ranked No. 3 in the Southland by The Times.
He originally committed to UCLA before his freshman year at Mater Dei but reconsidered last spring. King made his latest commitment live on FSN West and said he was swayed by the coaching staff at Duke and the school's intimate atmosphere.
The season before Scott Switalla arrived at Chatsworth, the Chancellors had won only two games, which were later forfeited because of an ineligible player.
With only one direction to go, Switalla has worked fast to implement his system since arriving in the spring of 2004.
After finishing 12-13 last season, Chatsworth is 11-1 overall, 1-0 in league heading into its West Valley League showdown tonight at No. 15 Woodland Hills Taft, ranked No. 15 in the Southland by The Times.
Relying on a relentless full-court man-to-man defense, Chatsworth has posted a string of impressive victories. The Chancellors recently handed San Jose Valley Christian its first loss of the season, 58-40, in the championship game of the West Hills Chaminade tournament. They also defeated Calabasas, San Francisco Riordan and Westlake Village Oaks Christian in the tournament.
In a league opener on Wednesday, Chatsworth beat Woodland Hills El Camino Real, 80-49.
With the tallest regular only 6 feet 2, Switalla said his pressing style can help eliminate opponents' height advantages.
"When we played Calabasas, they were 6-7, 6-8, 6-8 across the front line," he said. "But they couldn't get the ball down low because they couldn't handle the pressure."
Jeffrey Osborne, a 5-10 junior guard and the son of singer Jeffrey Osborne, scored 18 points in the championship game and earned the tournament most-valuable-player honor. Michael Palarca, also a 5-10 junior guard, was named defensive player of the tournament, and the entire Chatsworth team won the hustle award.
The Five Counties Invitational begins today at Fountain Valley High and will feature the top 10 teams in the state and the top-ranked wrestler in 12 of the 14 weight classes.
It's no wonder coaches and wrestlers use the prestigious tournament as a gauge as they head into the second half of the season and toward the state championships in March.
"It gives us a chance to kind of see where we are," said David Ochoa, coach of Covina Northview, the state's fourth-ranked team and the only Southern Section team in the top five. "It's an opportunity to wrestle the best kids and see what we need to work on."
Northview's Caleb Flores is ranked second in the state at 119 pounds, 135-pounder Larry Medina is ranked third and Chad Manigault is fourth at 140.
Temecula Valley, ranked seventh in the state, and ninth-ranked Santa Ana Calvary Chapel could also be in the running for the tournament title.
Heavyweight Romney Fuga of Huntington Beach Edison, ranked No. 1 in the state, and Abraham Otrambo of Anaheim Loara, third at 189 pounds, are good bets for individual titles in their weight classes.
The last two teams that won Five Counties titles have gone on to win the state championship, including defending champion Poway, which is again the top-ranked team in the state.
Wrestling begins at 11 a.m. today with matches running through 9 p.m. On Saturday, the quarterfinals begin at 9 a.m. and the semifinals at 12:45 p.m., and the place matches are at 5. The finals begin at 7:15 p.m.
-- Peter Yoon