Varsity Times Insider is The Times' newest blog and a source for observations, news and game coverage. It has been up and running since the season's start and can be found at latimes.com/highschool.
Here are some excerpts we like to call "Best of the Blog":
FROM L.A. CITY SECTION
Coach Ed Croson had always complained about all the disadvantages his [Birmingham] program faced, from not being able to practice on Labor Day to dealing with [Long Beach] Poly's speed. But Croson somehow got his team to cut down on penalties and mistakes, and Friday's 20-7 victory thrusts Birmingham into the state Division I bowl picture, despite an opening-game loss to Crespi.
Birmingham's schedule is so good that if the Patriots were to win out -- and that would include a victory over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame in two weeks -- they'd be tough to deny. . . .
These Patriots are going to have ups and downs this season, but their win over Long Beach Poly has to rank as one of the biggest for a City Section team over a Southern Section team in the last 20 years.
-- Eric Sondheimer
I've seen Milton Knox of Birmingham and he deserves every accolade he has gotten, including City player of the year in 2006, when he helped the Patriots to their second title in three years.
I've also seen Curtis McNeal run for Venice, and if you haven't seen him run, you are really missing something. There is something electric about that young man when he has a football in his hands.
-- Mike Terry
FROM THE INLAND EMPIRE
Norco, ranked No. 14 in the Southland by The Times [last week, No. 16 this week], lost returning running back Joshua Nakamoto to an ankle injury Friday night and Coach Todd Gerhart doesn't expect him back until Mountain View League play begins Oct. 12 at Corona Santiago.
It'll be interesting to see how the Cougars respond. You never know who can be waiting in the wings. I remember the night Ryan Bass of Corona Centennial took over for an injured starter two years ago and ran for, like, 300 yards. He's now one of the top recruits in the state.
FROM ORANGE COUNTY
Jeff Brinkley was released from Hoag Hospital on Sunday after experiencing arrhythmia, or rapid heartbeat, in Newport Harbor's 16-3 victory over Aliso Niguel on Thursday. Brinkley, who left the game at halftime, was held for observation and further tests, though he had been talking with his colleagues.
But with guys like Tony Ciarelli, Zack Biehl and Bill Calloway on his staff, there is no need for Brinkley to dive headlong into this week's preparation for (gulp) Long Beach Poly. The game is at Newport Harbor on Friday at 7 p.m.
Ciarelli served as the head man at Newport Harbor over the last few days. "The program and the system dictates that it's not going to look much different without Jeff here," Ciarelli said.
Rap Dantic rushed for 345 yards as Magnolia doubled its win total from last season with a 41-28 victory over Katella. He has 467 yards in two games.
Ray Holley of El Modena scored a school-record six touchdowns in a 47-12 victory over Orange.
What are they feeding the running backs in north Orange County?
Well, maybe it's not of the same caliber as Broadway Joe's Super Bowl guarantee, but Nick "The Appendix" Crissman pretty much guaranteed he would be back in the lineup in two weeks when Edison plays another top-25 opponent.
"I'll be back for Servite," he said.
But Nick, your coach says you could be out for three games.
"I will be back for the Servite game," he said.
I believe him.
-- Martin Henderson
FROM THE SAN GABRIEL VALLEY
Mater Dei 58, West Covina 6
Opening kickoff: Returned 94 yards for a touchdown. The game could have ended right there, but unfortunately for West Covina, it went on. And on. And on.
Mater Dei was every bit as good as advertised and West Covina was every bit as young as people said it was.
FROM THE SAN FERNANDO VALLEY / NORTH
Interestingly, all the Foothill League teams won Friday, except defending Division I state bowl champion Canyon. It marked the first time that five Santa Clarita-based teams won games on the same night. Of course, we have to put it in perspective: Canyon was the only Foothill team playing a squad ranked by The Times -- Notre Dame.
For more Varsity Times Insider, visit www.latimes.com/sports/highschool.