St. Bonaventure defensive back Nicholas Rodriguez breaks up a pass intended… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
In a season full of surprises, the Southern Section football playoff pairings were released on Sunday with more surprises.
Encino Crespi (8-2) didn't receive an at-large berth for the Pac-5 Division playoffs. And Ventura St. Bonaventure (9-1) was given the No. 1 seeding over unbeaten Mission Viejo (10-0).
It's a sign of the uncertainty and unpredictability of the playoffs that begin in 13 divisions on Friday.
The Pac-5, the section's premier division, is filled with intrigue. Bellflower St. John Bosco (6-4) won the Trinity League, the toughest league in Southern California, but was seeded No. 3, perhaps hurt by having to forfeit four victories because of an ineligible player. Mission Viejo is seeded No. 2, with Santa Ana Mater Dei (8-2) seeded No. 4.
St. Bonaventure, making its first appearance in the Pac-5 as the Marmonte League champion, gained the top seeding because it was ranked No. 1 in the coaches' poll for much of October even though the Marmonte was ranked third behind the Trinity and South Coast in strength of leagues by a football advisory committee.
Tesoro (7-3) gained an at-large berth after winning a coin flip to decide third place in the South Coast League, then won a point system battle with Crespi based on strength of schedule and league. Tesoro is playing with an interim coach, John Hall, after the firing of Brian Barnes two weeks ago.
La Puente Bishop Amat (7-2-1) gained the other at-large berth for the Pac-5 because it owned a win over Crespi in the Serra League.
Among the most competitive first-round matchups are Santa Margarita (8-2) at El Toro (9-1), Westlake Village Oaks Christian (8-2) at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (7-3) and La Puente Bishop Amat (7-2-1) at Long Beach Poly (7-3).
Poly, an 18-time Southern Section champion, has been largely dismissed and forgotten after losing, 56-0, to Harbor City Narbonne in a nonleague game. The Jackrabbits cruised to a 6-0 record in the Moore League.
"I hope and pray we did get better," Poly Coach Raul Lara said. "I won't know how good we are until we play Bishop Amat."
Oaks Christian has never played Notre Dame in its 12 years of varsity football. The two schools' alumni could have a pretty good debate in the parking lot, with Dayne Crist (Notre Dame) facing off against Jimmy Clausen (Oaks Christian) and Giancarlo Stanton (Notre Dame) taking on Chris Owusu (Oaks Christian).
Santa Margarita, the defending Pac-5 champion, is still strugging to regain its bearings after the loss of quarterback Johnny Stanton to a knee injury.
St. Bonaventure Coach Todd Therrien knows the challenge ahead. "You have to have good luck," he said. "There's 14 or 15 teams capable of winning."
In the powerful Inland Division, Vista Murrieta (10-0) is seeded No. 1, followed by No. 2 Corona Centennial (9-1), No. 3 Upland (10-0) and No. 4 Covina Charter Oak (9-1).