It's time for leagues to reconsider how playoff teams are determined. Rewarding programs with a playoff berth simply for being in a larger league is demeaning to the playoff process as it waters down the field with guaranteed participants rather than ones that might be more deserving.
It's not the Southern Section office that makes the rules, it's the member schools, and it should be incumbent upon the leagues to write up a new bylaw that will correct this oversight.
The Trinity League would be a good candidate to begin drafting these proposed changes.
For awhile, it looked like the section's marquee league was having a down year, but now Mater Dei has posted consecutive solid victories, Santa Margarita and St. John Bosco have raised their games under new coaches (Harry Welch and Jason Negro, respectively) and JSerra appears to be above-average. Right now, the most toothless team of the bunch appears to be Orange Lutheran, which won the Pac-5 and a State Bowl title in 2006.
Oh, and let's not forget Servite, the defending Pac-5 and Division II State Bowl champion.
That six-team league is going to get three playoff berths. Meanwhile, the seven-team Moore League is going to get four. None of the Trinity League's six teams are allowing more than 19.7 points on defense, on average.
Only one Moore League team – Lakewood – has scored more points than it has allowed, and Compton has allowed the second-fewest points, an average of 23.8 per game. That's four more per game, on average, than the worst showing by a Trinity League school. The defenses of all six teams in the Sunset League are allowing fewer points than Compton.
What is it they say about defense and championships?
If high school sports is about pursuing victory with honor, then shouldn't a system be in place that allows the most deserving teams entry into the playoffs? Athletic integrity is the goal, right?
Limiting the guaranteed berths to three – which is far less radical than limiting it to two, or just league champions – allows for the inclusion of the most deserving fourth-place team each year. It could be from the Trinity League, but it could be from the Moore League.
This is not just a jab at the Moore League, either.
The Big VIII in the Inland Division also gets four automatic berths, and the Marmonte League in the Northern Division gets five. In the Northern Division, because the four leagues account for only 15 automatic berths, there is an at-large berth available.
Yet in the Pac-5 and Inland divisions there is no at-large berth available. That means the two marquee divisions in the Southern Section risk its playoffs being watered down by teams that get automatic berths.
Is it a big deal? Probably not. But it is a small deal, and here's why: Hard work should be rewarded, and hard work often manifests itself with above-average play. To deny one of the deserving 16 teams a playoff opportunity goes against the very ideals of the playoffs.
In the last several years under the guidance of assistant commissioner Rob Wigod, seedings for the football playoffs have gone remarkably to form (although it naturally gets a little sketchy in the lower divisions). The point is that there is a person in charge of football who has a clue, and he'll make sure the best available team gets in – and isn't that what it's supposed to be about? ABOUT A THIRD OF THE WAY HOME
The majority of leagues are comprised of six teams, and that means many programs have completed the nonleague portion of their schedules. So far, it looks like Centennial (Corona)
have established themselves as the class of the Inland Division. Centennial has yet to break a sweat in posting victories over Birmingham, Mater Dei-Santa Ana, Chaparral-Temecula and King-Riverside. The closest margin of victory has been a 44-13 demolition of Mater Dei – and that was only because Mater Dei scored the game's last 13 points. Centennial, behind the play of quarterback Michael Eubank
and running back Barrinton Collins
, is making everyone look like also-rans.
Norco hasn't been quite as impressive – if averaging 37 points per game isn't flashy enough for you – but has beaten Crenshaw-Los Angeles and Upland. Coltin Gerhart
– little brother of scoring machine Toby Gerhart who almost won a Heisman Trophy while at Stanford and is a rookie this season with the Vikings – scored four touchdowns over the weekend against North-Riverside.
The teams face each other on Oct. 29 at Norco – and the place won't hold all the people that want to see that game.WELCH RECOVERING
Harry Welch, football coach at Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita)
, had surgery to remove prostate cancer on Monday, and his wife Cindee reported that it went well. Welch had 20 lymph nodes removed. This is the bye week for Santa Margarita. Welch left the hospital early Tuesday afternoon, and had a drain removed from his body on Wednesday morning. He is resting with only minor discomfort in the abdomen, and is "a little tired," said his wife.
"The pathology report came back and the lymph nodes are clear and the cancer was contained within the prostate," Cindee Welch said. "They didn't have to take out any nerves. He does feel pretty well."
Music by the band Eagles was played during surgery.BUZZY GETS STUNGBuzzy Yokoyama
– his real name – was starting to create a buzz this season. He was Orange County's second-leading rusher for Newport Harbor (Newport Beach)
, and the Sailors were undefeated. That is, until they were beaten in overtime by San Clemente, 21-20, on a night when Buzzy suffered a knee injury. The Sailors went for a two-point conversion and the win, but were turned away. Better news: Yokoyama's injury wasn't as severe as originally thought. It's a dislocated kneecap, but he should be back sometime during Sunset League play. SERVITE GETS A TIMEOUT - 3 OF THEM
After play got a bit chippy in Servite's 28-7 victory over Chaparral-Temecula, Coach Troy Thomas called three consecutive timeouts to address his team. Servite (Anaheim)
hasn't shown nearly the discipline it did a year ago en route to the Pac-5 title. The defense, anchored by linebackers Matt Inman
and Butch Pauu
, thus far has been outstanding, having allowed an average of six points through five games.
Four of Servite's opponents this season played in the section finals last season, including the team it beat for the championship, Edison. Three of them won titles (Oceanside, La Habra, Chaparral). The one team that doesn't fit in with that gauntlet is Granada Hills Kennedy, which was a late replacement after a scheduled date with state runner-up John Curtis-River Ridge (La.) fell through.
Had that game been played, the combined 2009 record of Servite's five nonleague opponents would have been 64-6. Although Servite is facing strong programs, this year's teams are not winning the close games: The combined record of those teams this season is 11-13. JURISPRUDENCEMater Dei (Santa Ana)
, by way of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County, has filed a civil suit against the CIF-Southern Section alleging the section is biased against the school in determining whether athletes are eligible or not when they transfer to the Catholic school.
The suit stems from the decision by the Southern Section to deny eligibility to two student-athletes. One is water polo player Jon Walters, a sophomore who played for section runner-up Newport Harbor last season – before it was discovered that he played while academically ineligible and the school forfeited most of its victories including all its playoff wins. The other is football player Todd Hunt, who moved from Connecticut to California – and lives with quarterback Max Wittek's family. Hunt's brother was killed in his hometown and leaving the area on the surface seems a legitimate decision, although one can assume that moving in with the star quarterback might have given the impression that the move was athletically motivated.
Walters has exhausted his appeals to the state level; Hunt has a state appeal scheduled for Oct. 6.
The decision to sue is a curious one by Mater Dei. The school prides itself on winning, but this is a situation in which everyone will lose – including Mater Dei.THREE DOTS AND A CLOUD OF DUSTReseda
won its fourth game without a loss, but did so under much adversity. The death of longtime supporter Esler Looney, father of defensive coordinator Joe Looney, on Sept. 26 threw the team's practice schedule into the air throughout the week. Esler Looner, who died of heart failure, was 83. Joe Looney only attended one day of practice and showed up to the team's 14-6 victory over San Fernando 10 minutes before kickoff. ... Calabasas
scored a 33-7 victory over Simi Valley and ended a 53-game winless streak in the Marmonte League. Tyson Jones
rushed 44 times for 213 yards and three touchdowns. ... For the second time in three weeks, Crespi (Encino)
quarterback Kenneth Stenhouse
set a school record for passing yardage. On Sept. 17 Stenhouse completed 35 of 45 for 424 yards in a 34-33 victory over Clovis West-Fresno – the way records are meant to be broken. Over the weekend he threw for 493 in a 45-31 upset of Vista Murrieta. This week he faces Taft and its quarterback, Michael Bercovici, which could produce another shootout.
Martin Henderson is a reporter for Patch.com. He began covering Southland preps in 1993 for the Los Angeles Times, and has written for several papers including the Orange County Register and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. He offers up motorsports opinions at racescribe.wordpress.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.