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El Camino Real May Be Out of Its League but It Is in Playoffs

Times Staff Writer

The sheep are being led to slaughter.

El Camino Real scored just 30 points all season and won only one game but somehow made the City 4-A playoffs. The Conquistadores, who were outscored, 153-0, in their first five games, are matched against Carson (8-1), the top-seeded team in the City.

Skip Giancanelli, El Camino Real coach, is a man in a tough position.

He is trying to remain positive while preparing his team for the game, but still publicly protests a playoff format that accepts teams with 1-8 records.

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“We don’t belong, that’s for sure,” Giancanelli said. “How can you have good quality playoffs when you’re choosing eight teams out of 11? How can a team like ours make it? Making it to the City playoffs just doesn’t mean anything anymore.”

Giancanelli said his team has been practicing hard, but understands what it is up against.

“The basic problem,” Giancanelli said, “is that we shouldn’t even be out there. We’ve lost 11 starters since the start of the season. We weren’t that tough to start with. The situation is worse now.”

But at Carson, the theme is: Remember Cleveland.

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Carson was stunned by an unheralded Cleveland team, 30-29, in a nonleague game last season.

The last time Carson was mismatched against a team such as El Camino Real in the playoffs, the final score was 81-0, the biggest margin of victory in Carson football history.

The year was 1977 and the opponent was University High.

University entered the playoffs with a 3-6 record. The game was scheduled for the day after Thanksgiving, but the coaches decided to play the game on a Wednesday to get it over with before the weekend.

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Carson led, 28-0, after the first quarter, and Coach Gene Vollnogle took out all of the starters. Players from the Carson B team and junior varsity played the rest of the game.

Hart Coach Rick Scott says that his team was the victim of bad luck in drawing Newbury Park as its first-round opponent in the Southern Section’s Coastal Conference playoffs.

“Without a doubt, they are the best third-place team in the playoffs,” Scott said. “As a seeded team, we should have been given a weaker opponent.”

Newbury Park and Hart each had 6-3-1 overall records, but Hart won the Foothill championship while the Panthers finished third in the Marmonte League. Newbury Park’s losses came by a total of six points.

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“They could have easily been league champions and possibly the No. 1 seed in the playoffs with any luck at all,” Scott said.

Certainly, the Panthers are an opponent Scott not only respects, but also knows very well.

He was a teacher at Newbury Park from 1973-83 and an assistant football coach from 1973-74 and 1978-83. The last five years he was offensive coordinator for Ken Cook, the Panthers’ current head coach.

“When I left Newbury Park to take my job here, the kids told me, ‘We’ll see you in the playoffs,’ ” Scott said. “Well, here we are.”

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Scott said that he fears Newbury Park’s swarming defense and its “Amana backfield” on offense.

“We think they have the second-best defense we’ve seen all season--right behind Canyon’s,” Scott said. “And on offense, they have all that power. They have two, not just one, refrigerators in their backfield.”

Eric Craig (6-3, 215) and Mike Cox (6-0, 190), both fullbacks, are the appliances Scott is worried about.

Last year, Hart was also matched against the third place team from the Marmonte League after winning a league championship. Thousand Oaks upset the Indians, 21-13, on a muddy field at College of the Canyons.

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In his two years as starting quarterback for Canyon, John Watkins has never lost a game.

No one is more aware of that than Canyon Coach Harry Welch, who says he is “worried sick” about having to play without his senior leader in tonight’s opening round of the Northwestern Conference playoffs.

Watkins broke his left wrist last week in a 30-6 win over Antelope Valley and will not return for the playoffs. His replacement will be junior Ken Sollom, who spent most of the season playing cornerback.

Chances are, though, that Welch isn’t quite as worried as he sounds.

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Sollom, 6-1, 175-pounds, played quarterback in almost every game last season and appeared in four games this season at that position.

Sollom proved his mettle in the first round of the playoffs last season. He replaced an ineffective Watkins during the fourth quarter with Canyon trailing St. Joseph, 7-2.

St. Joseph was within a minute of upsetting the No. 1-ranked Cowboys when, on a fourth-down-and-13 pass attempt, Sollom completed a 35-yard pass to his cousin, Chad Ziegler. On the next play, he hit Dave Sites with a 12-yard touchdown pass to win the game.

Sollom has started the last four games at cornerback, replacing Jeff Paskwitz, who is out with a stress fracture in his foot. Sollom has been getting a crash-course as a defensive back instead of working out at quarterback.

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“He may be a bit rusty,” Welch said. “That’s one of my worries.”

Bishop Union Coach Craig Chudy, commenting on Montclair Prep, his team’s playoff opponent tonight:

“Watching them is like watching a horror show. They’re awfully big, awfully talented, awfully fast and awfully physical.

“They’ve got the four awfuls.”

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Some predictions of football champions in playoff divisions involving teams from the Valley area:

City 4-A: Carson, seeded No. 1.

City 3-A: Fairfax, seeded No. 1.

Big Five: Long Beach Poly, an unseeded team.

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Coastal: The winner of the Newbury Park-Hart game. Another possibility is Santa Barbara. None of the teams are seeded.

Desert-Mountain: St. Genevieve, seeded No. 2.

Inland: Valley Christian. The top-seeded Crusaders are the most dominant team of any division.

Northwestern: Canyon, seeded No. 1.

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