The Southeast/Long Beach area is rich with good high school football teams this fall. At just past the halfway mark in the season, 11 clubs are ranked in the Top 10 of their respective CIF Southern Section divisions.
Nine are undefeated: Poly, Wilson, Dominguez, Paramount, Cerritos, Bell Gardens, Bellflower, Artesia and South Gate.
In Division I of the Southern Section poll this week, Poly is ranked 5th and St. Paul is 8th. Wilson just missed making the Top 10.
In Division III, Dominguez is 2nd, Paramount 4th, Cerritos 6th and Schurr 10th.
In Division IV, Bell Gardens is 2nd.
In Division VI, Artesia is 3rd and Bellflower 4th.
In Division IX, Whittier Christian is 3rd and Valley Christian 4th.
The 13 top area teams have a combined record of 67-5-3.
Here is a league-by-league progress report:
San Gabriel Valley League
Paramount, Dominguez and Cerritos have yet to lose.
Paramount, 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the league, has a fast, aggressive team that has excelled defensively--Aaron Pruitt already has more than 90 tackles to lead the Southern Section statistics charts.
The Pirates beat Lynwood, 28-6, two weeks ago, shutting down Charles Levy, Lynwood's do-everything quarterback.
"We don't have a Levy, but we've got a lot of real good kids," Paramount Coach Ken Sutch said.
Pirate quarterback Jack Manu has completed 55% of his passes for 610 yards and 6 TDs--and he may be the best runner on the team.
Fullback Ken Walker of Dominguez rushed for 192 yards and scored three touchdowns as the Dons, 6-0 and 2-0, unveiled a wishbone offense and crushed Gahr, 42-14, last Friday night.
The big game this Friday night is Paramount at Cerritos. Cerritos is at Dominguez on Oct. 28. Paramount is at Dominguez on Nov. 4.
Cerritos affirmed its talent last Friday with a surprisingly easy 38-13 victory at Warren High in Downey. The speedy Dons are 5-0-1 and 3-0; they were tied by Artesia in a pre-league game. They have one of the area's rushing leaders in Sal Mejico.
Lynwood, with losses to Paramount and Dominguez, is 3-3 and 1-2.
Warren is 4-2 overall but 1-2 in the league.
Downey opened with three impressive pre-league victories, but has lost close league games to Cerritos, Warren and Lynwood, and this Friday must face Dominguez.
Gahr, 2-4 and 0-2, has won as many games as it did the last two seasons. But the Gladiators are still no match for the league's best.
Ranked second in the CIF Southern Section Division I poll before Friday, Poly High of Long Beach got a shock when it was tied by Jordan, 6-6, in a league opener. "We just weren't ready to play," said Thomas Whiting, Poly's co-head coach. "They're a good club, and maybe we didn't take them seriously enough."
Poly had come into the game with a 4-0 record, including victories over Banning, Bishop Amat and Fountain Valley. Now, after turning the ball over five times against the Panthers, the Jackrabbits find themselves 0-0-1 in the league, behind Wilson and Millikan, both 1-0. And their star tackle, Marcellous Elder, has a sprained ankle.
Quarterback Michael Carter has thrown 8 TD passes for Poly.
Jordan, 0-4-1 and 0-0-1, must be the best winless team around. The Panthers put up tough struggles before losing to El Toro, Edison, St. Paul and Servite. "We're a scrappy group of guys, but no one gives us credit," said Coach Mike Ono, who believes the record would be much better if not for youthful mistakes by his players and questionable calls by officials.
Johnny Robinson, who has run for more than 100 yards in all five games, will try to lead Jordan to its first victory Friday night at Compton.
Wilson of Long Beach, 5-0 overall, is the only team in the league with an unblemished record. The Bruins, with running back Scott Bernauer gaining 105 yards and scoring 2 touchdowns, opened their league schedule Friday with a 19-6 victory over Compton.
Millikan of Long Beach, 3-2 overall after a slow start, beat Lakewood, 14-3, last week and will play Poly at Veterans Stadium on Friday night.
Lakewood, which opened the season with a victory over El Rancho, has lost four straight games, three by lopsided scores.
Compton, 0-4 and 0-1, has scored just 18 points. But league coaches believe the Tarbabes, led by scrambling quarterback Terrence Adams, are better than their record indicates.
Bell Gardens is off to a 6-0, 3-0 start, which amazes Coach Dave Newell because of the Lancers' lack of size. "We're winning with 140-pounders," he said.
Among the little guys are 137-pound tailback Rudy Ramirez, who has scored 15 touchdowns; Adalo Tomas, a 146-pound option quarterback; 152-pound fullback Danny Palacios, and 153-pound linebacker Musio Garcia, the team's leading tackler.
The Lancers own non-league victories over Bell and Claremont--both big, strong teams--and have already defeated their main rival for the league title--El Rancho, 30-27.
El Rancho High of Pico Rivera, led by all-league running backs Jeff Blanco and Ralph De LaTorre, is 4-2 and 2-1 and a good bet to finish among the league's top three teams and win a playoff berth.
But Montebello, also 3-0 in the league, looms as the spoiler. The Oilers, defending league champions, play El Rancho and Bell Gardens the last two weeks of the season.
Another strong team is Santa Fe High of Santa Fe Springs, 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the league. The Chiefs edged Whittier, 14-10, Friday night.
Whittier, much improved over last year, is 3-3 overall and still in the league race at 2-1.
Remaining as the doormats of the league are Pioneer, California and La Serna, all 0-6. La Serna has scored just 18 points.
Bellflower is 6-0 and the surprise team of the Southeast/Long Beach area. The Buccaneers, 6-14-1 the last two years, have used a balanced attack to average 38.5 points a game.
Shawn Jones, the leading scorer in the state, has blossomed into one of the best running backs in the area--he has averaged 8 yards a carry, caught 22 passes for 531 yards and scored 19 TDs. Quarterback Mike Simmons has thrown for 1,216 yards and 18 TDs.
The team has generated a new enthusiasm around the school. "I'm told we haven't had this type of school spirit in the last five or six years," first-year Coach Mike Harrington said.
But Harrington is concerned about Friday night's game at 3-3 La Mirada, a team that has played a tougher schedule than the Bucs. "They're gigantic and good," Harrington said.
Bellflower, La Mirada and pre-season favorite Artesia are all 1-0 in the league.
Artesia is also undefeated overall, although it was tied, 10-10, by Cerritos. The Pioneers are allowing just 8.5 points a game after shutting out Mayfair, 7-0, last week.
Mayfair is 3-3 overall and 0-1 in the league. Glenn has the same record after losing, 43-0, to Bellflower last week.
It has not been a good season for Norwalk, 1-5 and 0-1 after a 42-0 loss last week to La Mirada.
Valley Christian has had games in which it has scored 49, 54 and 56 points in rolling to five straight wins after an opening loss to Artesia. Leading the Crusaders have been junior quarterback Chris Miller and tailback Mark Kortenhoeven, who has 731 yards and 12 TDs.
Whittier Christian, like Valley Christian, is 5-1 and 1-0. Averaging almost 7 yards a carry, Ron Papazina of the Heralds is one of the Southern Section's rushing leaders.
Valley Christian and Whittier Christian will meet Oct. 29 in Whittier.
Brethren, beaten 56-6 by Valley Christian last week, is 2-4 and 0-1.
St. Paul, a longtime power steeped in football tradition, is back after several down seasons. The Swordsmen are 4-2 and open the Angelus League schedule before an expected capacity crowd at home Friday night against bitter rival Servite.
"We are starting to get the tradition back," Coach Miguel Olmedo said.
Olmedo said the schedule has been easier than in recent years, but the Swordsmen lost close games to Loyola and Fontana, the first- and second-ranked Division I teams.
Having big seasons are multipurpose back Anthony Munoz and quarterback Greg Willig, who has passed for 847 yards, including 271 in a 48-7 rout of St. John Bosco.
Schurr, under Coach Ken Davis, is 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the Foothill League after beating Alhambra, 35-7, last week.
Centennial is a surprising 3-3 after beating Mira Costa, 26-23, last week. Marcus Goodloe, the Apaches' quarterback, continues to amass yardage as a passer and runner.
St. John Bosco, once a perennial power, is 1-5 and has suffered three one-sided losses: 48-7 to St. Paul, 42-0 to Edison and 54-14 to Eisenhower.
St. Anthony, despite having most of its players back from last season, is 2-4 overall and lost its Camino Real League opener to Serra, 50-12, last week.
Pius X has given up 34 points a game. As a result, the Warriors are 0-6 overall and 0-1 in the Camino Real.
After 5 straight losses, Cantwell won its first game last week, defeating Pater Noster of Los Angeles, 7-0.
Leffingwell Christian also snapped a 5-game losing streak last week, beating California School for the Deaf of Riverside, 32-14.
Pioneer Baptist is 1-5.
Coach Gary Cordray's South Gate Rams are 6-0 after beating Bell, 24-3, last week. The Rams are allowing only 6 points a game while running back Ivan Wilson has rushed for 959 yards and caught 4 passes for 73 yards. He has scored 16 TDs--and even passed for one.
Wilson, however, severely sprained his ankle last week.
Bell and Huntington Park, the other Los Angeles city teams in the Southeast area, are 2-4 and 2-3, respectively.