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Come Playoff Time, East Teams Usually Have a Lot to Say

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The coaches in the City Eastern League probably would like to come right out and say it, but they won’t.

They agree that, with its recent success, theirs has become the best Division 3-A football league in the San Diego Section. But they’d rather let the numbers do the bragging.

Such talk will bring a cold wind from the north, where the Palomar League has produced four section champions and four runners-up in 11 years and a football phenomenon in Rancho Buena Vista, a team that has won 28 games in its first three seasons.

It will cause a heat wave in the valley, where Helix of the 3-A Grossmont League has remained a dominant force with its .773 winning percentage the past five years.

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And such a notion naturally causes an uprising in the south, where Chula Vista of the Metro Conference has kept pace with Helix the past half decade and Sweetwater has produced more victories (194) than any other 3-A team over the past 25 years.

But no league can boast three better teams in the past five years than the City Eastern’s Morse (.725 winning percentage), Point Loma (.684) and Mira Mesa (.660). All rank among the top six in the county during that time. In the 1989 section playoffs, these three combined to produce more victories, seven, than any other 3-A league. And all three reached the semifinals, where Morse beat Mira Mesa, 18-13, and Point Loma was eliminated by RBV.

Could such a thing happen again in 1990? Anyone who has followed the Eastern the past few seasons should know by now to expect it.

“The league is capable of doing that again this year,” said Serra Coach Skip Coons. “I feel we’re that strong.”

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The Palomar may own four section championships--the most by any 3-A league since the game’s inception in 1979--but the Eastern is gaining. While the Palomar has provided a champion and runner-up the past two years, the Eastern has produced two of each in the same time and three champions and three runners-up since 1979.

In the 1989 playoffs, Eastern teams finished 7-4. The Palomar, thanks to RBV’s four victories, was 6-4. The Metro went 2-4 and Grossmont 0-3. Morse, Point Loma and Mira Mesa were a combined 6-2 and outscored their opponents by an average of 33-17 in postseason.

“You look at the records, and we’ve kind of dominated,” said Ed Shoen, Mira Mesa’s defensive coordinator. “We have bigger, stronger, faster athletes.”

Point Loma’s Bennie Edens and Morse’s John Shacklett, who have served a combined 56 years as head coaches at those schools, claim one reason for the league’s postseason success stems from the Eastern style of play--tough and physical. Eastern team don’t feel as if they’ve played a game unless they walk away with bruises and broken equipment.

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“I kind of like the way we play,” Shacklett said. “We tend to run more than pass. Ball control is very important. Year in and year out, the teams that win tend to be physical.”

Added Edens: “I don’t mean to downgrade anybody, but the three teams (Point Loma, Morse and Mira Mesa) in the Eastern League can beat anybody on a given night.”

And it has always been that way. Morse (.650), Patrick Henry (.593), and Point Loma (.588) have three of the nine best records over the past 25 years. Morse has been a winner in all but six of those years. Mira Mesa, which started playing varsity football in 1977, has had 10 winning seasons in 13 years.

Patrick Henry has suffered through four losing seasons the past five years but before that was .500 or better in 16 of 18 seasons.

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The Eastern is 14-9 against non-league 3-A opponents over the past two regular seasons. In 1989, including playoff games, Mira Mesa finished 5-1 against 3-A teams from other leagues and won by an average score of 20-8. Morse was 3-3 (4-2 after an RBV victory was forfeited) and Point Loma 4-3, including victories over RBV and Los Angeles City 4-A champion Dorsey.

Eastern teams are not ducking anybody, either. Morse, Serra, Point Loma and Mira Mesa alone have scheduled 18 non-league games against 1989 playoff teams.

"(The Eastern League) will always have three teams in the playoffs,” said Shacklett, who has won two section titles at Morse. “It’s unusual to have three in the semifinals. But let’s put it this way, I think it’ll happen more than it won’t.”

CITY EAST LEAGUE FOOTBALL Defending champion: Morse (11-3 in 1989, 5-0 in league).

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Who should win: Morse.

Who could win: Mira Mesa (9-4, 3-2), Point Loma (8-5, 4-1).

Who should look toward 1991: Patrick Henry (4-7, 1-4), Serra (3-7, 1-4).

The Game: Morse at Mira Mesa, Nov. 9. This is the final game of the regular season for both teams, and both could be undefeated in league going in.

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Impact players: Teddy Lawrence, Morse, senior quarterback, 5-11, 177; rushed for 206 yards and three touchdowns and passed for 112 yards and three TDs in team’s first game last week. Wayne Pittman, Mira Mesa, senior fullback, 6-0, 200; will lead run-oriented offense, rushed for over 1,300 yards last year. Marlon Manassa, Point Loma, senior running back, 5-11, 175; despite team’s passing offense, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year.

New faces: Laroi Glover, Point Loma, junior defensive end, 6-2, 260; Gary Taylor, Morse, junior running back, 5-11, 170; Robbie Edwards, Mira Mesa, junior running back, 6-1, 190.

Last word: With the departure of Madison to the City Central League, the Eastern is now the only Division 3-A league with as few as five teams. The league champion has reached the section championship game each of the past three seasons, winning two.

THE BEASTS OF THE EAST? Top six winning percentages among county 3-A teams over the past five years, including playoff games. Note: Rancho Buena Vista (.777) has existed only three seasons, one in 3-A.

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Team League W L T Pct. Chula Vista Metro 41 12 4 .773 Helix Grossmont 41 12 4 .773 Morse Eastern 45 17 1 .725 Orange Glen Palomar 39 16 1 .709 Sweetwater Metro 38 17 0 .690 Point Loma Eastern 39 18 2 .684 Mira Mesa Eastern 37 19 0 .660


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