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Football Playoffs Picture Taking Shape in Final 3 Weeks

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three weeks remain in the regular season for area high school football teams, and here is a look at conference races as teams battle for playoff spots.

MOORE LEAGUE

Only sixth-ranked Wilson (5-2 overall, 2-0 in conference play) has a winning record, but Bruin Coach John Brennan says the league’s poor showing is deceiving. “A lot more coaches are (scheduling) more difficult preseason teams to get ready for the league,” he said. The Bruins play host to Poly (3-4, 2-0) Friday night in a game that is expected to decide the league championship.

“We feel we can play with them,” Brennan said.

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Poly, which has won or shared the past 11 league titles, should make the CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. The winner of Friday’s game between host Millikan and Jordan (both 2-4 and 1-1) will have a big edge in the race for the league’s third playoff spot. Jordan’s big-play quarterback, Johnny Nanson, was held to 80 total yards last week in a 17-6 loss to Wilson. Nanson has an injured thumb that has affected his ability to pass.

The winner of Friday’s game between Compton (0-2, 0-6) and host Lakewood (0-2, 1-5) will keep its slim playoff hopes alive.

SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE

Lynwood (5-2, 3-1) put the race into turmoil last week with a 24-20 upset victory over previously unbeaten Dominguez (6-1, 3-1). The 10th-ranked Knights won the game in the final 14 seconds. Dominguez dropped from No. 1 to No. 6 in Division II.

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Downey (4-2-1, 3-0), which plays host to Lynwood next week and finishes the season at Dominguez Nov. 15, is now the front-runner. Downey’s last league championship came a decade ago. "(We are in) a good place to be at this time in the season,” Viking Coach Phil Dunaway said.

Multipurpose back Damon Hicklin has led Downey’s attack. He has scored three touchdowns on kickoff returns, three on pass receptions, two rushing and one on a punt return.

Three-time defending champion Paramount (5-5, 2-2) can re-enter the playoff picture with a victory Friday at Lynwood. Gahr (2-5, 1-2), Cerritos (0-6-1, 0-3) and Warren (1-6, 0-3) appear out of playoff contention.

WHITMONT LEAGUE

This eight-team league race is so tight that all but last-place La Serna (2-4-1, 0-4) have a shot at three Division IV playoff spots. Bell Gardens’ (4-3, 2-2) losses have been by 6, 4 and 1 points. Top-ranked El Rancho (7-0, 4-0) stopped Bell Gardens last Friday, 21-20, when a two-point conversion attempt by Bell Gardens with 1:06 remaining fell short. “I see El Rancho winning it,” Bell Gardens Coach Dave Newell said.

However, El Rancho Coach Dick Shelko was cautious: “I would never look by anybody.” The Dons play Pioneer (4-3, 2-2), California (3-4, 1-3) and surging Whittier (3-3-1, 3-1) to finish the season.

Santa Fe (2-5, 2-2) could tighten the race with a victory over host Whittier on Friday night. Montebello (4-3, 2-2) plays at California at 7 tonight. La Serna has been outscored, 119-6, in league play.

SUBURBAN LEAGUE

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Artesia (7-0, 2-0), the Southern Section’s top-rated Division XII team, is having so much success passing that boosters have playfully dubbed the team “Airtesia.”

Junior quarterback Aaron Flowers, who passed for a school-record five touchdowns in a 34-6 victory over Glenn last week, needs 99 yards to break the school’s season passing yardage record (2,217) that he set last season. Receiver Shawn Tippet (51 catches, 945 yards) needs two receptions and 60 yards to set school season records.

Looming in the background, however, is a season-ending game at Artesia against second-rated La Mirada (6-1, 2-0) on Nov. 15. The Matadors have won four consecutive games since a 7-0 loss to Santa Ana Century.

When Glenn (4-3, 1-1) and Norwalk (4-2-1, 1-1) play Nov. 15, it will more than likely decide the third playoff spot.

Mayfair is 1-4-2 overall and 0-2 in league and Bellflower is 0-7 and 0-2.

CAMINO REAL

Two former bottom-dwelling teams, St. Anthony (5-1, 2-0) and fifth-ranked Pius X (5-1-1, 1-0), have turned the Division VII league race upside down. When the teams meet Friday night at Clark Avenue Field, the league title could be on the line. “It’s been something,” Saints Coach Dave Radford said. “Every game has been a challenge of challenges.”

Don’t count out defending champion Gardena Serra (4-2, 1-0), which plays host to St. Anthony on Nov. 8 and Pius X on Nov. 15. Only two playoff spots are guaranteed for this five-team league.

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SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE

Huntington Park (6-0-1, 4-0-1) plays at L.A. Locke (7-0, 5-0) at 2:30 p.m. Friday to decide the title of this CIF L.A. City Section conference. Both teams have qualified for playoff spots.

Huntington Park fullback and kicker Adrian Fernandez has rushed for nearly 700 yards and scored 45 points. Wide receiver Frank Rojas has seven touchdowns, and running back Pete Hernandez has nearly 600 yards rushing. Bell (3-3-1, 1-2-1) is struggling, having won only one of five games. South Gate (2-4, 1-2) defeated Bell, 10-0, earlier this season, but now has a two-game losing streak.

OTHERS

Third-ranked Schurr (6-1, 2-0) plays at Newhall Hart (4-3, 2-0) on Friday in a game that could decide the Foothill League. Schurr Coach Ken Davis is in his 21st year and seems to take a team into the Division III playoffs every season. “Whoever wins Friday I would think would have the advantage,” Davis said. Offensive tackle Danny Cervantes leads the way for senior running back Claudio Millan, who has 10 touchdowns.

St. John Bosco (1-6, 0-2) is struggling in the Division I Angelus League, but it plays its last two league games at home against Anaheim Servite on Friday night and L.A. Loyola on Nov. 8.

St. Paul (2-5, 2-1), which lost four preseason games to teams with a combined record of 26-2, has fared better in the Division III Mission League. The Swordsmen are a game behind Encino Crespi (5-2, 3-0) and a half-game behind Mission Hills Alemany (5-2, 3-1). St. Paul plays host to Bishop Montgomery of Torrance (4-3, 1-2) on Friday night.

Centennial (1-6, 0-2) appears to be out of the five-team Pioneer League race with only two Division VIII playoff spots available. However, the Apaches’ 16-10 victory over Compton earlier this season snapped a 24-game losing streak.

Third-ranked Valley Christian (5-2, 2-0) plays host to Orange Lutheran (2-5, 0-2) in an Olympic League game Friday. If it wins, it will set up a showdown against No. 6 Cypress Brethren (6-1, 2-0) on Nov. 8. The Crusaders defeated arch-rival Whittier Christian of La Habra, which fell to No. 7, 9-0, two weeks ago. The Olympic League is in the Southern Section Division IX.

Only two Division IX playoff spots are available in the Santa Fe League, where Cantwell-Sacred Heart (2-4-1, 1-0) is tied for first place with L.A. Murphy (5-1, 1-0).

In Division X, Leffingwell Christian (4-3, 2-2) is coming off a 50-6 Santa Fe League loss to front-running Orange Southern California Christian (6-1, 3-0). In the Express League, Southeast Lutheran (3-1, 2-0) is tied for first place with South Bay Lutheran of Inglewood (3-2, 2-0). Pioneer Baptist (1-5, 1-1) is tied for third with Victor Valley Christian (2-4, 1-1).


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