The brackets for the Southern Section Division I playoffs have Coach Raul Lara of top-seeded Long Beach Poly scratching his head.
At issue is not only a tough first-round matchup with Bellflower St. John Bosco, but what also appears to be a much more difficult road to the championship game in the top side of the bracket than in the bottom.
There are four league champions on Poly's side of the bracket: Poly, which won the Moore League; Huntington Beach Edison and Fountain Valley, which shared the Sunset League title; and Santa Ana Mater Dei, co-champion of the Serra League.
There are only three league champions in the bottom half of the bracket: Serra League co-champion Los Angeles Loyola; Sunset League co-champion Los Alamitos; and Redlands East Valley, winner of the Citrus Belt League, which is considered the weakest of the Division I leagues.
"We don't feel like the No. 1 seed with this draw," Lara said. "To tell you the truth, we'd rather not be if that's the draw we're going to get. I mean, what's the use of seeding?"
Lara was particularly upset because his first-round opponent, St. John Bosco, has a better overall record than Anaheim Esperanza (5-5) and Fontana (5-5), which will play No. 2 Loyola and No. 4 Fountain Valley, respectively. Esperanza was 4-6 on the field but picked up a forfeit victory from Compton Dominguez.
"St. John Bosco is a very talented team," Lara said. "They went 7-3 playing in [the Serra] League. Come on now, that is a tough league and we have two 5-5 teams from other leagues in the playoffs."
Hacienda Heights Los Altos, top-seeded in Division VI, also has a tough first-round matchup against Newport Harbor, a team that finished 7-3, with each loss coming by a touchdown or less.
But because the losses came in Sea View League games, Newport Harbor, winner of section titles in 1994 and 1999 and a finalist in 1992, 1996 and 2000, finished fourth in the league and entered the playoffs as an at-large team.
"The draw surprised me a little bit," said Coach Greg Gano, whose Los Altos team has won three section titles in the last four years and is defending champion in Division VI. "If you look at it, it's a 7-3 team that was a couple of plays away from being 10-0. A lot of people have asked me why that draw? I don't know. Maybe they don't respect our league."
Other tough first-round matchups for highly seeded teams include: No. 3-seeded Palmdale (9-1) against La Canada St. Francis (7-3) in Division III; No. 2 Westlake Village Westlake (10-0) against Santa Barbara San Marcos (7-3) in Division IV; No. 1 Riverside North (10-0) against Temecula Valley (7-3) in Division V; and No. 2 Ontario Christian (8-2) against Brentwood (7-3) in Division XII.
Santa Maria Righetti running back Ryan Mole has been cleared to play for the Warriors, who face Hueneme on Friday in the first round of the Division IV playoffs.
Mole, a senior, has sat out seven games since breaking his collarbone. He had 725 yards and 13 touchdowns in 41 carries in three games before the injury.
In his absence, Mark Malangko has filled in and rushed 148 times for 1,289 yards. Righetti (7-2-1) is 4-2-1 since Mole's injury.
Paramount became the unlikely beneficiary of a spot in the Division III playoffs because Dominguez had to forfeit nine regular-season victories for using an ineligible player.
Paramount finished the season 2-8 but in a three-way tie for third in the San Gabriel Valley League with Dominguez and Downey. That meant the three would use a coin flip to secure the final playoff spot.
Downey Coach Grant Warhurst, Dominguez assistant Keith Donerson and Paramount Principal Jim Monico each flipped four times and all came up with the same result.
The fifth time, Paramount came up tails and Dominguez and Downey came up heads, putting the Pirates in the playoffs and sending the other two packing.
"I definitely think it's unexpected," Paramount co-Coach Art Tavizon said. "I wasn't waiting by the phone, put it that way. We told our kids to hug each other like it was the last time they would play together and that if we heard anything, we'd let them know."
The news was good, but ... Paramount must face top-seeded Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (10-0) in the first round.
Garden Grove Rancho Alamitos Coach Mike Enright won a coin flip that put his team in the playoffs, but he wasn't happy about the procedure that broke a third-place tie in the Garden Grove League between his team and Garden Grove.
Rancho Alamitos and Garden Grove tied, 24-24, in their league finale. The league constitution prohibits overtime and, therefore, the result did not determine the recipient of the automatic playoff berth awarded to the third-place team. The flip took place immediately following the game.
"I won [the flip], but it was horrible," Enright said. "It left you with an empty feeling.... After battling for 48 minutes we were over on the track watching a coin flip. After working for 11 months and having it come down to a coin flip, it wasn't right."
Hacienda Heights Wilson retired the No. 30 jersey of former standout Percy Arceneaux during halftime of Wilson's 34-14 loss to Los Altos on Friday.
Arceneaux, the top running back on Wilson's unbeaten Southern Section Division VII championship teams in 1996 and 1997, died Oct. 27 at age 22 of a previously undiagnosed heart condition. He figured prominently in Wilson's 31-game winning streak from 1995 to 1997.
Arceneaux's parents attended the retirement presentation and received their son's away-game jersey. His home jersey will be hung in the Wilson gym.
Sherman Oaks Notre Dame (8-2) has been trying to develop its passing, and the Knights showed signs of promise last week.
Sophomore quarterback Garrett Green passed for 213 yards in a 45-7 victory over North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake.
Green, the cousin of USC backup quarterback Brandon Hance, will need a consistent passing effort for the Knights to repeat as Division III champions. Notre Dame plays host to Lancaster in its playoff opener Friday night.
Times staff writers Martin Henderson, Lauren Peterson and Eric Sondheimer contributed to this report.