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Dominguez Is Pleased by Its Luck of the Draw

Times Staff Writer

Willie Donerson winked. The football coach at Compton Dominguez knew he had it good. Ranked second in the Southern Section poll despite a 49-20 loss to Palmdale in Week 4, Dominguez was seeded second in the Division III playoffs that begin on Thursday.

Palmdale? Seeded fourth, on the same side of the draw as undefeated Sherman Oaks Notre Dame -- the team it nearly beat in Week 3. Possibly the two best teams in the division, Palmdale and Notre Dame, could be matched against each other in the semifinals.

So Donerson winked. And smiled. Notre Dame, ranked third in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, is ranked No. 2 in the Southland by The Times, and Palmdale is No. 15. Dominguez is unranked.

Sometimes, to win a title, the luck of the draw means everything. Here’s a look at the top six divisions:

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DIVISION I

* 2003 champion: Los Angeles Loyola.

* Seeded teams: 1. Long Beach Poly (9-1); 2. Los Alamitos (9-1); 3. Loyola (8-2); 4. Colton (9-1).

* Others to watch: Santa Ana Mater Dei (8-2); Lakewood (9-1).

* The breakdown: This division is so competitive, it wouldn’t be a surprise if two seeded teams were gone in the first round because every team has a chink in its armor. Loyola faces Huntington Beach Edison (6-4), an at-large team that was ranked No 3 in the Southland four weeks ago before close losses in Sunset League play. Colton’s at-large opponent, Santa Margarita (5-5), is coming off a 20-15 victory over third-seeded Loyola. Lakewood and Mater Dei might have the best defenses but lack consistency on offense. The team most likely to be in the finals: Los Alamitos.

DIVISION II

* 2003 champion: Newhall Hart.

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* Seeded teams: 1. Mission Viejo (10-0); 2. Valencia (9-1); 3. Chino (9-1); 4. Canyon Country Canyon (9-1).

* Others to watch: San Clemente (8-2); Hart (6-4).

* The breakdown: It will be a surprise if Mission Viejo and Valencia aren’t playing for the championship. Most teams don’t have the offense to outscore either of them, and a team that might -- Canyon, which upset Hart on Friday -- doesn’t have the defense.

DIVISION III

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* 2003 champion: Sherman Oaks Notre Dame.

* Seeded teams: 1. Notre Dame 10-0; 2. Compton Dominguez (9-1); 3. Rolling Hills Estates Peninsula (9-0-1); 4. Palmdale (8-2).

* Others to watch: Santa Fe Springs St. Paul (7-3).

* The breakdown: Conventional thinking is that it’s Notre Dame’s title to lose. Its average margin of victory is 30 points, and its only close encounter was a 17-15 victory over Palmdale, which missed a last-second field-goal attempt. They could meet in the semifinals, which might be the real championship game.

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DIVISION IV

* 2003 champion: Westlake Village Westlake.

* Seeded teams: 1. Ventura St. Bonaventure (9-1); 2. Oxnard Rio Mesa (10-0); 3. Arroyo Grande (8-2); 4. San Luis Obispo (8-1).

* Others to watch: Ventura (8-2).

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* The breakdown: St. Bonaventure, runner-up last season, sputtered a few games after losing to Lakewood but seems back on track and a sure thing. The most intriguing team is Rio Mesa, which came out of nowhere to win its first league title since 1985. The Spartans haven’t given up more than 17 points, and in that game beat Camarillo (7-3) convincingly, 48-17, for the Pacific View League title.

DIVISION V

* 2003 champion: Riverside North.

* Seeded teams: 1. Corona Centennial (9-1); 2. Lake Elsinore Temescal Canyon (10-0); 3. Norco (9-1); 4. Hemet (9-1).

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* Others to watch: Riverside La Sierra (8-2).

* The breakdown: Centennial, more physical than the rest of the division, might have the toughest path to the finals among the four seeded teams. It does have a 37-6 victory over Norco, which has been hampered all season by tailback Toby Gerhart’s nagging injuries. North (5-5), which lost its first four games, could be a sleeper Norco must deal with.

DIVISION VI

* 2003 champion: Hacienda Heights Los Altos.

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* Seeded teams: 1. Orange Lutheran (9-1); 2. Newport Harbor (9-0-1); 3. Lakewood Mayfair (9-1); 4. Villa Park (9-1).

* Others to watch: Placentia Valencia (9-1).

* The breakdown: Orange Lutheran has never won a title, but that figures to change this year with a rock-solid defense and a more-than-capable offense. Like Division V, there’s a strong favorite and a few intriguing teams along the way: Los Altos (7-3) is three plays from being undefeated; Valencia, second in the Empire League to Orange Lutheran, might be the second-best team in the division; Mayfair’s only loss is to Division I power Lakewood, and Santa Ana Foothill (5-4-1), which opens with Mayfair, has a tie with Newport Harbor.


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