Oxnard Rio Mesa won its first playoff game since 1991 on Nov. 19, only to discover that less than an hour later, its principal, Ed Phillips, had died of a heart attack suffered during the fourth quarter.
After an emotional week, Rio Mesa lost for the first time all season, 24-2, to Agoura, a team that it had defeated, 36-16, eight weeks earlier. The next day, Saturday afternoon, offensive coordinator Rick Scott died in his bed while taking a nap. He was 55.
“In retrospect,” defensive coordinator George Contreras said, “with what happened the next day, maybe it’s better off that we didn’t win. How could we prepare? What Rick brought to the table as a coach, as a person, as a mentor ... it would have been impossible.”
Grief counselors were on campus Monday for the second consecutive week. Phillips, a former coach, was close to the football program. Scott was part of it. He was also the stepfather of Bob Gregorchuk, the head coach at Rio Mesa.
A memorial service is scheduled at Buena’s football stadium Thursday at 4 p.m.
Gregorchuk and Contreras agreed that Rio Mesa’s season had made Scott truly happy again. A year ago, he resigned after 16 seasons with Ventura Buena, run off by unhappy parents, they said.
“After the game, Rick made the statement that the kids put up everything they could have” against Agoura, Contreras said. “He was very much at peace with that.”
Rio Mesa finished 11-1 after going 3-7 last year. Buena, where Scott continued to teach, finished 0-10.
Seven teams in the Southern Section remain unbeaten and untied, including Mission Viejo, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, Lake Elsinore Temescal Canyon and Westlake Village Oaks Christian. At 12-0, they are Nos. 1, 2, 17 and 25, respectively, in The Times’ final regular-season rankings.
El Monte Arroyo, Phelan Serrano and Lompoc are unranked but are top-seeded teams in their divisions.
Arroyo (12-0) will play two-time defending champion West Covina South Hills (8-4) at Covina District Field on Friday in a Division VII semifinal. For a team whose nonleague opponents had a combined record of 29-47, a victory would add credibility to a spotless record.
“In terms of having a legit season, people have been saying that since Week 6,” Coach Jim Singiser said.
“We’re certainly not in Mission Viejo’s caliber. We’re not looking to challenge Loyola player for player. But we’ve had a great run and we’re looking forward for it to continue.”
Arroyo’s defense, which has allowed only 6.6 points a game, includes senior Rosenber Panaloza (5 feet 5, 210 pounds) and junior Anthony Wilbur (5-7 1/2 , 190).
Serrano (12-0) plays Pomona Diamond Ranch (9-2-1) at Pomona Ganesha on Saturday in Division VIII. The Diamondbacks’ eight nonleague opponents have a combined record of 30-49-1.
“Every week, we’re still trying to prove ourselves,” said Ray Maholchic, Serrano’s coach. “Even Palm Desert players [were quoted] in their paper, saying we were overrated.”
Serrano defeated Palm Desert, 62-33, on Friday. The Diamondbacks have won with solid defense, Maholchic said, and several offensive playmakers, including quarterback Carl Uhl and receiver Taylor Walker.
Lompoc’s 23-game winning streak is the section’s longest active mark. The Braves, who have won consecutive Division X championships, have played three nonleague teams with winning records.
Coach Robin Luken’s team has won with a strong defense anchored by noseguard Clayton Greco, defensive tackle Brandon Price, linebacker Tryrell Coleman and free safety Boo Jackson. They’ll play against Encino Crespi (8-4) on Saturday in Lompoc.
“There’s been no team in the history of Lompoc to go through the season undefeated,” Luken said. “Our goal this year was to play on Dec. 12. We don’t look at it like this will make our streak a little more legitimate.”
Junior Chane Moline of Mission Viejo said he hyperextended his knee in his team’s 50-20 victory over Newhall Hart Friday in a rematch of teams in last season’s Division II final.
“I strained the MCL [medial collateral ligament] a little bit, but it’s not too serious,” Moline said. “I’m going to take it easy, but I’ll practice. It’s not going to keep me out of the game.”
Top-seeded Mission Viejo plays host to Upland on Saturday.
South Hills overcame a 23-0 second-quarter deficit to beat fourth-seeded Westminster, 31-23, and deprive the Lions (9-3) of their first semifinal appearance since 1986.
South Hills (8-4) had five interceptions in the comeback, the fourth returned 26 yards for a touchdown by Gio Guerra for the final margin. The fifth, by Aaron Oliver, stopped Westminster’s comeback attempt in the last two minutes.
Crespi Coach Troy Thomas might want to look into purchasing rental property in Pismo Beach, considering the Celts’ long drives to the Central Coast.
Last week, Crespi had a nearly 200-mile drive to Morro Bay. This week, in the Division X semifinals, Crespi will play at Lompoc, 137 miles away.
Crespi is making its first semifinal appearance since 1993, when the Celts were in Division I. Thomas, in his fourth year, took over a program that had been 0-10. The Celts have since gone 4-5, 10-2 and 9-3.
Times staff writer Eric Sondheimer contributed to this report.