How can you crown a state champion when it’s still unclear which is the best high school football team in Southern California?
Arguments could be made for section champions Los Angeles Crenshaw, Anaheim Servite, Gardena Serra and even Westlake Village Westlake, which wasn’t invited to one of the five state championship bowl games despite a 14-0 record and Northern Division title.
Yet, none of those teams will play one another under the format that matches section champions from Southern California and Northern California. A proposal to add a regional playoff round was shot down last year by the California Interscholastic Federation’s state federated council.
“Because of the way we’re structured, the size of our state, you can’t have a true champion unless you legitimately start playing everybody off, and we’re just too large to do that,” Marie Ishida, CIF executive director, said Monday at the Home Depot Center in Carson. “This is our next-best thing, and so far it’s worked for us.”
The Open Division game debuted last year in an effort to match the best team from each part of the state regardless of enrollment. But it does not allow teams from the same geographic region to play one another.
“It’s been talked about,” Ishida said. “Whether it will come to fruition, I don’t know.”
Serra Coach Scott Altenberg, whose Cavaliers (14-0) will play Kentfield Marin Catholic (13-1) on Saturday in the Division III game, said he favors a regional playoff preceding a bowl game.
“To play a Serra-Crenshaw or a Serra-Servite game would be just amazing,” he said. “I just don’t know how many games you can play. Fifteen is a lot.”
Ishida said she expected the proposal for regional playoffs to be revisited in a few years.
Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons expressed disappointment that Crenshaw (14-0) was selected to face Concord De La Salle (12-2) in the Open Division game instead of Servite (13-1).
Simmons pointed to what he said was a superior strength of schedule -- the Friars defeated Inland Division champion Temecula Chaparral, traditional power Long Beach Poly twice and avenged their only defeat in the Pac-5 Division title game against Huntington Beach Edison -- as the primary argument for Servite.
Ishida said the 10 section commissioners spent more time discussing the Southern California Open Division representative than any other selection. A majority selected Crenshaw in part, Ishida said, because the Cougars were unbeaten and had played a difficult schedule outside the City Section.
Fast times in Carson
Crenshaw and De La Salle went head to head in several events at the state track meet in May, with De La Salle’s Terron Ward, Ken Egu, Chase Wheeler and Tyler Anderson finishing third in the boys’ 400-meter relay. Ward and Egu are running backs.
Crenshaw’s Dayvon Allen, Jonathan Downard, Gregory Ducre and De’Anthony Thomas took sixth. Thomas is a running back and Allen, Downard and Ducre are receivers.
The winning 400-relay team will also be in Carson this weekend. Serra’s Marcus Johnson, Devan Spann, Anthony Carpenter and Robert Woods finished first in 40.67 seconds. Johnson is a running back and Spann and Woods are receivers.