As the Southern Section announced its football playoff pairings Sunday, there was anticipation, excitement and speculation the postseason might produce a few more surprises than what transpired during the 10-week regular season.
The top four seeds in Division 1 were expected: 1. Bellflower St. John Bosco (10-0), 2. Corona Centennial (10-0), 3. Santa Ana Mater Dei (8-2), 4. Westlake Village Oaks Christian (10-0). The top seeds haven’t changed for weeks.
This also has been the season when the gap between the haves and have-nots has expanded even more.
“I don’t have an explanation,” Centennial coach Matt Logan said. “It’s almost like there’s no middle class — no mid-level teams. I feel really good football players are continuing to play. The kids in the middle that have to work a little harder or sit a little bit are going to other sports.”
Centennial won its final two league games by scores of 80-0 and 84-14. It has been the forgotten school while many debate what the outcome of a potential rematch might look like between Trinity League rivals St. John Bosco and Mater Dei.
The Huskies could be a big roadblock for both schools’ title hopes. They’ve played St. John Bosco five consecutive years in memorable playoff games. They haven’t faced Mater Dei since 2014. But they face a challenging playoff opener Friday against a good Orange Lutheran team.
Logan has guided Centennial to 10 section titles, and he has one of his best defenses, led by defensive ends Drake Jackson and Korey Foreman.
“We just do what we do,” he said. “Our kids really work hard. We try to get better every day. From a defensive standpoint, we’ve figured out who we are and what we’re capable of doing. Offensively, it’s been about getting experience with a young offensive line and young quarterbacks.”
Centennial won the Division 1 championship in 2014 while alternating two quarterbacks each series. Logan is doing it again this season with juniors Carter Freedland and Ala Mikaele. Maybe he’s discovered the secret to keeping more than one quarterback happy and preventing transfers. In reality, it’s about accepting roles.
“The kids have to be unselfish, and in the game of football, it’s so huge,” he said.
The Southern Section has an astounding 13 playoff divisions. It’s hard to believe that as late as the 1970s there were just four divisions. Yes, there are more schools but everyone likes winning a banner and the CIF needs to keep as many people happy as possible. But there were already some big losers Sunday.
Brentwood, with an 8-1 record, was left out of the Division 10 playoffs. It’s in the Gold Coast League, which decided to give away its two automatic playoff spots to Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and Lancaster Paraclete months ago so that other league teams didn’t have to play them and there were no at-large berths available in Division 10.
Pasadena Muir, at 7-3 and coming off an emotional win over rival Pasadena, didn’t make the Division 9 playoffs because there were no at-large berths available. Pasadena, at 5-5, made the Division 11 playoffs with an at-large berth. Yep, life isn’t fair.
There needs to be an appropriate balance in education-based high school sports between being ambitious and trying to win at all costs and remembering what the journey is supposed to be about.
Santa Margarita finished last in the powerful Trinity League and won’t be going to the playoffs, but cornerback Blake Bianchini sent out a tweet over the weekend that was inspirational and offered an endorsement of the values of its coaching staff.
“Can’t believe high school football is over. Wasn’t the way we wanted to go out but damn I had the best 4 years of my life with my brothers! Thanks to everyone that made it great.”