Column: With Southern Section playoffs set, the real work begins for coaches

Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson stands on a football field.
Mission Viejo coach Chad Johnson will have to prepare his team to face Corona Centennial in a playoff opener.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

It’s Saturday morning, and the high school football regular season is over. The head coaches at Corona Centennial and Mission Viejo know they will meet in the first round of the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs once the pairings are revealed Sunday.

Do you start studying video on your opponent? Do you start creating a game plan? Do you start calling other coaches for a scouting report?

Matt Logan of Centennial attended his granddaughter’s ballet workout. Chad Johnson of Mission Viejo spent the morning watching college football on television as his young daughter played with his phone. See, these two intense, dedicated coaches actually have a life outside of football.

Now it’s back to work after officially finding out Sunday that No. 5 Mission Viejo (9-1) will play at No. 4 Centennial (10-0) on Nov. 12.


“We’ve never played each other before,” Logan said. “It will be unique and a fun setup. Each of us has been proclaimed best public school, we’ll find out this year.”

Added Johnson: “I have a lot of respect for Matt. I played him many times at St. John Bosco.”

This is the first year the Southern Section placed teams in playoff divisions based on this season’s results rather than using a two-year cycle. power ratings were used, and it has a computerized system devised by Ned Freeman that rates high school football teams nationwide, with a set of algorithms considering strength of opponents and game results from the current season.

There were 216 berths and 44 at-large spots for 14 divisions.

High school football: Southern Section playoff pairings

Oct. 31, 2021

The highest-ranked team that didn’t get in was 3-7 San Juan Capistrano San Juan Hills. The highest-ranked team that didn’t get in with a .500 or better record was 5-5 Westlake Village Westlake. The team with the best winning record that didn’t get in was 7-3 Agoura.


Division 2, led by top-seeded Mission Hills Bishop Alemany (5-3), appears to be the most competitive 16-team bracket with any of the teams capable of winning in the first round.

Morningside coach Brian Collins shares his thoughts after his football team lost 106-0 to Inglewood on Friday night.

Oct. 30, 2021

“It’s a heck of a bracket,” said assistant commissioner Richard Shearer.

Division 1 looks to be the most one-sided.

The eight-team Division 1 bracket features No. 1-seeded Santa Ana Mater Dei (8-0), No. 2 Bellflower St. John Bosco (9-1), No. 3 Anaheim Servite (8-2) and No. 6 Santa Margarita (6-4), all from the Trinity League. All six Trinity League teams made playoff brackets.

Among the story lines will be public versus private schools, how competitive first-round games will be and whether a true seeding that sometimes denies league champions a home game will receive support in the future. The Southern Section will be evaluating every step and is prepared to make adjustments in 2022 if needed.

A game taking on added interest is in Division 2, where Inglewood (8-0) will play Ventura St. Bonaventure (9-0) at Ventura College. Inglewood is facing a school district investigation after a 106-0 win over Morningside on Friday that has provoked a national debate on sportsmanship and running up scores. The teams were supposed to meet in the season opener but the game was canceled because of COVID-19 protocols.

“We’ll embrace it,” St. Bonaventure coach Joe Goyeneche said of facing Inglewood. “We’re excited. I think it was in the cards. We were supposed to open with them and we’re opening with them next year.”