WHERE TO PUT OCEANSIDE?

When you're following high school football teams throughout the state and the nation, it's almost as important to follow the local rankings as much as how each team fares each week.

In California, there's always been differences between rankings in certain regions of the state. In Orange County, it's the Register vs. the L.A. Times. In the San Fernando Valley, it's the Daily News vs. the L.A. Times. In the San Francisco Bay Area, it's the Alameda Newspaper Group vs. the Contra Costa Times. And in San Diego, it's the Union-Tribune vs. the North County Times.

Most of the differences between each ranking are slight. A team that is No. 2 in one ranking is No. 3 in another or a team that is unranked in one poll slips in at No. 8 or No. 9 in another.

But this week's rankings in San Diego may have set the bar at a new high for disagreement. In the aftermath of last weekend's stunning 38-27 loss by season long area No. 1 Helix of La Mesa to Monte Vista of Spring Valley, the Union-Tribune and North County Times rankings are about as far apart as Rush Limbaugh and Jane Fonda.

The Union-Tribune went with Rancho Bernardo (7-1) in the top spot, followed by Helix, Fallbrook, Carlsbad, Vista, El Camino of Oceanside, Mira Mesa, Mission Bay, Ramona and in a tie for 10th Oceanside and Monte Vista.

The North County Times went with Oceanside (7-1) in the top spot, followed by Helix, Rancho Bernardo, Mira Mesa, Ramona, Vista, Monte Vista, Mission Bay, Fallbrook and Torrey Pines.

About the only teams the two newspapers seem to agree on is Helix at No. 2 and Mission Bay at No. 8. The biggest disagreements (U-T ranking listed first) are about Oceanside (No. 1 vs. No. 10), Fallbrook (No. 3 vs. No. 9, Carlsbad (No. 4 vs. unranked) and El Camino (No. 6 vs. unranked).

So why are the two rankings so wildy different?

"Part of it is the philosophies of the two newspapers," said John Maffei of the North County Times, who coordinates that newspaper's rankings. "Ours is a true poll which includes 17 guys from around the county. The guys vote, the votes get counted and the poll is done. Theirs is more of process in which Steve (Brand) and Tom (Shanahan) sit down, have a meeting and place the teams."

Shanahan bristled when informed of those comments.

"It's not just Steve and myself, that's wrong," Shanahan said. "Mick McGrane and Nicole Vargas have votes, too. We meet every Monday and we take everything into account very seriously. They may have all these people voting, but 90 percent of them only see teams in their backyard. When you have that many people voting who haven't seen everyone play that can get your rankings skewed.

"The North County Times never sees teams from outside their area until the championships," Brand added. "Generally, they tend to have more North County teams ranked than we do, although those teams do tend to be the best down here."

The major difference in Oceanside's ranking is that North County Times voters like the fact that Oceanside has a win over Monte Vista, which is the team that knocked off Helix. Shanahan explained, however, that Oceanside has a loss to Carlsbad and should still be considered second in its league behind unbeaten Ramona.

"They even have Oceanside ranked behind El Camino," Maffei said. "El Camino has three losses and Oceanside beat them. How do you explain that one?"

Shanahan did: "El Camino is the only team that beat Rancho Bernardo and they really should have won that game against Oceanside. They were ahead 31-14 and basically started celebrating too early."

Fallbrook's strength of schedule also is a bone of contention between the two prep editors. The Warriors have three losses, which is why they're only at No. 9 by the North County Times, but those losses were to Helix (first game) and to out-of-area opponents Mater Dei and Esperanza, which is why they are No. 3 by the Union-Tribune. Fallbrook also has wins over Vista, La Costa Canyon and Carlsbad.

"In the minds of our voters, Esperanza is just not as good as advertised," Maffei said. "And Mater Dei is good, but not nearly as good as in past years."

Countered Shanahan: "Do they really think all these other teams in the county could have done any better against Mater Dei (Fallbrook lost, 24-17)? Last year, we had Fallbrook No. 1 from wire-to-wire, even after they lost twice. They didn't put Fallbrook back up to No. 1 until the end. I think that says something about creditability."

Everyone in the county does agree about one thing. That this is turning out to be one of the weirdest seasons in recent memory.

"It's really too bad Helix lost because it was nice to see a team from the county start to get ranked high in the state and nation," Shanahan said. "It seems like this year there's just no middle class. There are some good teams and some really bad teams. Now you can just go around, around and around about this team with a win over that team."

The outcome of this week's game between Rancho Bernardo and Vista could muddy the waters further, especially if Vista wins.   


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