AT THIS WEEKEND'S TOP
(Doesn't include games scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday; see web site for updated scoreboard on Friday)
San Diego -- Now that all the silly byes are out of the way, the real playoffs get going this week. All of the Division I games look interesting and in some respects about six of the eight teams might be able to go all the way. Top seed Vista, of course, would still be the favorite if the Panthers keep on playing defense as they did in their last five games. But this year has been so crazy in San Diego that nothing would be a surprise. In Div. II, the Helix-Ramona game features top backs Reggie Bush and Jason Bash. The Highlanders also will be itching to get a rematch in the semis next week against Monte Vista, which gave them their only loss.
Southern -- Cal-Hi Sports founder Nelson Tennis says Mater Dei of Santa Ana may be on the way to playing the toughest schedule in state history. Quite a tall statement, but consider this: Redlands (this week's opponent in the Div. I quarterfinals) will be the fifth undefeated team the Monarchs have faced this season. The Terriers (11-0) follow Mission Viejo (11-0), De La Salle (10-0), Edison of Huntington Beach (8-0-1) and Bishop Amat of La Puente (9-1, was unbeaten before losing to Mater Dei). Redlands only won last week 17-14 over Marina, so a Mater Dei win wouldn't be that much of an upset, despite looking at the teams' records. All of the other Div. I quarters look pretty enticing. Long Beach Poly hasn't shown any signs of letting up recently and the Jackrabbits should beat Loyola fairly easily. The Cubs usually play Poly tough, though, and with a few turnovers going their way could make it interesting. In Div. III, the angle to watch for is to see if all four unbeatens -- Hart, Notre Dame, Crescenta Valley and Mira Costa -- make it to next week's semifinals. It's rare indeed, anywhere in the state or nation, to see four teams with undefeated records squaring off against each other in the semifinals of a 16-team bracket. The lower half of the Div. VI bracket has some excellent matchups as well with 10-1 Foothill going up against 9-1 La Mirada and 9-1 Cerritos playing 9-1-1 Newport Harbor. Of all the No. 1 seeds, the most likely to lose is Temple City. The Rams (10-0) are going up against an Inglewood club (8-2) that boasts several Div. I college recruits and was seeded third mainly because of a one-point loss to El Segundo. The Sentinels are much better than they showed in that game and a win against Desmond Reed and company wouldn't be a shock.
Central -- A lot was made of the seedings, especially in the Yosemite Small Division where Golden West of Visalia was at No. 3 even though its only loss was to Bakersfield and in the Sequoia Small Division where Dos Palos was at No. 2 even though its only loss was to St. Bonaventure of Ventura. The Golden West seed isn't that far off, really. No. 1 Edison has a win over Clovis West and more talent than perhaps any team north of the Grapevine. It's much more ridiculous, though, to have Dos Palos behind San Joaquin Memorial. And the people who should be most unhappy for that are, in fact, S.J. Memorial fans. If DP and SJM do play in the finals, it would much better for SJM if it weren't playing a fired up Bronco squad eager to show how way off base the seeding was. Golden West's first game is against North of Bakersfield. Dos Palos opens against Orosi. State No. 5 Bakersfield opens against new school Sunnyside of Fresno, but the Drillers' next game will likely be against Clovis West.
Central Coast -- The Div. I matchup Friday at San Jose City College between Mitty and Oak Grove could be a doozy. The Monarchs already own a 20-6 win over the Eagles and have been on a roll lately. Oak Grove looked good last week against Independence and even more improvement this week could spell upset. Palma of Salinas is favored in the other Div. I semifinal. In Div. II, Aragon of San Mateo is the top seed, but the Dons probably are the underdogs in their matchup against Salinas of the Monterey Bay League. In Div. III, Los Gatos and San Lorenzo Valley should win and set up a great 12-0 vs. 12-0 final next week. And in Div. IV, watch out for No. 7 seed Saratoga. The Falcons started the playoffs at 5-5-1, but they showed they could be a potential title team in that division based on their close loss to Los Gatos two weeks ago.
Sac-Joaquin -- It's rematch time in the northern half of the Div. I playoffs with Grant of Sacramento playing Johnson again and Nevada Union of Grass Valley playing Elk Grove. Johnson and Elk Grove won easily in those early season matchups, but this weekend could be different. Under coach Mike Alberghini, Grant normally doesn't start to pick up steam until late October. And Nevada Union clearly will remember last year when it was a winner early in the season vs. Elk Grove and then lost in a rematch in the playoffs. Defending Div. II champ Granite Bay hits the road to play Manteca, but the Grizzlies usually do well whenever they play in San Joaquin County. Their last trip southward resulted in a win over defending Div. I winner Lincoln of Stockton. In Div. III, the semifinal matchup between Vanden and Central Catholic is probably involving the top two teams in the division. Either one figures to be a strong favorite in the finals vs. either Escalon or Marysville.
North Coast -- The section's first title game will be Friday in Class B as Tomales (9-1) faces St. Bernard (5-6). Neither team, though, is as good as Ferndale, which lost in a first-round Class A game, or Middletown (10-0), which won the NCL II league title over Tomales, and is in the Class A semis. It'll be a Lamorinda-flavored Class 2A East Bay semifinals as top seed Miramonte of Orinda plays Acalanes of Lafayette and Campolindo of Moraga meets Las Lomas of Walnut Creek. Too bad Miramonte isn't in a different division to see how good the Mats really are. Monte Vista's recent showings make it the favorite in the Class 3A East Bay playoffs despite a No. 3 seed. Top seed Bishop O'Dowd could have trouble in its semi vs. an Amador Valley squad that just knocked off San Ramon Valley. National and state No. 1 De La Salle plays James Logan (10-1) on Saturday in the Class 4A semifinals. The Spartans should still roll, but Logan has the talent and with a few breaks could come within two or three touchdowns. The other semi pits unbeatens Foothill of Pleasanton and San Leandro. This is the top game in NorCal for the week. Foothill, which won by just 21-19 over Newark Memorial last week, will have to pull all of the rabbits out of its hats to beat San Leandro. The Pirates, still young with several standout juniors (like QB Dennis Dixon), were very impressive last week in 41-0 win over Pittsburg.