After CIF run in ’09, OCHS ‘a long shot’ to make playoffs

Ontario Christian High School football coach Laing Stevens doesn’t think he’ll have a difficult time keeping his team from feeling overconfident the final two games of the season. Starting the year with six losses in seven games can have that effect.

A year after reaching the CIF-SS East Valley Division championship game Ontario Christian began the 2010 season 1-6 before winning its first Ambassador League game Friday, a 36-7 defeat of Western Christian.

“We had a dry spell and we won a game but I don’t think there’s any reason for us to get cocky,” Stevens said. “We played a hard schedule this year but that wasn’t a 1-6 schedule. There’s probably not a team we played other than Whittier Christian that we couldn’t play with.”

Prior to their postseason run last year, the Knights (2-6, 1-2) actually began the season in similar fashion. After losing five of its first six games Ontario Christian won six of its next seven before losing 12-6 in the CIF championship game to a San Juan Capistrano St. Margaret’s team many believed had the Knights overmatched.

This season, however, Stevens thinks the Knights may have already lost their shot at simply making the playoffs.

In their new Ambassador League, only two postseason berths are automatic. Ontario Christian lost its first two league games, the first to defending Christian League champion Aquinas and the second to league newcomer Linfield Christian, the defending CIF-SS Northeast Division champion. Even if the Knights win their final two games of the season, the best they can hope for is a wild-card playoff berth, of which there are four in the East Valley Divison.

With a 4-6 overall record, Stevens isn’t confident his team will earn a playoff spot despite its run last season after a 1-5 start.

“As a rule they like to take .500 teams before they take anyone that’s below .500,” Stevens said. “There are teams that are .500 who aren’t necessarily great teams and I think it’s in the back of their heads at CIF that they don’t like the .500 rule. It just depends on how they see us and I don’t know what they’re going to think but I’d say it’s a long shot for us to make it.”

In essence, Ontario Christian may have lost its chance at the playoffs several weeks ago. While its two wins – the first was over 1-7 Jurupa Valley on Sept. 24 – came by a combined score of 67-7, it has averaged an 18.3-point margin of defeat in its six losses. But of those six teams only Don Lugo has a losing record while Whittier Christian, Azusa and Aquinas are a combined 22-1 and each ranked in the top four of their respective CIF divisions.

After opening league with its fourth consecutive loss to Aquinas, Ontario Christian may have been able to counteract that setback and its nonleague losses with a win over Linfield Christian two weeks ago.

“I always schedule hard games early to get us going for league play,” Stevens said. “But Aquinas is always tough and we didn’t get it done against Linfield. I think we’re a better team than we’ve been showing. Hopefully we’ll win the next two games and see our way into the playoffs.”