The pairings for the CIF-Southern Section high school football playoffs have been out since mid-day Sunday. That’s more than enough time to turn any of us into an expert as we look ahead to just how each division will play out.
Fans, coaches and players are going to be treated to a wild ride over the next four weeks. The emotions of the playoffs are second to none. The lifetime of memories that will be built up are truly magical.
So why not try and spoil all the suspense by breaking out the crystal ball for a division by division preview of how everything will play out for our local teams?
Here goes …
Southeast Division first round winners: Norwalk, Dominguez, Paramount, La Mirada, La Serna, Downey, Mayfair and Diamond Ranch.
Second round winners: Norwalk, La Mirada, La Serna and Diamond Ranch. Semifinals winners: Norwalk and La Serna. Champion: La Serna.
Explanation: La Serna gets the slight nod and it’s slight because nobody would be shocked if the Lancers lost in the second round to Downey, assuming that match up comes off. Norwalk is a legitimate No. 1 seed, but how many times in the past have we seen 10-0 teams falter in the postseason? It seems like only the truly great ones go 14-0. La Serna has the best quarterback in the division in Frankie Palmer and that should be enough to pull out the close games along the way to a third consecutive trip to the finals.
Western Division first round winners: Serra, Morro Bay, St. Francis, Camarillo, Lompoc, Santa Monica, Ventura and Chaminade.
Second round winners: Serra, St. Francis, Lompoc and Chaminade. Semifinals winners: Serra and Chaminade. Champion: Serra.
Explanation: Ho-hum, this looks like one of the easiest divisions in the Southern Section to call. The Mission League teams lay over the rest of the field and only when they cannibalize each other will they be stopped. St. Francis is the local charge, but asking the Knights to finish the regular season with Serra and Chaminade in back-to-back weeks, then reel off four straight wins is a bit too much … especially with Serra in their half of the bracket.
Southwest Division first round winners: La Habra, Newport Harbor, Los Alamitos, Fullerton, Edison, Villa Park, San Juan Hills and Yorba Linda.
Second round winners: La Habra, Los Alamitos, Edison and San Juan Hills. Semifinals winners: La Habra and Edison. Champion: Edison.
Explanation: Now this is one heckuva division. Let’s get one thing out of the way, though, the Empire League teams are in big, big trouble. The local hope here is La Habra. The Highlanders are back to traditional strength and the No. 1 seed. But they’re very likely to have to beat three Sunset League teams along the way to bring home a banner. If things play out as projected here, the semis should be epic. But this looks like a deceptively tough path for a No. 1 seed to take starting from the second round on. Edison doesn’t have nearly as difficult a draw as the Highlanders and that’s why we lean their way.
Mid-Valley Division first round winners: Monrovia, Montebello, Rosemead, Paraclete, San Dimas, San Marino, Schurr and Arroyo.
Second round winners: Monrovia, Paraclete, San Dimas and Arroyo. Semifinals winners: Monrovia and San Dimas. Champion: Monrovia.
Explanation: The division of good, old-fashioned neighborhood football … and Monrovia. The Wildcats are odds-on favorites to win their fourth consecutive division title, but the real drama is who will play them in the finals. There are three legitimate finals contenders in the “other half” of the bracket and they are San Dimas, San Marino and Arroyo. The best game of the entire playoffs might come in the second round if San Dimas and San Marino meet, which is likely to happen. But in the end, this is all about Monrovia showing off for the bowl committee.
Northeast Division first round winners: Mission Prep, Pasadena Poly, Saddleback Valley Chr., Desert, Salesian, Capistrano Valley Chr., Hamilton and Rio Hondo Prep.
Second round winners: Mission Prep, Desert, Salesian and Rio Hondo Prep. Semifinals winners: Mission Prep and Salesian. Champion: Salesian.
Explanation: The way things are seeded, this is supposed to come down a rematch of last year’s finals between defending champ Rio Hondo Prep and Mission Prep. One problem, though, Salesian is the best team in the division. The Kares are likely to see Salesian in the semifinals and will be decided underdogs despite what the seeding says.
Inland Division first round winners: Vista Murrieta, Charter Oak, Rancho Cucamonga, Norco, Upland, Eisenhower, Chaparral, Centennial.
Second round winners: Vista Murrieta, Rancho Cucamonga, Upland, Centennial. Semifinals winners: Vista Murrieta and Centennial. Champion: Centennial.
Explanation: The local charge is headed up by Sierra League champion Charter Oak. Although not as flashy as the previous two years’ teams, this Chargers group is likely to wind up with the same bottom line as the previous two: a bow out in the second round. Charter Oak got a wicked assignment having to play Vista Murrieta if both win in the first round. We’re looking elsewhere for teams set to make a deep run. Rancho Cucamonga went from a top-four seed to just a second-place entry after getting stunned by Upland in Week 10. Both Baseline teams are headed to the semis, however, in our opinion. From there, last year’s power teams will take over and meet again in the finals with Centennial coming out on top again.
Northwest Division first round winners: Oak Park, La Puente, Carpinteria, Santa Paula, Bishop Diego, Maranatha, Azusa and Nordhoff.
Second round winners: Oak Park, Carpinteria, Bishop Diego and Nordhoff. Semifinals winners: Oak Park and Nordhoff. Champion: Nordhoff.
Explanation: The Tri-Valley League absolutely lays over this division. In fact, it might have the top-five teams and get this, ALL FIVE teams got into the playoffs … yes, even Santa Paula, which went 0-4 in league. We project all five teams will win their first-round games. We also project the semifinals will be four Tri-Valley League teams. Fun isn’t it? And in the end, Nordhoff wins it all. This isn’t what a division should look like, but then again, many have considered the Tri-Valley to be CIF’s wasteland division.