By Tim Peterson
This election season I vote for the old divisions to return to the CIF playoff format. I cast my vote for the Mid-Valley, the Southeast and Central.
Everything was local. We’d get a first round matchup of Temple City- Arroyo or a second round contest between Monrovia and Schurr. Remember the year that Monrovia played San Gabriel in the Finals? The local interest was at an all-time high. San Dimas-Monrovia in a pouring rainstorm at Citrus College for the Mid-Valley championship in 2009…was there anything better?
I’ll argue that the La Serna-Norwalk Southeast Final in 2013 was the best high school football game I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t just because it was a CIF Final or the talent on the field or the big plays that were made. It was because all of it was done with a local flavor that the new playoff format won’t provide.
Have you seen the matchups in the first round this year? West Covina is a good solid team in the area. Want to go check the Bulldogs out? Take a drive out to Fontana Friday night to Summit High School. How about Arcadia? The Apaches had a pretty good year. Well not good enough apparently in Division 11. They’re headed out to Oak Park. Where the heck is Oak Park? Who knows? Google it. It’s not close. El Monte gets a bus ride out to Boron. Yeah, Boron. Azusa? The Aztecs have gained some fans over the years. They’re a perennial playoff team. They have to hit the road to Riverside. Who wants to go out to Riverside on a Friday night from the San Gabriel Valley? Not fun.
But like it or not, like Donald Trump, the new CIF division playoff format is here.
Mission Valley League champion Arroyo earned a home game against Verbum Dei. Anyone know anything about Verbum Dei? Is Akeem Ayers still there? Reggie Dunn? Uh no, those former Eagle stars aren’t there but they do have some athletes. They finished 5-5 overall and 3-1 in the South Catholic League.
“They have athletes and lots of speed. We need to play sound team defense and put helmets on the ball,” said Arroyo head coach Jim Singiser. “We have to execute on offense. Nothing new…not reinventing the wheel. Limit mistakes and execute. Same thing every week.”
The Knights were 9-1 overall and unbeaten in the MVL.
South El Monte, second in the MVL, 9-1 overall, is one of the few teams in the first round that actually has a local game. They will host Rio Hondo Prep in Division 13. RHP has won multiple championships in its storied history. The Kares finished 6-3 overall and 2-1 in the Prep League.
“I feel really good about our team. We’re confident and humble to be in the playoffs,” said South El Monte HC Frank Gallardo.
Norwalk and El Rancho already met this year, with the Lancers winning 23-12 back in Zero Week on the Dons home field. Don’t be surprised if the Dons pull something here. ER has consistently improved under first year coach Adrian Medrano and are primed to pull the upset.
Speaking of West Covina, and I think was earlier, HC Mike Maggiore knows how to beat Summit. “Score more points than they do,” he quipped. If the Bulldogs do that and also “try to make their back earn his yards and get guys to the ball and tackle,” they can win according to Maggiore.
“Summit is very athletic and has one of the best backs I have seen on film in all my years of coaching. We also need to finish drives on offense. It’s going to be a great test for us as a team. I’m proud of how we have responded and the improvement we have made this year. We have one more week of football!” He added.
La Mirada may be the best team in Division 3 but CIF didn’t do the Mats any favors in the first round with Paso Robles out of the Pac 5.
“They (Paso Robles) are big and physical and do a lot of different things scheme wise on offense and defense and even on special teams. Multiple formations and personnel packages on offense, really well coached,” said La Mirada head coach Mike Moschetti. “They even do a lot of things in the kicking game with fake punts and onside kicks. We’re going to have to play great football on offense, defense and special teams. We have to find a way to get turnovers and win the special teams battle.”
La Mirada begins its quest to defend a State championship.
Chino got in! Who saw that coming after the Cowboys lost their last four games? But here they are. And for their efforts they win a trip to Covina District Field to face Northview. Can they win? Well, possibly.
“First of all we have to hold on to the ball. We have to pound the ball and keep our defense off the field. They (Northview) have a few weapons on offense including their quarterback and a great receiver, a triple threat,” said Chino head coach Jesse Ceniceros. “So our key is to work on offense and have some success and let the clock run.”
Sounds like a plan to me. We’ll see.
In other games, Los Altos- San Marino? I’ve seen that movie before. Glendora-Charter Oak? I read that book in September. St. Paul at Monrovia? Cats are finding their groove. Home team wins. Covina-Victor Valley? Long bus ride…
That’s my principle.
Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tspeterson40.