Darryl Washburn

San Fernando is trying for a third consecutive City championship, but the Tigers will begin the 2014 playoffs on the road.


Usually three things happen when the City Section and Southern Section prep football playoff seedings are released, as they were on the weekend of Nov. 8-9.

There will be a segment of coaches who mutter in disbelief at real or perceived injustices for their teams for their placement in the 16-team brackets. On the other end are coaches just happy to be part of the playoff even if it means starting on the road against the top seeds.

And there’s a middle segment, which finds themselves toward the middle but can conceive making a surprising run if a break or two goes their way.

In others words, a little bit of everything.

There is only one definitive about the playoffs — you have to win four games to win a section championship, whether you are the top seed or the final seed. And best of all,  you are not among those teams that began turning in equipment on Monday, Nov. 10.

Dreams are still alive, even those that are faint or farfetched.

The City Section has three divisions that offer championships in 11-man in football, and the bulk of the Valley area playoff teams are sprinkled in here. There are five Valley teams in the Southern Section 11-man playoffs battling for 13 division titles.

Regardless of final outcomes, the next 5-6 weeks of football — ending with the CIF state bowl games on Dec. 20 — will feature more drama, surprise, anguish, amazement and lasting memories than in the regular season simply because it is win or go home. Longtime fans should anticipate a great team cementing a legacy, an underdog team going farther than it had any right to go, another team losing a game it had no business losing, and another team that may not be quite ready for a championship, but whose performance will lay the groundwork for the following year.

Now is the time to take a closer look at the seedings, and try and figure out what is possible.

City Section

There was little joy when the Division I pairings were announced because there was little change. Once again, Marine League teams, led by top seed and Marine League champion San Pedro (9-1), and Coliseum League teams were given five of the first six seeds. The only team to break through that monopoly was Garfield of Los Angeles (8-2), seeded second.

Birmingham Coach Jim Rose thought his team, which won the West Valley League, had a chance to be the sixth seed. But after seeing the bracket, a different picture began to form. Birmingham (5-5), the seventh seed, will host Banning of Wilmington (5-5), seeded 10th, in the first round. Should the Pats win the game, they either face Garfield or El Camino Real in the quarterfinals.

That gives Birmingham, which last won a City title in 2007, a shot at getting to the semifinals — and maybe further.

“I do think our seed is where we should be,” Rose said. “But Banning is much better than the team we played last year. And if we don’t play well Banning will beat us.”

A playoff run to the semis could be in the thinking of ECR Coach Kevin Williams as well. The Conquistadors (7-3), seeded 15th,  do have to travel to Garfield for the first round and the Eastern League champion Bulldogs are an excellent team, having won eight straight after opening the season with losses to San Clemente and Edison of Huntington Beach.

But the “X” factor here is Garfield probably hasn’t seen much of the kind of offense El Camino Real can employ, the Double Wing-T. And even though ECR was more of a passing team this season, there are 36 seniors who remember how to run it. If the Bulldogs take too long to solve it, an upset is possible.

The Conquistadors also know that if they lose, it will be Williams’ final game. He has announced his decision to step down as head coach.

When asked if he was worried the team would put too much into making his resignation a rallying cry, Williams said no. “It’s not about me, it’s about them. And we’ll make sure they know that.”

Canoga Park Coach Ivan Moreno has a different issue. Losing the Valley Mission League championship game to Sylmar sent the Hunters (8-2) tumbling to the 11th seed. They are the road team against Dorsey of Los Angeles (5-5), the sixth seed.

“We knew the loss would hurt,” Moreno said. But Canoga Park can win, Moreno said, by remaining committed to its brutish running game and avoid the rash of turnovers that were so costly against Sylmar.

East Valley League champion Arleta (9-1) got what it wanted — a home game to start the playoffs. The Mustangs, seeded eighth, will host Palisades of Pacific (6-4) , the ninth seed.

“We’re happy we don’t have to make the long bus ride down the hill,” Coach Bill Coan said. “Palisades is a good team; we’ll concentrate on winning this game, and then see what happens.”

Taft (6-4), the 13th seed, has the unenviable task of going to Carson to face the fourth seed Colts (7-3). But The Toreadors have been a work in progress all season under second-year Coach Deron Braswell. There’s no shame if Taft loses in the first round; more will be expected of the Toreadors in 2015.

In Division II, there are seven City teams seeded in the playoffs. Sylmar (8-2), seeded third, has the easiest path to the final starting with Bell, the 14th seed. But the Spartans haven’t forgotten their flameout in 2013, when Chatsworth literally ran them off their own field in the semifinals.

“We’ve been on our boys about last year, about taking things for granted,” Coach John Brazil said. “I think we are more focused this year, starting with the Canoga game. I think they are ready to go.”

Verdugo Hills (7-3) is the next highest seed, at No. 7. The Dons will host San Fernando (5-5), the 10th seed, and certainly not at the level it was last year when the Tigers won a second straight City title. And Verdugo Hills certainly remembers the 76-44 beating it absorbed from San Fernando in the 2013 playoffs. In addition, San Fernando wideout Charles Bell, who had transferred from Verdugo Hills, was a key figure in the Tigers’ championship run.

“They [should be] a D-I school. And they’re down,” Dons Coach Chad Runnels said of San Fernando. “We’re a D-II school that’s up. We’d like to exact a little revenge.”

Granada Hills (3-7), the ninth seed, will travel to Lincoln of Los Angeles (6-4), seeded eighth. But after an up-and-down season, first-year Coach Tim Frost is happy for any extended playing time.

“I’m telling the kids this is our chance at a second season,” Frost said. “We still have the opportunity to get to where we want to get. This is another chance to get out and see what we can do.”

Other Division II first round matchups include Grant (6-4), seeded 13th, visiting University of Los Angeles, seeded fourth (5-5), and Chatsworth (5-5), seeded 11th, going against host Huntington Park (7-3, seeded sixth.

Monroe (7-3) had its first winning season since 2007, and earned the third seed in Division III. Coach Don Seneca had made it goal for the Vikings to get a home playoff game. That goal will be accomplished when Monroe hosts Wilson of Los Angeles (3-7), the 14th seed.

“It’s what we expected; we worked hard for this,” Coach Don Senegal said. “We won’t be satisfied just getting here.”

Poly Coach Jose Campos was thrilled to see the Parrots (2-8) get in, even as a 12th seed. Poly faces Belmont (7-3), seeded fifth, on its home field.

“It feels great,” Campos said. “This kids are going to be excited about it and I’m excited for them. Just like the World Series, we like a wild card team that got in. And now we’ve got to try and go on a winning streak.”

Panorama and Chavez also got in the Division III playoffs. The Pythons, seeded 11th, play Santee of Los Angeles, seeded sixth. The Eagles (3-7), seeded 15, are matched against Bernstein of Hollywood (8-2), the second seed.

Southern Section

Neither Alemany or Chaminade qualified for the Pac-5 playoffs, leaving Crespi (8-1), which finished in a three-way tie for the Mission League championship with Serra of Gardena and Bishop Amat of La Puente, as the only Valley team still playing in the section’s toughest division. 

The Celts open against Santa Margarita of Rancho Santa Margarita (6-4) a respected Orange County power. And it only gets harder, with a possible quarterfinal meeting with Long Beach Poly looming. With other formidable programs like Servite of Anaheim, Mater Dei of Santa Ana, Centennial of Corona and defending champion St. John Bosco of Bellflower in the mix, this is a playoff you truly take one game at a time.

Despite losing the Gold Coast League title game to Paraclete of Lancaster, Sierra Canyon (9-1) is in good position as the second seed in the Mid-Valley Division. The Trailblazers will host Bell Gardens (4-6) in the first round.

Heritage Christian (6-4) is the visiting team against Templeton (8-2) in the Northwest Division. Harvard-Westlake will face Pacific League champion Crescenta Valley of La Crescenta (10-0) in the Southeast Division. And St. Genevieve (6-4) is home against Santa Paula (6-4) in the East Valley Division.

For a complete listing of the City Section playoffs, visit www.cif-la.org.

For  complete listing of the Southern Section playoffs, visit www.cif-ss.org.