Approaching The (First) Finish Line

The prep football 2015 regular season ends on Friday, Nov. 6. And there is some last-minute business to finish.

In City Section football, two of the three leagues primarily affecting Valley area teams have yet to be decided.

The Valley Mission League has the most intrigue.

The winner between Sylmar and Canoga Park is the outright champion, but the ramifications don’t stop there. Sylmar is a Division I team, and needs to win to avoid an impossibly low seeding that dooms its playoff bid before it starts. Canoga Park, on the other hand, is a Division II team; a victory further enhances its hopes to be among the top four seeds, which guarantees two home games in the first two rounds.

Birmingham will at least share a fifth consecutive West Valley League championship. The Patriots play El Camino Real on Friday; if the Conquistadors are the victors — and Taft wins, as expected, against Granda Hills — the West Valley is locked into a three-way tie.

But should Birmingham win the league outright (and stay undefeated in league play), it can expect to receive its best playoff seeding in the past several years.

Arleta already has a share of the East Valley League title, and the Mustangs have beaten Grant the only team that could catch them, giving it the tiebreaker should Arleta flop in its final game against North Hollywood. But the Mustangs should be highly motivated to win, because an undefeated regular season (10-0) counters their somewhat weak league and assures them of at least one home playoff game.

All three City divisions, as well as Eight-Man football, will be seeded on Saturday, Nov. 7.

Here is a look at the three divisions going into the final games, and where each Valley area team could wind up once the brackets are announced.

Division I

Narbonne of Harbor City is far and away the class of this division and is a heavy favorite to defend the City title it won last year.

That doesn’t mean the other 15 teams that receive playoff berths won’t take their shot.

Should Birmingham — the last Valley team to win the City  Division I championship (2007) — win its league outright, the Patriots in all probability are the second seed. That means they have the second easiest path to the championship game, and would not have to face Narbonne until the Dec. 5 final at Cerritos College.

The brutal nonleague schedule the Patriots played (getting wins against Newbury Park and Canoga Park) will pay off in a big way for the Patriots if they take care of their business against El Camino Real.

Taft could be right behind Birmingham at No. 3. And undefeated Arleta, the East Valley League champion, is looking at a sixth seed. Having three Valley teams in the top eight gives the region its best opportunity to reach the championship game in several years.

Sylmar will probably open the playoffs on the road even if the Spartans win the Valley Mission League on Friday. The Spartans’ best hope is to be seeded somewhere around 10 or 11; getting to at least the semifinal round would not be as difficult as being seeded 13 through 16.

Even if El Camino Real upsets Birmingham and ties for the West Valley League, the Conquistadors are probably resigned to a 13th or 14th seed.

San Fernando will have to wait until next year.

Division II

Los Angeles High has been considered as dominant in Division II as Narbonne has been in Division I. The Romans, who won the Division III title last year (beating Monroe), have remained unbeaten in their previous nine games even though they often suit up less than 25 players for each contest.

This is how good L. A. High has been: the Romans can win the Coliseum League — considered the second hardest league after the Marine League — outright. The Romans having already beaten traditional powers Crenshaw and Dorsey; they must avoid a slip against Hawkins of Los Angeles on Friday. If that happens, a potential three-way tie is possible between L.A., Crenshaw and Hawkins (which is currently sitting on the second seed).

But Valley teams will have a say in who wins this.

Chatsworth, in line for the third seed, is a definite contender. So is Canoga Park, which could move ahead of Chatsworth if it beats Sylmar on Friday and wins the Valley Mission. Chatsworth has no chance of winning the West Valley.

Grant, which will be the No. 2 team from the East Valley, is in position for one of the top eight berths and get a first round home game.

Cleveland and Granda Hills should get playoff slots, but neither is expected to challenge for the title. Still, the Highlanders, depending on this Friday’s results, could push Grant out of the top eight because of a stronger strength of schedule

Poly and Verdugo Hills are probably on the outside looking in.

Division III

Reseda is trying to squeeze into the No. 4 slot. If it happens, the Regents would be the highest seeded Valley team in this division. But a Friday loss to Panorama could send Reseda into a seeding free fall.

Monroe has a chance to be among the top eight and get a home game. So does Kennedy, but only because it’s a weak division overall.

North Hollywood and Van Nuys are also contending for  playoff berths, but would not be expected to survive past the second round.

Chavez and Panorama probably miss the playoffs this season.

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