The past weekend had to be the best weekend for San Fernando High foot-ball since winning the second of back-to-back City Division II championships in 2013.
On Friday, Nov. 3, the now Division I Tigers soundly defeated Sylmar in their annual rivalry game. The win gave San Fernando (8-2) a second straight Valley Mission League title, a six-game winning streak, and confidence and momentum going into the City Section playoffs.
On Saturday, Nov. 4, the Tigers got — for them — arguably the perfect playoff slot.
There are two layers to the City’s 2017 top playoff bracket — an Open Division and Division I. The top eight City teams were placed in the Open Division. The remaining 16 Division I teams were slotted in the Division I playoff. And San Fernando received the top spot in Division I.
Which puts the Tigers, who open the playoffs tonight, Nov. 9, with a first round home game against visiting Hawkins High of Los Angeles (0-11), in a great position to control their postseason destiny as much as any team can over the next four weeks.
“We were blessed to get that seed,” Tigers Coach Robert Garcia said. “That was the goal from the beginning, to play at home.”
Garcia added that last year’s first round loss to Garfield High of Los Angeles continues to be a strong motivator for his team.
“That loss to Garfield has stuck in our heads,” the coach said. “It showed the perfect regular season didn’t mean anything. These kids now know it doesn’t matter what your record is. When you get to the playoffs, you just win and you keep going.”
That loss humbled them. We knew we were supposed to win the league. Now, as a coach, I want to win my first Division I playoff game.”
That doesn’t mean San Fernando simply has “gimmes” in route to the Division I championship game, which will be played on Dec. 1 at El Camino College in Torrance. But San Fernando would not have to travel far — if at all — for any game as long as it keeps winning.
The Tigers will have plenty of local company in the chase for a football championship.
There are 16 area playoff teams in the City divisions I, II, and III. And there are seven area playoff teams scattered through the 13 divisions in the Southern Section.
Here is a glimpse of the postseason landscape.
Birmingham (6-4) was the lone area team placed in the Open Division. The Patriots were seeded fifth, and will play Fairfax High of Los Angeles (8-2), seeded fourth, at Fairfax High School. Should they win, the Pats would in all probability face three-time defending champion and top seed Narbonne High of Harbor City (7-3) in the semifinals.
The rest of the Open Division: Narbonne hosts San Pedro High (5-5), the eighth seed; Carson High (7-3), seeded third, hosts Venice High (6-4), the sixth seed; and Banning High of Wilmington (6-4), seeded seventh, visits Crenshaw High of Los Angeles (8-2), the second seed.
“Fairfax is best the first round match for us,” Birmingham Coach Jim Rose said. “We scrimmaged each other back in August. They are very athletic, especially their linebacker (Scott Harris). It should be a good game.”
Having two weeks to prepare for the game will help Birmingham get its own top linebacker Samajhae Rogers, who was injured against El Camino Real, back to full speed The extra time will also help the Patriots clear up areas of their game that have become muddled over the season.
“We’ve never had this scenario. For us the first week will be going back to basics to ‘clean up’ little things we’ve been doing [wrong]. Then we will prepare for Fairfax,” Rose said.
The Open Division games kick off on Nov. 17.
In Division I, there are three other Valley teams on San Fernando’s side of the bracket.
Arleta High (7-3) is the eighth seed and will host Jefferson High of Los Angeles (7-3), seeded ninth. El Camino Real Charter High (5-5) is the fifth seed and will host Hamilton High of Los Angeles (4-6), the 12th seed. Taft High (2-8), seeded 13th, will travel to Garfield (5-5) to play the Bulldogs, the fourth seed.
Also in Division I, Grant High (8-2) was seeded 10th and will visit Westchester High of Los Angeles, the seventh seed. Sylmar (5-5), the 11th seed, has a road game at Dorsey High of Los Angeles (4-6), the sixth seed. Canoga Park High (6-4) was seeded 14th and travels to Palisades High of Pacific (7-3), the third seed.
In Division II, Reseda High (9-1) is the highest seeded Valley team at No. 3 and will host Franklin High of Los Angeles (5-5), the team that beat them last year in the Division III championship game. The Regents may be better this season, although the competition will be tougher.
Other Valley Division II playoff teams include Cleveland High (5-5), seeded fourth, hosts West Adams Prep of Los Angeles (4-6), seeded 13th; and Granada Hills Charter High (3-7), the sixth seed, hosting Chavez Learning Academy (6-4), the 11th seed.
In Division III, Van Nuys High (2-8) is the 16th seed and has the unenviable task of opening against top seed Santee High (9-1). Other area teams in this bracket include Verdugo Hills (5-5), the fifth seed, hosting Fremont High of Los Angeles (3-7), the 12th seed; Kennedy High (2-8), seeded 10th, visiting North Hollywood High (5-5), seeded seventh; and Poly High (3-7), the 11th seed, traveling to Wilson High of Los Angeles (5-5), the sixth seed.
All City Section first round games will be played tonight, Nov. 9, because schools are closed on Friday, Nov. 10, in observance of Veterans Day.
Chaminade’s (9-1) reward for winning the Mission League was a top four seed in the Division I playoffs and an opponent in Orange Lutheran (5-5) whose only losses this season came in Orange County’s the hyper-competitive Trinity League.
But Coach Ed Croson believes he’s bringing to the playoffs the best team he’s had since the Eagles were moved to Division I.
“I feel good about them,” Croson said. “And not just the senior class. Every week we’re getting better. We had a bit of a hiccup against Notre Dame, but we’re getting good at the right time.”
Still, the section’s Division I playoffs test teams like none other, Croson said.
“In our division it’s the top teams in Southern California, so every game is a championship level game. We’re in the toughest bracket in the country. And I hope the game we played last week (against Bishop Amat High of La Puente) has got us ready.”
For a list of all area teams playing this week, see the football schedule.
All first round Southern Section games will be played on Friday at 7:30 p.m.