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Sunday, November 14, 2010
LA North and LA South: Playoff brackets have Oaks Christian, Nordhoff as top seeds

By Tim Haddock

Oaks Christian was going to be the No. 1 seed in the CIF Southern Section Northern Division football playoffs. That much was certain.

Which teams would be the next three seeds was very much up for debate.

The tri-champions from the Marmonte League earned the top three spots in the Northern Division playoffs. St Bonaventure is the No. 2 seed with Westlake, the reigning Northern Division champions, at No. 3. All three teams finished with 8-1 league records and tied for first place.

Oaks Christian actually has the worse overall record of the three teams. The Lions are 8-2, losing on opening night, 20-17, to Alemany, and to Westlake in Marmonte League play.

Westlake and St. Bonaventure each finished 9-1 overall. St. Bonaventure’s only loss was to Oaks Christian in overtime. Westlake’s only loss was against St. Bonaventure in double overtime two weeks ago.

“We were all 8-1. Those are two really good teams. We’re lucky to be the No. 1 seed,” said Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell. “We have a tough way to go. I’m glad St. Bonny and Westlake are in the other bracket.”

Oaks Christian opens the Northern Division playoffs against Saugus (5-5), the fourth-place team from the Foothill League and the only at-large team to earn a playoff berth.

“I don’t know much about Saugus,” Redell said. “They’re very well-coached, lost 14-3 to Valencia.”

Saugus lost its last two games of the season, 21-20 to West Ranch two weeks ago, and 14-3 to Valencia in the Foothill League season finale.

St. Bonaventure opens the Northern Division playoffs against Redondo Union. Westlake plays Knight in the first round. Valencia, the fourth-seeded team in the Northern Division playoffs, plays Highland in the first round.

Northern Division

Seeded teams: No. 1 Oaks Christian, No. 2 St. Bonaventure, No. 3 Westlake, No. 4 Valencia

At-large selection: Saugus (5-5) finished with two losses in a row, both heartbreakers. Saugus has non-league wins over Burroughs, Muir and Knight.

Best first-round game: Thousand Oaks (7-3) at Quartz Hill (8-2) – Thousand Oaks finished in fourth place in a tough Marmonte League. The Lancers ended the season with a three-game winning streak, including a 29-28 win in overtime against Moorpark in the regular season finale. Quartz Hill is the Golden League co-champion, winners of six games in a row, and hasn’t lost since Oct. 1 to Highland. Quartz Hill beat Inglewood and Barstow in non-league games. Thousand Oaks beat Hueneme in its only non-league game.

Best potential second-round game: Canyon vs. St. Bonaventure – St. Bonaventure has a stingy defense with three shutouts in 10 games. The Seraphs, led by Cody Kurz and Tanner Souza on defense, held half of their opponents to seven points or fewer. Canyon has a dangerous offense with running back Darius Rudolph, quarterback Jonathan Jerozal and receiver Drew Wolitarsky. The emergence of receiver TJ Yonkers in the past two games makes Canyon even more dangerous. It would be a classic matchup of an explosive offense vs. a suffocating defense.

Prediction: The bracket is set up for an Oaks Christian-St. Bonaventure rematch. That was the game Oaks Christian quarterback Trevor Gretzky was pulled in the third quarter and Richie Harrington rallied his team to an overtime win. It ended up being the only loss of the season for St. Bonaventure. It was also the most points (33) St. Bonaventure gave up in one game this season. Both of those factors will play in to the motivation for St. Bonaventure. With an eight-game winning streak, all against Marmonte League opponents, St. Bonaventure is the hottest team in the Northern Division playoffs. There’s no reason to think the team will be tripped up on its way to the Northern Division championship.

Northwest Division

Seeded teams: No. 1 Nordhoff, No. 2 South Torrance, No. 3 Bishop Montgomery, No. 4 Cantwell Sacred Heart

At-large selection: El Segundo (6-4) and Santa Paula (5-5). El Segundo lost three games in a row to end the season but started with four wins in a row. El Segundo has nonleague wins against St. Bernard, Mary Star of the Sea, Bishop Montgomery and West Torrance. Santa Paula (5-5) finished with two wins in a row, including 30-27 against Fillmore. Santa Paula has nonleague wins against Douglass, Bishop Diego and Hueneme.

Best first-round game: Carpinteria (7-3) at Cantwell Sacred Heart (9-1) – Caprinteria rattled off six wins in a row midway through the season. But Caprinteria went 1-2 in its last three games and stumbled into the playoffs. Cantwell Sacred Heart’s only loss was to Bishop Montgomery, 33-30. The Cardinals won four games in a row to end the regular season.

Best potential second-round game: Morro Bay vs. South Torrance – South Torrance won the Pioneer League and has a seven-game winning streak entering the playoffs. The team’s only loss was to Palos Verdes, 29-17, on Sept. 24. Morro Bay finished in a three-way tie for second place in the Los Padres League but won its last two games of the season. One of those wins was 30-16 over Templeton.

Prediction: The two teams that played in last year’s championship game in the Northwest Division have moved on. Gardena Serra, the Northwest champion in 2009, is the top seed in the Western Division. Oaks Christian is the top seed in the Northern Division. The Nordhoff faithful are probably the happiest football fans in Southern California. Nordhoff already took advantage of an Oaks Christian-less Tri-Valley League. Now the team has a chance to win a Serra-less Northwest Division championship.