While the newly created Open Division and reshuffled Division I might be stocked with the San Diego Section's elite football teams, which was the aim, the equally realigned Division IV tier just might possess the most mystery.
Which team will step forward to win the 2013 Division IV championship? That's anyone's guess at this point with just three regular season games remaining for most of the section's teams.
Five of the six Metro Conference teams in Division IV are in contention to make the playoffs, including all four Metro-Pacific League teams. Castle Park defeated San Ysidro, 37-24, on Friday to improve to 4-3 on the season in a key match-up of divisional foes. San Ysidro is 3-4, as are Sweetwater and Montgomery.
Mater Dei Catholic, the two-time defending Metro-Pacific League champion, is 2-5.
The Metro-Pacific League champion receives an automatic berth in the Division IV playoffs and it's likely the top three finishers in the league will also qualify, perhaps all four teams.
Sweetwater showed it has some muscle by downing host Mar Vista, 28-27, on Friday to extend its modest winning streak to two games. The Mariners are three-time defending Metro-South Bay League champions and SuHi's win does much to legitimize its Metro-Pacific title hopes, especially after handing 2013 Metro-South Bay League front-runner Hilltop its first loss of the season a week earlier.
Hilltop is 6-1 and almost assuredly will qualify for the Division III playoffs.
Mar Vista competes at the Division II level.
Sweetwater overcame an early 14-0 deficit to post last Friday's non-league victory. The Devils overcame a 9-3 deficit against Hilltop a week earlier to post a heroic 17-9 win.
Last Friday's match-up was noteworthy in that it marked the return of current SuHi coach Brian Hay to Mar Vista, where he had coached for six seasons, winning three league titles. Hay also had brought his entire staff to Sweetwater, as well as the Mar Vista double-wing game plan.
Hay called his Devils' come-from-behind victory “bittersweet,” but sweet it had to be for the National City bunch, which now carries a lot of momentum into Friday's league opener against Mater Dei Catholic.
The Devils racked up 279 rushing yards. Tony Garcia rushed for 139 yards on nine carries and scored two touchdowns – one on a 50-yard run and another on a 63-yard dash. Angel Reyes rushed for 118 yards on 17 attempts and ripped off a 45-yard touchdown run.
James Zarate also scored on a one-yard run for Sweetwater while Reyes scored on a two-point conversion in the second quarter.
Reyes' two-point conversion would prove critical in the game after the Mariners rallied from a 28-21 deficit when Brandon Scales scored on a 42-yard pass from quarterback Dan Lujon late in the game.
Mar Vista missed the extra-point kick, leaving the Mariners in a one-point deficit.
The Devils had missed the PAT conversion on their first touchdown – a 50-yard run by Garcia. But they managed to knot the halftime score at 14-14 when Reyes scored on a two-point conversion run following Zarate's one-yard score.
Hill finished the night with 115 rushing yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. Scales also scored twice for the Mariners. Scales caught three passes for 79 yards.
Mar Vista took an early two touchdown-lead on a one-yard run by Hill and a 20-yard fumble return by Scales, both in the firsts quarter.
Colt Meling led the MV defense that collected one sack and forced one fumble with seven tackles.
Mater Dei Catholic enters its Metro-Pacific League opener agaisnt Sweetwater after dropping a 27-20 overtime decision at Hilltop on Friday. Drake Madarang scored on a three-yard run in the overtime session after the Lancers had rallied to tie the game to send it into the tie-breaker procedure.
Castle Park enters Metro-Pacific League play with a two-game winning streak after downing the Cougars. Jordan Danielson rushed for 154 yards and scored three touchdown to led the host Trojans, who also benefited from a touchdown run by Eric King.
In another game pitting teams from the Metro-Pacific and Metro-South Bay leagues, Montgomery defeated visiting Southwest 24-6 to improve to 3-4 on the season and somewhat solidify its Division IV playoff standing.
Meanwhile, third-ranked Eastlake kicked off Metro-Mesa League play on Friday with a 31-0 homecoming victory against Chula Vista. Traylon Reed led the Titans (6-1 overall, 1-0 in league) with three touchdowns. Reed rushed for 144 yards on seven attempts. After opening the season with a loss to seven-time Arizona state champion Hamilton, Eastlake has now won six consecutive games to remain unbeaten in section play.
Bonita Vista improved to 1-1 in Metro-Mesa League play, 4-4 overall, after outlasting Otay Ranch, 16-7, in a game played at Olympian High School. Lloyd Alexander kicked three field goals and teammate Tyler Thompson scored the lone touchdown for the Barons, who face Metro-Mesa powers Eastlake and Olympian in their final two regular season games.
Otay Ranch dropped to 1-6 overall, 0-2 in league play. The Mustangs have lost their last five games; Otay Ranch plays at Escondido (2-5 overall) this coming Friday and at Chula Vista (3-4, 1-1 in Metro-Mesa play) on Nov. 1 in a key Division I match-ups that could determine the final team to qualify for the division playoffs.
Chula Vista faces a key Division I and Metro-Mesa encounter this coming Friday at Olympian (5-2, 1-0 in leauge).
For more details on these and other games, pick up Friday's print edition of The Star-News