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New CIF playoff divisions look to showcase underserved programs Phillip Brents | Fri, Oct 04 2013 12:49 PM

The 2013 San Diego Section football playoffs will have a decidedly different look, and not just with the addition of the new premier Open Division.

The idea was to create a post-season structure based on competition level (at least over the last three to five years) rather than enrollment level.

Among South County teams, Eastlake was placed in the eight-team Open Division while Olympian moved up from Division III to Division I, Bonita Vista and Hilltop both dropped to Division II and Sweetwater, Montgomery, Southwest, Castle Park and San Ysidro surfaced in Division IV.

At the midpoint of regular season play, there’s definitely been a shake-up.

Open Division
Eastlake is 4-1, trailing Mission Hills (5-0) for the lead in the division. However, records will not matter here, as all eight teams qualify for the playoffs.

Torrey Pines, Helix and Oceanside are all 3-2 while Poway, La Costa Canyon and Steele Canyon are all 2-2.

The teams have played opponents of varying caliber so far, so it’s still difficult to assess.

Eastlake drubbed both Vista and Escondido while scoring impressive victories against Madison and St. Augustine in the past two weeks. Could the Titans just be warming up?

Mission Hills drubbed Oceanside, 30-6, last Friday in a match-up of supposed No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the section. Oceanside, a state bowl contender in the playbook of many observers, entered the game as the section’s No. 1-ranked team, yet proved no match for the host Grizzlies.

Helix lost, 10-6, at Ramona last Friday to churn things up a bit and prove, in somewhat shocking fashion, that no one is unbeatable on any given day.

Is Mission Hills — the runner-up to Eastlake in last year’s Division I final — the undisputed top dog in the division? Were the losses by Oceanside and Helix — two of the section’s mightiest programs over the last couple decades — simply flukes or does this signal that the race to the top in the Open Division is wide open?

Eastlake coach John McFadden was terse in his assessment: “It looks like it’s going to be a pretty interesting division.”

Division I
Carlsbad, Ramona and San Pasqual are all 5-0, followed by Mira Mesa, Cathedral Catholic and Grossmont at 3-1. El Camino, Point Loma, Olympian and Mt. Carmel are all 3-2.

Teams that have a lot of work to do in order to get back in playoff contention include Otay Ranch and Chula Vista, both at 1-3; Vista, Westview and Valhalla, all at 1-4, and Lincoln at 0-4.

Grossmont topped Otay Ranch, 45-7, last week to show the apparent gap in the division. However, it took a late touchdown by Mira Mesa to clip Chula Vista, 13-12, so obviously one cannot get a firm idea on division rankings simply based on win-loss records.

Olympian’s two losses on the season have come against two undefeated teams — Francis Parker (24-21 on Sept. 6) and Imperial (58-17 last Friday). The Eagles own key divisional wins against Point Loma (26-7 on Aug. 31) and El Camino (19-17 on Sept. 13).

Olympian will face both Otay Ranch and Chula Vista in upcoming Metro-Mesa League play, with the outcome of both those contests weighing heavily on the playoff hopes of all three teams concerned.

Division II
El Capitan and Imperial are both 5-0, followed by Mission Bay at 4-0. Those three teams appear to be the class of the division.
In a match-up of previously unbeaten teams last Friday, El Capitan out-dueled West Hills, 45-26, as quarterback Brad Cagle passed for 279 yards and two scores and also rushed for one touchdown.

Imperial has beaten a trio of Metro Conference teams, winning by scores of 42-21 against Sweetwater on Sept. 13, 48-21 against Mater Dei Catholic on Sept. 20 and the aforementioned rout against visiting Olympian.

Royce Freeman, who is poised to set the section’s all-time career rushing mark this season, collected 322 yards and five touchdowns against Sweetwater, 256 yards and five touchdowns against MDC and 291 yards and five touchdowns against Olympian.

Freeman has proven he’s the real deal by rushing for 1,403 yards and 24 TDs in just five games. But are the Tigers CIF championship material?

Maybe, and maybe not.

Division II may be the most competitive of this year’s playoff divisions.

West Hills, Madison and Brawley are all 4-1, followed by Scripps Ranch at 3-1, and St. Augustine, Mt. Miguel and Rancho Buena Vista at 3-2.

Serra is 2-2, followed by Escondido and Valley Center, both at 2-3, Mar Vista and Rancho Bernardo at 1-3 and Del Norte at 1-4.

El Capitan topped Serra, 49-14, on Sept. 13 to avenge last year’s 55-49 setback to the Conquistadors.

Both Madison and St Augustine have enjoyed prominence as top 10-ranked teams in the section so far this season, so it could be a real scramble among teams just making it to the semifinals.

Division III
The division’s two undefeated teams are Christian and Francis Parker, teams accustomed to residing at the top (and winning CIF titles) in the former Division V roll call.

Hilltop is also undefeated at 4-0, while Bishop’s is 4-1.

Former Division I team Granite Hills is 3-1 and is coming off a 55-10 non-league victory against visiting El Cajon Valley last Friday. The Eagles could soar in their new postseason surroundings.

Hoover is also 3-1, followed by San Marcos, Horizon Christian, Santa Fe Christian and Calexico at 3-2.

SFC defeated Parker to win last year’s Division V title, and could yet be the sleeping giant in the division.

On the other hand, Parker could be primed to avenge last year’s finals loss.

Bonita Vista and Coronado are both 2-3 and appear playoff worthy. The Barons have certainly scored a lot of points this season, even in losses.

Bringing up the rear in the division are Morse and Fallbrook, both at 1-3, and San Diego (0-3), Patrick Henry (0-4) and Santana (0-5), all winless so far.

Jesse Brookins, a South County resident, starred in Parker’s 45-3 non-league win last Friday against visiting Orange Glen. He scored four touchdowns, including runs of 45 and 66 yards and a 74-yard pass reception, to help his team extend its undefeated record to 5-0.

On the season, Brookins has rushed for 526 yards. However, quarterback Khaleel Jenkins has been the catalyst. Jenkins has rushed for 346 yards and scored eight rushing touchdowns while also passing for 462 yards and seven TDs.

Another South County product, receiver Ayman Mayberry, has four touchdown catches to his credit this season.

Christian made a statement of its own last week with a 56-28 win against longtime rival Bishop’s. Bulla Graft, a member of Park View Little League’s 2009 Little League World Series championship team, scored three times in the game for Bishop’s.

Division IV
This division is comprised of some of the section’s lowest performing programs (many from higher enrollment divisions) over the last half-decade and thus looks to be especially competitive. The division finalists — and champion — remain very much shrouded in mystery.

Six Metro teams are represented in the new cobbled-together division: Castle Park (2-2), Montgomery (2-2), San Ysidro (2-3), Mater Dei Catholic (1-3), Sweetwater (1-3) and Southwest (0-5).

None of the teams in the division is undefeated. La Jolla Country Day tops the field at 3-1. The remainder of the division appears a real scramble.

“It’s pretty even-steven,” Castle Park coach Hans Graham said. “The end of the year is when everybody gets better. It’s a matter of staying healthy.”

The true strength of the division appears yet to be determined. Sweetwater handed LJCD its lone loss so far, 42-0, in the season opener for both teams. Conversely, Monte Vista (2-3) ran past Sweetwater, 34-3, in a non-league match-up played Sept. 20 at Hilltop High School.

Does that make Monte Vista CIF championship caliber? A couple of South County teams might have a say in that before the playoffs are over.

Interestingly, MDC, Sweetwater, Castle Park and Montgomery will play each other in upcoming Metro-Pacific League play while Southwest and San Ysidro will meet in Metro-South Bay League play.

Each match-up looks to carry playoff ramifications.

“I’m just excited about going into the playoffs and not have to play a team like Oceanside or Cathedral Catholic in the first round,” Graham said. “Teams like Sweetwater, Montgomery and Clairemont are all in Division IV, and we might get a second chance at them.”

Division V

The division was formerly comprised of haves and have-nots among the section’s collection of small private schools. The field now appears to have leveled off with small school powers Bishop’s, Christian and Parker moving up to the reconfigured Division III.

But Crawford’s drop to Division V has caused a stir. Long regarded as the section’s doormat program, the Colts have suddenly reinvented themselves in 2013 with a 5-0 record and imposing 254-23 scoring differential.

Crawford has already beaten three division foes by handy margins: Julian (49-0 on Sept. 6), Maranatha Christian (43-0 on Sept. 20) and Foothills Christian (68-0 last Friday).

The San Diego Jewish Academy is 1-0. Following are five 3-1 teams: Vincent Memorial, Calvin Christian, Holtville, Julian and Classical Academy. Palo Verde Valley is 2-1 while Chula Vista Calvary Christian Academy and Mountain Empire are 3-2 and Army-Navy Academy and Escondido Charter are 2-2.

That makes 12 teams in the division with .500 or better records. Three other teams have posted at least one win this season: Calipatria (2-3), Lutheran (1-3) and Foothills Christian (1-4).

As for how the teams stack up? Calvary Christian won a 28-27 thriller last Friday at Calvin Christian on the strength of 14 fourth-quarter points.

Crawford will put its amazing start to the test against Holtville Oct. 11 in a game scheduled at Balboa Stadium.

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