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CIF-SS football playoffs won't have room for 8-1 Brethren Christian

STAFF WRITER

Brethren Christian’s football team is 8-1 and coming off of its biggest victory of the year, an overtime win Friday over St. Margaret’s.

This week, the final week of the regular season, Brethren Christian plays Carnegie of Riverside. A projection by calpreps.com has Brethren Christian winning that game, 56-3.

No matter the outcome of Thursday’s game, or the impressiveness of last week’s win or Brethren Christian’s record, Brethren Christian will not qualify for the CIF-Southern Section playoffs.

An analysis of Brethren Christian’s division, Division 10, revealed there will not be room in the playoff bracket for Brethren Christian, which is ranked No. 4 in the division.

Brethren Christian coach Pat McInally is crushed.

“I feel so badly for our kids,” McInally said. “They’ve worked so hard. These are great kids.”

Last year, Brethren Christian lost to Grace Brethren of Simi Valley in a CIF-SS semifinal playoff game. On the day Grace Brethren was to play Saddleback Valley Christian in the championship game, Grace Brethren announced that it had to forfeit the win over Brethren Christian and its other playoff wins because it had used an ineligible player in that game. Saddleback Valley Christian was awarded the championship, in the CIF-SS East Valley Division, by forfeit.

Also adding to McInally’s frustration is the knowledge that El Dorado was a CIF-SS playoff team last year when El Dorado finished the season with a 1-9 record – and that one win came when Canyon had to forfeit its 49-14 win over El Dorado. El Dorado went to the playoffs and was routed by Garden Grove, 55-6.

Football and most other CIF-SS team sports are operating under a new playoff format this school year. Whereas it used to be that all of a league’s football playoff teams were in the same playoff division, now teams are sent to their playoff divisions by their recent regular-season and playoffs performance. Brethren Christian is a Division 10 team.

All of the CIF-SS playoff brackets are 16-team brackets. In filling the brackets, the CIF-SS by rule must first place all of the league champions in the bracket and then the second-place teams and placed into the bracket. Then comes the placement of No. 3 teams.

The CIF-SS office provided a breakdown that showed 14 teams already have clinched Division 10 playoff berths in the 16-team bracket. Those 14 teams will finish high enough in their final standings to receive guaranteed playoff berths. In CIF-SS parlance, those teams are “automatic qualifiers.”

That leaves room for two more teams.

The breakdown has nine teams in line for those two available berths. The CIF-SS office’s analysis of those nine teams and their games this week concluded that the two available brackets will be occupied by two of those nine teams.

Those two teams will finish high enough in their final standings to be automatic qualifiers, and there might be some teams that are in the automatic-qualifiers category that just missed getting one of those two berths. The CIF-SS office will use an established criteria to select the teams that get those two berths. It is the same criteria used to select at-large teams – head-to-head competition, strength of league and strength of schedule, win-loss record and strength against common opponents.

Because Brethren Christian is not in a league it can only qualify for the playoffs as an at-large team. With so many automatic qualifiers, Division 10 will have no room for an at-large team.

A freelance teams can qualify for the playoffs only as an at-large team.

Brethren was part of the four-team Academy League last season. When Sage Hill dropped out of the league to become an 8-man football program the other three Academy teams, Brethren Christian, Crean Lutheran and St. Margaret’s, had to become freelance teams, which are teams that do not have a league affiliation.

CIF-SS rules require a minimum of four teams to make a league. If another team wished to leave its league to take Sage Hill’s place as the fourth Academy League team, such a move would require unanimous approval by the league that team would be moving to and unanimous approval from the league it would be departing. League members would be reluctant to allow one its league members to depart because of the holes that would be created in the remaining teams’ schedules, holes that could be difficult to fill.

McInally, a Villa Park High alumnus who played 10 years in the NFL and attended Harvard, was trying to figure out a way to convince the CIF-SS office that there might be, and should be, a way around this.

“We had no chance to be in a league, which is not our fault,” McInally said. “We’re pursuing this by saying we’re still a league, that the Academy League still exists in many other sports. And when we beat St. Margaret’s we won our league.”

Also CIF-SS schools are in the middle of the current league cycle. Forming a conference with, say San Joaquin League schools, which are smaller private school like Brethren, Crean and St. Margaret’s could not happen until the next releaguing process begins.

On the field, Brethren Christian is 9-0. The Warriors’ season-opening win over Ocean View became a forfeit when it was learned that they had used an ineligible player in the game.

Brethren Christian could end the season 9-1, or 10-0 on the field. That fine record will not get Brethren Christian into the playoffs.

Contact the writer: sfryer@scng.com

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