Fryer: New playoff system brings bad news, great matchups


JSerra played the No. 1 high school football team in California last week.

The Lions played the state’s No. 3-ranked team two weeks ago.

Why not make it 3-for-3?

The CIF-Southern Section football playoff brackets were released Sunday. The Division 1 bracket has JSerra in the first round playing Centennial of Corona, No. 2 in’s California top 25.

“Sure, why not?” said JSerra coach Jim Hartigan, with a chuckle.

The Lions played state No. 1 Mater Dei last week. They played state No. 3 St. John Bosco the week before.

“We’re excited,” Hartigan said. “We’re going to represent Orange County and the Trinity League the best way we can.”

All six Trinity League teams are in the Division 1 playoffs. The Lions, who finished 5-5 overall and 1-4 in league, are the No. 6 playoff representative from the Trinity League.

This the first season with a new playoff format by which teams are placed into divisions by how they’ve performed in the regular season and playoffs. In past years, all playoff teams from the same league played in the same playoff division.

CIF-SS football has 13 playoff divisions. Each division has a 16-team playoff bracket.

Some teams that finished higher than JSerra in their leagues’ standings did not make the playoffs this season. Newport Harbor, which finished third in the six-team Sunset League, is one of them.

Third-place teams in six-team leagues used to be assured of getting into the football playoffs. In Division 6, to which Newport Harbor belongs, seven playoff teams are league champions. Seven Division 6 playoff teams finished second in their leagues.

That left two playoff berths available. Three Division 6 teams that finished third place in their leagues were in the field for the division’s two remaining playoff berths.

The selection criteria first placed Saugus, the No. 3 team from the Foothill League, into the bracket. Then it was between Newport Harbor and West Covina. The criteria item that gave the edge to West Covina was strength of league. The CIF-SS football playoffs committee judged that West Covina’s league, the Hacienda League, was the 12th-best league in the division and the Sunset League was the division’s 13th-best league.

Newport Harbor is not in the playoffs for the second year in a row. It’s the first time that has happened in the 31 years of Jeff Brinkley’s tenure as Sailors coach.

Brinkley thought that being a third-place team in the Sunset League should have been good enough to get into the playoffs. That, and the fact that Newport Harbor did better than West Covina did against their one common opponent, Los Altos of Hacienda Heights, which beat Newport Harbor by 12 points and beat West Covina by 24.

“It’s disappointing,” Brinkley said. “It’s a new system, and the people at the CIF (Southern Section) office need to take a long look at it. I know it’s the first year of the new system, but some things will need to be adjusted.”

CIF-SS assistant commissioner Glenn Martinez, in charge of the section’s management of football, agreed.

“Going forward,” Martinez said, “we’ll make some changes and adjustments.”

Martinez was confident the new format mostly did what it was intended to do, which is to get teams into playoff divisions that best fit their profiles.

“Most of the divisions went OK,” Martinez said of the bracket-building process. “We’ve got some great first-round matchups, matchups that we usually wouldn’t see until later rounds.”

Several first-round matchups feature two Orange County teams playing against each other.

Los Alamitos (7-3) plays Villa Park (9-1) in a Division 3 game Friday at El Modena High. Los Alamitos is No. 11 and Villa Park is No. 10 in the O.C. top 25.

O.C. No. 13 San Juan Hills (7-3) plays at No. 12 Buena Park (9-1) in a Division 3 first-round game. O.C. No. 23 Foothill (5-5) plays at No. 14 Capistrano Valley (9-1) in Division 5.

Laguna Hills (6-4) is at Garden Grove (8-2) in Division 8; Sunny Hills (6-4) plays El Modena (9-1) in a Division 8 game for which the site has yet to be determined; in Division 9, Cypress (6-4) plays Woodbridge (4-6) in a game likely to be held at University; and in an all-Santa Ana game, Santa Ana Valley (5-5) plays at Segerstrom (9-1) in Division 12.

Four O.C. teams were top-seeded in their divisions: Mater Dei (10-0), in Division 1; El Modena, Division 8; Katella (10-0), Division 11; and Santa Ana (10-0) in Division 13.

Brethren Christian, which did not make the playoffs because there was no room in Division 10 for an at-large team, beat five teams that did make the playoffs: Azusa, Boron, Carnegie of Riverside, Rancho Christian of Temecula and St. Margaret’s. Brethren’s average margin of victory in those five wins was 30 points.

All games are scheduled for Friday at 7:30 p.m. Games can change starting times if the change is agreed upon by both participating schools and approved by the CIF-SS office.

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