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Fryer: Top teams' showdown turns into rout
It was billed as Game of the Year.
It was the worst game of the year, for El Toro quarterback Conner Manning.
Manning had thrown only three interceptions over El Toro’s first nine games and had 38 touchdown passes.
He was intercepted six times Friday. Mission Viejo converted most of them into touchdowns and drilled El Toro, 49-7.
It was a standing-room-only crowd at Mission Viejo, where people stood on the hills to the south of the school’s on-campus stadium, and were three deep ringing the sidelines and end zones. It was a great atmosphere for this matchup of the top two teams in the Orange County rankings.
Mission Viejo is No. 1 in the county poll and sure played like it. There were some early turnovers by Mission Viejo, but El Toro made some, too. They combined for six turnovers in the first quarter.
The Diablos settled down, but Manning continued to struggle.
Manning and the Chargers will get the chance to make up for Friday. They are going to the playoffs as the South Coast League’s No. 2 representative. Mission Viejo will be a No. 1 team.
Being a league’s No. 1 representative is important. A No. 1 team will get a first-round home game against another league’s No. 3 team or an at-large team when the CIF-Southern Section playoffs begin next week. A No. 2 team might be on the road against another league’s No. 2, or could be at home against a No.2 team or even a No. 3.
CIF-SS playoff brackets will be announced Sunday, and will be available at ocvarsity.com upon release.
Sunday’s activity begins with the announcement of which teams received at-large berths. Teams that do not finish high enough in their final standings to receive guaranteed playoff berths can qualify for the at-large berths. There are two at-large berths in the Pac-5 and Southwest Divisions, and one in the Southern Division.
Taking a guess at which teams get the at-large berths is always fun. The guesses here – the Pac-5’s two at-large berths are taken by teams in the all-private school Serra League, Dana Hills and Los Alamitos are the Southwest’s at-large teams, and Irvine is the Southern Division at-large team.
A couple of notable names that will not be on any playoff brackets are Orange Lutheran and Servite. Orange Lutheran had at least an outside chance of getting a Pac-5 at-large berth, but the Lancers lost, and lost big, to JSerra on Friday. Servite’s status as a non-playoff team was decided last week, and the Friars lost to Mater Dei, 36-22, at Angel Stadium on Friday.
Servite had a three-game winning streak against Mater Dei. Friday’s game was the most meaningless Mater Dei-Servite game, in terms of playoff implications, since 2004.
As for seedings, Edison and Tustin are going to be 1-2 in the Southwest Division. That will put them on opposite halves of the bracket, meaning they can’t play each other until the championship game Nov. 30 at Angel Stadium. Looking forward to some Southwest first-round matchups … how attractive would be Los Alamitos at La Habra?
Mission Viejo might be the No. 2-seeded team in the Pac-5 Division, with St. Bonaventure of Ventura at No. 1. St. Bonaventure’s only loss was to Santa Margarita, when Johnny Stanton still was quarterbacking the Pac-5 defending champion Eagles.
Santa Margarita is the No. 3 team in the Pac-5 Division, so the Eagles will play a first-round away game, perhaps against a No. 1 team. Will it be Santa Margarita-Long Beach Poly, perhaps, or the Eagles at the Serra League’s No. 1? Or will Santa Margarita play a No. 2 team, like El Toro?
Corona del Mar had a strong finish to the regular season. The Sea Kings, defending Southern Division champions, will be seeded No. 1 in the division, and probably would host Anaheim or Rancho Alamitos in the first round. Laguna Beach will be seeded at No. 2 and will play first-round host to either Anaheim, Rancho Alamitos, Northwood, Orange or Ocean View.
The regular season concluded Friday with only three undefeated county teams – Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo and Tustin. So it’s on to the playoffs, when every game for every team is a game of the year.