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Division 1 decisions sent a domino effect on local area teams up and down the CIF-SS playoff field, as the football postseason brackets were revealed on Sunday, Oct. 29.
For the third season, CIF-SS based its playoff divisions on the in-season computer ratings put together by CalPreps’ algorithm, and within this system with a goal of competitive equity, CIF-SS has the discretion to expand or shrink the Division 1 field from the traditional 16 teams seen in the other 13 playoff divisions.
With the fallout of results from season finales on Friday night, Oct. 27, Division 1 was decided to be an eight-team grouping, with South Coast League champion San Clemente holding the No. 8 spot and JSerra securing the No. 7 position and third place in the Trinity League with a 49-0 blowout of Servite.
The eight-team cutoff for Division 1 then set the parameters for the rest of the CIF-SS playoff divisions with local teams receiving the luck or detriment of the draw.
Dana Hills took the tough bounce down in Division 6. Coming off of its first outright league championship in school history, the Dolphins will have to go on the road as the No. 16 seed to top-seeded Ontario Christian on Friday.
“We’ve had a great season. We’re excited to be in the playoffs. We’ve got to get on a bus and be ready,” Dana Hills coach Tony Henney said. “It’s unfortunate that you win your league and don’t get a home game, but that’s the system we’re in, and we’ve got to get ready to play.”
Dana Hills earned a 16.8 CalPreps rating, and Chino, the No. 1 seed in Division 7, earned a 16.7 rating. Those razor-thin margins were seen from Division 1 on down with similar effects to what happened to the Dolphins.
Back in Division 1, San Clemente’s reward is a date at nationally ranked No. 1 seed St. John Bosco, and JSerra will travel for a rematch with No. 2 Mater Dei. All Division 1 teams get a week off with the first round on Nov. 10.
“I think it’s a great testament to the kids, our coaches, program and the whole school,” San Clemente coach Jaime Ortiz said of the Tritons’ Division 1 placement. “We’re in the toughest bracket in the nation against the top teams in the nation.”
San Clemente has met St. John Bosco in the playoffs before with a 56-6 loss at home in the 2018 Division 1 bracket. JSerra is 2-17 against Mater Dei all time, including a 42-0 loss on Oct. 6 and a 54-14 playoff loss last season.
“It’s almost like getting ready for a bowl game,” JSerra coach Victor Santa Cruz said. “It’s an opponent you’re familiar with, but it’s a brand new night… We’re playing our best football of the year.”
The decisions around Division 1’s size are tough, because while CIF-SS’ goal with this playoff system is to provide a level of competitive equity and avoid first-round blowouts, there is a huge gap between the top two teams and everyone else. Even beyond St. John Bosco (87.4 CalPreps rating) and Mater Dei (87.2), there is another gap between the third and fourth teams–Sierra Canyon (77.9) and Corona Centennial (77.1)–and the rest of the Division 1 field.
The Division 1 cutoff is also tough for San Clemente, as there is just a gap of 0.3 points between the Tritons (59.3) and Division 2 top seed Rancho Cucamonga (59.0). Rancho Cucamonga had been in Division 1 projections all season until a finale loss to Upland.
Division 1 was a 12-team field last season and an eight-team field in 2021. Mission Viejo (56.3) is No. 12 overall this season ahead of No. 13 Oaks Christian (55.6). CIF-SS seemingly declined to go a 14-team field or a 16-team field because, in each respective situation, No. 15 Servite (5-5, 54.0, fifth-place Trinity League) or No. 17 Damien (8-2, 48.1, third-place Baseline League) would be left out of the playoff field, as CIF-SS by-laws state divisions cannot start with at-large teams.
San Juan Hills earned the good bounce with the No. 1 seed in Division 3. If Division 1 had been any bigger, the Stallions (8-2, 41.3, second place Sea View League) would have been on the road in Division 2. Instead, San Juan Hills will host St. Francis of La Canada on Friday, Nov. 3.
“We’re just happy to be able to represent our school in the playoffs,” San Juan Hills coach Rob Frith said. “We knew that it would be a domino effect with D1 and where we would land in D2 or D3. We’re happy to be here just as we would’ve been happy to be anywhere.”
San Juan Hills’ match-up is evident of the “competitive equity” that the CIF-SS is looking for, as St. Francis tied for the Angelus League championship with an 8-2 record.
St. Francis’ selection also meant the end of the road for Tesoro (5-5, 35.1, third place South Coast League), which was searching for an at-large selection but fell in between the Angeles League co-champions in Division 3 No. 16 St. Francis (36.0) and Division 4 top seed Loyola (5-5, 34.9)
St. Margaret’s received a similar fate to Dana Hills down in Division 9. The Tartans had rallied for a co-championship in the Orange Coast League, but St. Margaret’s will also go on the road as the No. 16 seed against top-seeded Rio Hondo Prep on Friday.
St. Margaret’s earned a 2.9 CalPreps rating, and Torrance, the No. 1 seed in Division 10, earned a 2.8 CalPreps rating. The other two Orange Coast League co-champions–Orange and Santa Ana–are also in Division 9 with the Tartans.
Not far behind St. Margaret’s is Capistrano Valley Christian, which does get the benefit of a home game as the No. 3 seed in Division 10. The Eagles (8-1, 2.4, Mesquite League champion) will host Beckman on Friday at Tesoro High School.
“We’ve got to the point where seeds, divisions, that doesn’t matter since you don’t control it,” CVCS coach Eric Preszler said. “You just get ready for the game that they give you. There’s probably things that can be done different, but I really don’t know what the solution is.”
Beckman is 8-2 and finished second in the Pacific Hills League this season. The Patriots are also the second first-round, large-school opponent in as many seasons for tiny Capistrano Valley Christian. The Eagles lost as the top seed in Division 11 last season to Chino.
“We are always going to have that same challenge,” Preszler said. “We’re a small school. Instead of 100 kids, we have 45, and I like our 45 a lot.”