The so-named expert is trying his hand again as 10 San Diego Section teams come together for the playoff finals at Southwestern College Friday and Saturday.
I tied the Union-Tribune’s resident genius, prep honcho John Maffei, each of us picking seven out 10 winners last week. My bad was a stinko choice of Hilltop over El Centro Southwest. I lost a close call when Mission Hills edged Torrey Pines and was surprised when Monte Vista beat University City.
Numbers in parentheses following school names below are seedings.
Helix (2) vs. Mission Hills (1).
There’s more at stake than a San Diego Section championship. Seedings in the upcoming Southern California bowl game playoffs also will come into play for all division winners. Helix (10-1), now ranked 20th in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, can take it to the house from anywhere on field, as the Highlanders did numerous times last week, building a 48-6 halftime lead that ended with a 62-41 win over San Marcos. Quarterback Carson Baker will have a tough matchup against Mission Hills’ Jack Tuttle. The Grizzlies, who hold a 49-27 win over San Marcos, have gotten to 12-0 for the first time in school history and are Cal-Hi’s No. 8 team. Coach Chris Hauser’s club was 12-2 in 2013, when it beat Helix, 24-21, in the semifinals.
The Pick: Helix, 42-35.
El Camino (1) vs. Eastlake (3).
It doesn’t speak well that the Wildcats are the top seed in this division with a 7-5 record, indicative of a so-so field, although Eastlake is 10-2. Scores against common opponents are tight. El Camino beat Carlsbad, 31-24, and Olympian, 29-21. Eastlake beat Carlsbad, 24-21, and Olympian, 27-20. El Camino comes from the stout Avocado League, Eastlake from the decidedly thinner Metro Mesa.
The Pick: Eastlake 24, El Camino 21.
Ramona (1) vs. Steele Canyon (7).
The Bulldogs (12-0) rank No. 40 in the state, according to Cal-Hi Sports. Steele Canyon (8-4) has won 4 in a row, but never got whiff in the weekly Union-Tribune Top 10.
The Pick: Ramona 38, Steele Canyon 28.
El Centro Southwest (1) vs. (2) Santa Fe Christian.
Southwest (12-0) has been virtually unchallenged, outscoring its opponents by an average score of 44-7. The only close game was against Brawley, which battled but lost, 20-12. Mount Miguel (7-5) dropped a 39-21 decision in the quarterfinals, after which Matadors Coach Shaun McDade leveled some howitzer-like shots at the officiating crew. My disrespect for Imperial Valley teams other than Brawley bit me in the back side when I suggested that Hilltop would top the Eagles, who sent the Lancers home with a 62-18 whipping.
Santa Fe Christian (8-4) represents a savvy program from the Coast, one of the best small school circuits in the state. The also-named Eagles are making their seventh trip to the finals since 2001 and ninth overall. They’re used to competing against larger schools. Southwest has an enrollment of about 2,100, compared to Santa Fe’s less than 450. Santa Fe’s playoff 63-14 rout of La Jolla and 14-12 verdict against San Pasqual look good.
The Pick: Santa Fe Christian 34, El Centro Southwest 28.
San Diego (2) vs. Monte Vista (4).
San Diego is on the brink of history. Its win over El Centro Central last week elevated the Cavers to a 12-0 record, matched in school history only by the 1916 Hilltoppers. The Cavers’ success and the prospect of a 13th victory after decades of mediocrity is the feel-good story of the season. Neutral observers of last week’s fourth-quarter comeback noted, however, the consecutive dead ball fouls at El Centro’s three-yard line, an example of a lack of poise, perhaps fueled by the Cavers’ over-the-top stadium public address.
Monte Vista (7-5), an in-and-outer most of the season, stepped up and won two tough playoff games, including 30-21 over top seed University City last week. The victories sent coach Ron Hamamoto passed a couple legendary colleagues on the all-time list. Hamamoto now is fifth with 217 victories, behind Herb Meyer (339), John Carroll (248), Bennie Edens (239), and John Shacklett (229) and ahead of the retired Gil Warren (216) and Ed Burke (215). Hamamoto can continue his neck-and-neck battle next year with Valley Center’s Rob Gilster, who closed the season with 216 victories.
The Pick: Monte Vista, 28, San Diego 21.
Games were close for the most part and the CIF ratings system held strong. Of the six championship contests, 9 of the 12 teams represented are No. 1 or 2 seeds. This includes Calexico Vincent Memorial and Crawford, which played last week for the D-V title, Vincent winning, 45-3 after leading 19-3 in the third quarter.
Mission Hills scored the winning touchdown in a 20-17 battle with Torrey Pines by crossing the Falcons’ goal with 1:12 remaining. San Diego overcame a 22-12 disadvantage with under nine minutes left to beat El Centro Central, 26-22. El Camino edged Oceanside 49-42 on a touchdown with 10.8 seconds left. A failed two-point conversion attempt with 4:27 remaining doomed Granite Hills, 28-27 loser to Steele Canyon.