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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Apologies to Garces, which is having a great season go unrecognized at the state level, but there are two Central Section teams with legitimate hopes to be selected for a Southern California regional bowl game when the CIF commissioners convene Sunday morning at the LAX Marriott.
They are Clovis North, for the Open Division or Division I game; and Wasco, for the Division III game.
Here are the arguments for and against each one, what they should be rooting for in Southern Section and San Diego Section championship games Saturday, as well as my gut feeling on their chances for selection.
CLOVIS NORTH BRONCOS (Open Division or Division I)
Record/championship: 12-1 (beat Fresno-Central 27-10 for Division I section title)
Case for selection: Most dominant team in the Central Section, start to finish. Played the third-toughest schedule in the section, according to Calpreps (behind Clovis West and Frontier), thumped Central twice, beat Edison in the semifinals and a very good Atwater-Buhach Colony team easily. Among the five Southern Cal playoff champions elgibile for Division I selection, Clovis North clearly is no worse than fourth-best, so if two D-I teams go to the Open Division game, the Broncos are an easy choice for the D-I game.
Case against selection: As long as two D-I teams go to the Open Division game, there really isn't one. However, things get hairy for the Broncos if Long Beach-Poly continues its string of upsets by beating Santa Ana-Mater Dei in the Southern Section Pac-5 Division title game on Saturday night in Anaheim. Poly has come on very strong and probably deserves a bowl slot if it wins the Pac-5, despite lopsided early losses to Narbonne and Bakersfield. But the Jackrabbits also lost to Gardena-Serra, a Division II team. If Poly wins the Pac-5, it's possible the committee picks Serra to move up to the Open Division to play Narbonne (assuming the Gauchos beat Crenshaw in the L.A. City Section final). If that happens, Inland Division champion Corona-Centennial will go to the Division I game. Clovis North would then have to hope it got chosen over Long Beach-Poly for the other D-I slot. The Broncos' resume is strong, but it might not be strong enough for the committee to overlook the hot finish, the history and the potential draw of having one of the country's most storied programs in the final. It's not fair, but that stuff definitely comes into any decision. Of course, there's also a slight chance that the committee likes Clovis North enough to bump the Broncos into the Open Division game in that scenario against Narbonne, leaving Corona-Centennial and Poly to duke it out in the Division I game.
Who to root for Saturday: It's laid out above. Clovis North is almost certainly in if Mater Dei beats Clovis North. In that scenario, the Monarchs play Narbonne (again, assuming Narbonne wins the City Section title) for the Open Division title, and Centennial would meet Clovis North in Division I. San Diego Section D-I champ Chula Vista-Eastlake has three losses and won't be seriously considered.
Gut feeling Clovis North is selected: If Mater Dei wins, 99 percent. If Poly wins, I still think Clovis North gets in many cases, but the situation is much hairier. Let's say 70 percent in that case.
WASCO TIGERS (Division III)
Record/championship: 13-0 (beat Bakersfield Christian 29-22 for Division IV section title)
Case for selection: Wasco's best argument by far is its undefeated record. No other Southern Cal team in Division III has no losses, and even though the Tigers have played a weak schedule, undefeated is undefeated. But it goes beyond that for me. The CIF specifically states that margin of victory isn't a criterion, but it does say computer rankings are used as a guideline. And because Wasco's margin of victory was 44.7 points before a close call in the D-IV section final against Bakersfield Christian, the Tigers' computer ranking is very strong. So strong, in fact, that it will rank first or second among section champions in this division, pending the result of Saturday's San Diego Section Division IV title game between St. Augustine and Madison.
Case against selection: Pretty simple here, too: It's Wasco's strength of schedule. Calpreps ranks the Tigers' schedule as a 4.2 (don't worry about what the number means, just know that higher is better). Monrovia, the Southern Section Mid-Valley Division, carries an 8.7, with two losses. St. Augustine (two losses, one changed to a win by forfeit) and Madison (one loss), have schedule strength of 23.2 and 16.4, respectively. East Valley Division champion Lake Arrowhead-Rim of the World, which also might factor into this argument, has a schedule strength of 7.3. Wasco won't win this argument; it just has to hope an undefeated record carries more weight than a better strength of schedule. And you never know: It worked against Bakersfield in Division I last year but worked for Washington Union in Division III. The committee works in strange ways, often changing its most important criteria as the meeting moves along.
Who to root for Saturday: Wasco got one helpful result when Monrovia beat Lancaster-Paraclete on Friday night, eliminating the one-loss Spirits. Now they'd love to eliminate St. Augustine, which has a victory over San Diego Division I champion Eastlake. But this matters less than the Mater Dei-Poly game does to Clovis North, in my eyes. Bottom line is, if the committee values undefeated teams, which it says it does, Wasco will be in good shape.
Gut feeling Wasco is selected: 60 percent. It's going to be hard to keep out an undefeated team when there's only one other team with even one loss eligible, but it's also not that difficult to see a sometimes-elitist committee snubbing Wasco because of a weak schedule.
The selections will be made sometime before 2 p.m. on Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @zewing for breaking news on the selections and then check here for a more in-depth update later in the afternoon.