After two months of football, there are more questions than answers leading up to this week's end of the regular season.
Most area leagues are anything but cut and dry as to what team is the champion and which teams are headed to the playoffs.
Possibly the most scrambled is the San Gabriel Valley League, which could end in a five-way tie for first place among Warren, Gahr, Dominguez, Downey and Lynwood.
"You gotta be kidding me," said Gahr coach Greg Marshall of the possible, if not probable, scenario if his team loses to Downey, if Dominguez beats Warren and Lynwood tops Paramount. The top five would all be 3-2 in league.
A coin flip would then decide the order of finish. The top three teams would get berths in the Western Division playoffs.
The other two might be in the running for the division's only at-large bid. And that would be tough because the teams' overall records aren't overly appealing.
However, wins by Warren and Gahr would secure each a playoff spot with 4-1 records, and the Bears would be league champs because of their win over the Gladiators.
The Moore League could be headed for a coin flip, too. But likely not for first place.
If Poly beats Jordan as many might expect and Lakewood can defeat Compton, the Panthers, Lancers and Tarbabes would be tied for second at 4-2.
The only thing the coin flip would decide is playoff seeding, as all have qualified for the postseason.
However, if Jordan, which was the last league team to defeat Poly, can upset the Jackrabbits and end their 78-game league winning streak, the Panthers would earn the title.
Los Alamitos and St. John Bosco find themselves in must-win situations.
The Griffins could win the Sunset League with a win over Newport Harbor on Thursday. A loss, along with victories by Fountain Valley and either Edison or Esperanza, could take create a four-way tie for first.
A coin flip would likely decided first through fourth place, with the last team hoping for the only at-large berth in the Pac-5 playoffs.
St. John Bosco needs to beat Servite on Friday to finish in the top three in the Trinity League and guarantee itself of a Pac-5 playoff berth. A loss would leave the Braves with their fingers crossed for that one at-large bid.
A couple of league titles will be decided in head-to-head battles Friday.
Carson faces Narbonne for the Marine League title; Valley Christian takes on Paraclete for the Olympic League championship; Cypress meets Pacifica for the Empire League crown; and Roosevelt squares off against Garfield for the Eastern League title.
Seeing Gahr quarterback Corey Nielsen put up big numbers like he did last week against Paramount - 23 of 31 for 400 yards, four TDs, no interceptions and a rushing TD - isn't exactly surprising.
Knowing he did it with a bum shoulder and no practice at all in the week leading up to the game is altogether different.
The Gladiators spent all week coming up with a backup plan, with either WR Deondre Powell or JV signal-caller Casey Nielsen (Corey's younger brother) stepping in. But Nielsen showed up and told Marshall he wanted to play.
"I left it up to him," said Marshall, noting that he didn't want the Hawaii-bound QB to further injure himself and his future. "I told him if we was going to play, it couldn't be half way."
It was full-speed ahead.
Tickets for the Moore League showdown between Poly and Jordan will not be sold at the gate Friday night.
Those interested in tickets need to purchase them at either Jordan or Poly during regular school hours in the days leading up to the game. LBUSD schools are closed today.
- Dave Werstine
It was the first week in October, and Lakewood High was sporting a 4-0 record heading into its Moore League football opener against the monster that is Poly.
The buzz was that the Lancers had a chance in that game. But before it was played, Lakewood lost top running back Jerry Stone to academic ineligibility. That same day week, it was discovered that Alley Long, Stone's designated replacement, suffered a shoulder injury that would sideline him indefinitely.
The Lancers lost to Poly, defeated Cabrillo and then lost to Jordan to start league 1-2. What once had been an ultra-promising campaign was suddenly in dire straits.
But Lakewood beat Millikan to go 2-2 and then welcomed back Stone last Friday. The 5-foot-11, 196-pound junior rushed 14 times for 111 yards and two touchdowns and also caught two passes for 65 yards in the Lancers' 42-15 victory over Wilson.
As sour as things were, all is now well in Lakewood-land as the Lancers have clinched a playoff berth. What a difference a month makes.
"It has just been an interesting year," Lakewood coach Thadd MacNeal said Monday. "You try to keep a level head and stay positive and look for all the good things that were happening in the program."
Good things were happening for Stone, as he had rushed for over 600 yards and 10 touchdowns in the first four games of the season, victories that turned into forfeit losses because he had been playing while ineligible.
"It's gratifying that he took care of his business and he gets to come back in a positive manner and help his team," MacNeal said. "I think he was excited about that. I know he felt pretty bad about what happened and offensively it gives our team a boost."
Compton coach Calvin Bryant stood in the middle of the field at Veterans Stadium late Friday, taking the philosophical approach to the 40-13 defeat his team had just absorbed at the hands of Poly in a game that decided the Moore League championship.
"They're as good as advertised," Bryant said of the Jackrabbits (9-0, 5-0), who have now won 78 consecutive league games.
"Now we gotta go back to the drawing board and get ready for Lakewood. There's no sense pouting about this game, this one's over with. We've got some things to work on."
Like a fighter who had just lost a big fight, Bryant sounded hopeful of a rematch.
"Like I said, Poly is real good," he said. "I give them credit for what they've done. They've been a successful team in the Pac-5. Hopefully, we can continue to be successful and get another shot at them."
Compton (7-1, 4-1), which has secured a berth in the upcoming CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs, Friday hosts Lakewood in the regular-season finale. The Tarbabes will do so without strong safety Chris Metcalf, arguably their best defensive player.
Metcalf was ejected from Friday's game for his role in a sideline skirmish that took place just past the midway point of the first quarter after Tarbabes running back James McConico III fumbled away the ball after being cracked hard by a Poly tackler.
Compton lineman Steve Faaluli was in some sort of distress after the game. According to witnesses, he began to shake on the sideline after the final gun sounded. Paramedics were on the scene quickly and began administering him oxygen.
Bryant said Saturday that Faaluli had spent the night at the hospital for observation but was due to be released that day.
"I didn't get any diagnosis," said Bryant, who said he spent time at the hospital. "I just wanted to see that he was going to be fine."
- Robert Morales
Contrary to what was reported in Saturday's Mayfair-Norwalk story, the Monsoons did indeed clinch the Suburban League title with Friday's 35-14 victory at Ron Yary Stadium.
The Monsoons have now won every league title since 2001 and increased their league winning streak to 48 games.
- David Felton
For Wilson High coach Susan Pescar, winning the Moore League championship is always an enormous accomplishment, but to drop just one game during the Bruins' 12-0 run was remarkable.
Wilson, ranked No. 2 in CIF-SS Division I-AA, swept defending state champion Lakewood, while dropping Game 2 of a four-game victory over the Lancers on Oct. 14 and then cruised through the remainder of league play.
Said Pescar: "Our team is looking to win a CIF championship, but I don't want to minimize what it means to win the Moore League. Poly and Lakewood are very tough programs and can do well in the playoffs as well."
- Brian Baiotto
How common place have league titles at St. John Bosco become?
The Braves won the Trinity League title for their 15 th consecutive league title, a streak that has spanned the Del Rey, Serra and Trinity Leagues, at Central Park in Huntington Beach on Friday.
Last fall, when the school was replacing the championship banners in the gym at midseason, athletic director Monty McDermott had already added the year 2007 before the league finals had been contested.
The Poly football and boys cross country teams' dominance of the Moore League have been nearly identical. The football team beat Compton, 40-13, to win its 78 th league game in a row dating to the 1994 season. The cross country team won a share of its 12 th league title in 13 years on Thursday.
So it's understandable when the yearly winner plates on the perpetual trophies were swapped when the trophies were being repaired after Poly's trophy case in the administration building was vandalized in September.
Poly coach Mike Fillipow only discovered the error when he took the cross country trophy to Thursday's league finals at Heartwell Park as part of an annual ritual to award to the league champion school for a year.
- Kirby Lee
Lakewood coach Lisa Busch has had the pleasure - and good fortune - of watching Stacey Tan develop over the past four years. Tan came into the Lancer program as an already talented and experienced freshman, and Busch has seen her develop into an even stronger player.
"She has more power, more consistency and more confidence on the court," Busch said last week after Tan won her second consecutive league singles title at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center. "She definitely came in a very strong player but now she's just amazing all around.
"She's put in a lot of time and invested a lot into this game and it shows when she plays."
- David Felton