Serra is the top overall seed. In Round 1, Los Gatos will host another WCAL team. Salinas, Christopher, and Hillsdale all received unlucky No. 8 seeds. In the top division, a new format has been implemented.
NEW CCS FORMAT: HOW OPEN/DIVISION I WORKS
For many years, the Central Coast Section had an Open Division for its top teams. Then there were three Open Divisions, with the presumed 24 best teams divided into three divisions based on enrollment. The Open Division was then eliminated when the section transitioned to a competitive-equity model. The Open Division has returned. In a way. The CCS is calling its top division Open/Division I, as the neighboring North Coast Section has done for the past two seasons. The NCS used the model to create a path for a Division I school to advance to a regional without having to beat De La Salle, which no NCS team has done since 1991. It was added by the CCS to allow a second team from its top division to compete beyond the section playoffs. The following is how it works: In the first round, the No. 1 seed faces the No. 8 seed, while the No. 2 seed faces the No. 7 seed. In the second week of the playoffs, the winners compete for the Open title. In the third week of the playoffs, the Open champion advances to a state game, while the Open runner-up faces the survivor from the bottom half of the bracket (presumably the No. 3 seed) for the Division I title. The top three seeds are Serra, St. Francis, and St. Ignatius. Darren Sabedra’s
BEST PUBLIC SCHOOLS GET ROUGH DRAW
This season, the best public school teams in the CCS were Los Gatos, Wilcox, and Salinas. They rolled through many schools that made the lower division playoffs, teams that will almost certainly advance past the first round next weekend. However, one flaw in the CCS’s competitive equity, points-based model is that the most successful teams are placed in the best bracket. That means a division that includes heavyweights like Serra and St. Francis. Salinas was seeded eighth in Open/Division I when the pairings were announced on Sunday. The Cowboys will travel to San Mateo on Saturday to face Serra, a team that annihilated Salinas in the semifinals last season on the same field. Wilcox, seeded seventh, will face second-seeded St. Francis on Friday. Los Gatos, seeded fourth after winning the PAL Bay championship, will host fifth-seeded Archbishop Riordan on Friday. In all of those games, the public schools will be underdogs, a massive underdog in the case of Salinas. “I’ve complained a thousand times,” Wilcox coach Paul Rosa said, whose team has benefited from the system on a couple of occasions, including a state final appearance two seasons ago. “Any system in which losing benefits you is not a good system.” That’s something I’ve said a thousand times.” Darren Sabedra’s
ANOTHER WCAL TEAM HEADS TO LOS GATOS
Will Los Gatos’ third time be the charm? For the third consecutive season, the Wildcats will face a West Catholic Athletic League opponent on their home field in the first round of the CCS playoffs on Friday. Los Gatos was so close to winning on the previous two occasions that it could almost touch the W in the win column. In 2022, Bellarmine broke the Wildcats’ hearts with a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final minute to break a tie and give the Bells a 34-27 victory. Last season, Los Gatos led Archbishop Mitty by seven points in overtime before winning in walk-off fashion when Danny Scudero caught a pass from Wills Towers on a two-point conversion to give the visitors a 29-28 victory. Archbishop Riordan, a team that won seven games this season after adding high-profile transfers such as receiver Chris Lawson and linemen Tommy Tofi and Peter Langi, will now visit the Wildcats. Riordan came in third place in the WCAL. Darren Sabedra’s
THIS YEAR’S UNLUCKY NO. 8 SEEDS
Because the CCS ranks all of its playoff teams from No. 1 to No. 40 and then divides them into five divisions, with the top eight in Division I, the next eight in Division II, and so on, the No. 8 seeds in Divisions I through IV always come up short. They are the last seed in a stronger bracket, rather than the first seed in a lower division. Christopher’s 28-24 loss to Live Oak did not earn the Cougars a high seed in Division III. Instead, after going 9-1, the Gilroy school is the No. 8 seed in Division II. On Friday, Christopher will face No. 1 seed Archbishop Mitty at Foothill College. Hillsdale was a near-top seed in Division IV. Instead, it will face No. 1 seed Menlo-Atherton in the Division III first round. The No. 8 seed in Division IV and a game against reigning Division V champion Palo Alto are the rewards for Seaside’s 7-3 season. Of the No. 8 seeds, Salinas had the most bad luck. — Dycus, Joseph
… AND LUCKY NO. 1 SEEDS
Being a lucky No. 1 means home games through the first two rounds, which is the inverse of landing in the No. 8 spot. Archbishop Mitty, which made a Cinderella run to the Division I championship game last season, saw its chances of reaching another final increase exponentially after dropping from the No. 8 seed in Open/Division I to the No. 1 seed in D-II after losing 35-0 to Valley Christian on Friday. The Monarchs will avoid another meeting with Open/Division I top seed Serra, which has won all but one game by double digits this season and is a heavy favorite to repeat. Menlo-Atherton is the top seed in Division III, while Palo Alto will have home-field advantage in Division IV as it seeks its second consecutive CCS championship. Woodside will be the top seed in Division V thanks to its potent rushing attack. — Dycus, Joseph
ODDS AND ENDS
— Mountain View finished sixth in the PAL Bay Division and lost a league game to Burlingame. However, due to the points system used by the CCS to seed teams, Mountain View is No. 2 in Division IV and will host… seventh-seeded Burlingame on Friday.
— Valley Christian, which lost a heartbreaker 15-14 at home to St. Ignatius last month, will face St. Ignatius again on Friday in Open/Division I.
— Menlo School plays Live Oak in a Division II game on Friday. Todd Smith, Menlo’s coach, is a Live Oak alum.
North Salinas was the fifth of five at-large teams to make the cut. The last one to be released was The King’s Academy.
— Thirty-five of the 40 CCS playoff teams receive automatic bids from their leagues.