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Tarbabes Sports

4 Moore League Teams in Playoffs

Posted Tuesday, February 17, 2009 by Arnold Allen
Opinion: In Defense Of The Moore League


You may have read that headline and gone, "Huh? Since when does the Moore League need defending?" I'm with you. The answer is, since Ben Bolch, a fantastic blogger over at the LA Times' Varsity Insider blog, wrote a piece entitled, "Less is more when it comes to the Moore League." Bolch's basic point was that he thinks it's unfair that the Moore League gets four automatic berths into the Pac-5 CIF playoffs, when no other league in the division does—by CIF rule, a league with seven teams competing qualifies their top four finishers for the postseason. It's a rule that doesn't just apply to football, by the way, but to all CIF sports.
Now, there are plenty of people who agree with him—fans, players, and coaches of Edison and St. John Bosco, the best two teams in the Pac-5 who didn't qualify for the playoffs, are certainly among them. But Poly coach Raul Lara sees his point, as well. "I think that it could create a problem," he said, "where leagues are trying to add extra teams, just to qualify more people for the playoffs." Lara said he would advocate a flat number of teams from each league qualifying, with a significant increase in at-large bids (this year there was only one, awarded to Bishop Amat). It's worth noting that Lara has also spoken with us on several occasions about how tough the Moore League is—he's said he doesn't see much of a dropoff between teams like St. Bonny, and Jordan or Lakewood.
I understand that perspective, and there's certainly plenty of arguing to be done there. But what has bothered me is the implication, by Bolch and by some commenters on the articles he's posted, that the Moore League isn't worthy of four playoff teams because the league isn't good enough. "Personally…" Bolch writes in the Times, "I'd take Crespi (even though it finished 0-3 in the Serra League) and Newport Harbor (which won its last three games) ahead of the No. 2 entrant from the Moore League." That means he thinks that those two teams both deserve berths over Jordan, Lakewood, and Compton, which (as someone who's seen all five of those teams) would lead me to believe that Bolch hasn't seen Jordan's John Timu, and probably hasn't seen the Lancers when they've got Jerry Stone (they're 6-0 with him on the field). 
As for the quality of the league, I've watched plenty of high school football in Southern California, and aside from the Trinity League, there isn't another league in the division that can hang, team-for-team, with the Moore League. We are talking about some of the most physically punishing defenses, and explosive offenses in the southland, every year. 
One commenter brought up how poorly the Moore League has performed in the postseason, excepting Poly (which kind of seems like talking about the AFC for the last seven years without mentioning the Patriots, but whatever). The numbers are pretty damning—since 2001, Moore League teams are 4-18 in the playoffs (again, this is without Poly). But if you talk to any Moore League coach, they'll tell you: it can be tough just to make it out of league with your team intact, and teams from the Moore League often head into the playoffs with a disproportionately high number of injuries. 
Ask Compton. For the second consecutive year, they had to watch their top running back taken off the field in an ambulance in the final two weeks of league play. Last season they lost Donald Green to several broken ribs in the Poly game, and in their finale this season against Lakewood, James McConico (who was averaging over twenty yards a carry on the season) was knocked unconscious on the field, and didn't respond for several minutes. Last year Compton entered the playoffs without their best player, and was bounced by in the first round by Edison. 
In any event, this is certainly the wrong season to argue about the quality of teams coming out of this league—the combined record of Poly, Jordan, Lakewood, and Compton (counting Lakewood's on-field record, not their forfeit record) is 32-7. Because of a three-way tie in league for second (at 4-2), Compton comes into the playoffs as the low seed, with a 7-2 record. Even the teams who didn't make the cut weren't pushovers, as the Wilson Bruins played Los Al tight and lost by two touchdowns. The typically tough nonleague schedules that most Moore League teams put together (excepting Compton), has universally been explained to us by coaches saying they need to play great teams early, or they'll spend three weeks adjusting to the speed of their league contests.
We brought Bolch's article up to Jordan Panthers coach Scott Meyer, a man who has the benefit of a long perspective on Moore League football, since his father's and grandfather's coaching legacy in Long Beach extends back more than six decades. His defense of four Moore League teams making the playoffs was simple. "We're 14-1 outside our league. Tell 'em that."

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