The release of the CIF football playoff brackets on Sunday morning felt a little like a trip to the psychiatrist’s office, since their postseason draws had Long Beach coaches feeling everything from optimistic to disrespected, from excited to confused.

Pac-5 Division

The best high school football bracket in the nation features three Moore League team.

Defending Pac-5 champion Long Beach Poly, seeded two spots below the St. John Bosco Braves, got arguably the hardest draw of any league champion, as they’ll have to host Orange Lutheran in the first round. It was quite a surprise for Poly coach Raul Lara, whose long tenure as coach of the Jackrabbits usually has him a little more accurate with his projection of who the Jackrabbits will play.

The Lancers are an at-large team, but are no joke—they lost to a Servite team that beat Poly on a Hail Mary, and gave St. John Bosco the best game they had all league. At 7-3 and with a number of quality wins, the Lancers are a much better team than a three-seed would typically draw in the Pac-5. Asked for his reaction, Lara just shook his head and said, “Wow. Out of all the teams in the bracket, that’s one of the teams I’m most worried about.” Lara was baffled that his Jackrabbits would be given such a high-quality opponent, but said it’s important his team not get caught up in wondering about their draw. “We’re going to go break down film and get to work,” he said. “Those are the things we can control.”

Cabrillo coach Jason Brown’s second-place Jaguars are headed to Tesoro, in what many on Sunday pegged as the possible upset special of the first round. “This is our best draw by far,” Brown said. “We have to get our guys riled up to go to Orange County and play a disciplined team, a fundamentally sound team. I think our athleticism can do big things."

Lakewood will visit Alemany, the four-seed, in a rematch of the 2010 second round Pac-5 game. When the Warriors came to Lakewood three years ago, a very good Lakewood team saw their season end at the hands (and feet) of Alemany quarterback Vernon Adams, 42-21. It was a one-score game at halftime, but the Warriors’ senior quarterback started 12/16 for 196 yards and two TDs, but it was his third-quarter scrambles (of 17, 21, and 8 yards) that broke the game open—the second was a TD to make it 35-14 Alemany with 6:48 left.

That was the last game Thadd MacNeal coached at Lakewood, and since then the 2014 senior class of Lancers have had two more head coaches, different schemes every year and a host of transfers. First-year head coach Kenric Jameison is looking at this game as a way to reward those four-year Lakewood products.

“We accomplished the mission,” he said of making back to the playoffs. “It’s all a celebration of (the seniors) and their tenacity to fight through everything… it’s a blessing and we plan to take full advantage of this opportunity.”

The Warriors earned their top-four seed by winning their final three games against Notre Dame, Bishop Amat and Crespi. The game against the Celts was theoretically for the seeded position and Crespi got in the bracket as an at-large team.

Northeast Division

The St. Anthony Saints were a virtual lock for an at-large bid, since they’ve been ranked in the top ten of the division all year. But the bracket doesn’t do them any favors, as they’ll open up on the road against No. 4 Desert, the champions of the Desert Mountain League.

“They’ve got a lot of momentum,” said Saints head coach Mario Morales of his team’s opponent, the Scorpions. Desert started 1-2 but have ripped off seven straight wins, most of them by three scores or more. If S.t Anthony wins they’d see the winner of Saddleback Valley Christian and California Military.

Sports Guy Mike Guardabascio has been writing professionally for a decade, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards and is the author of the historical book "Football in Long Beach."

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