High school football players spend all summer toiling under the hot sun for a chance at immortality.
This week is the reason why.
Ten teams from Acorn country qualified for the CIF-Southern Section playoffs this fall. All 10 of those teams, not coincidentally, earned spots on our final regular season power poll.
We bid adieu to Oak Park, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Viewpoint, who will try to nudge their way into the postseason, and into our glorious Acorn Power Poll, next autumn.
On to the playoffs.
1. Rio Mesa (10-0)
The Spartans, who open CIF-Southern Section Division 8 playoffs as the top dog, will face Royal on Friday night at home.
Rio Mesa has a well-seasoned QB in Austin Maciel, a dynamic three-phrase playmaker in Donte Martin, an old-school running back who’s not afraid of contact in Dylan Rusch and a head coach, Jim Bittner, who always, always treats the outcasts of Acorn sports island like normal people.
Only a grinch wouldn’t admire a public school team loaded with neighborhood kids.
2. Calabasas (9-1)
Coyotes defeated Moorpark 33-21 for the Camino League title.
Calabasas will try to win a third straight section title, this time in a loaded Division 2 bracket. Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks in opener will be a daunting test.
3. Oaks Christian (8-2)
Lions roar into playoffs after devouring Westlake, 42-7.
Marmonte League champs open the Division 2 dance at home against Arroyo Grande.
4. Grace Brethren (8-2)
Win a league, move up in our Power Poll. That’s how we roll.
Grace Brethren answered the call: Lancers survived 31-24 double overtime slugfest against Bishop Diego to seize Tri-Valley League crown. Grace Brethren battles Buena this weekend in a Division 8 postseason opener.
5. Agoura (6-4)
Here at the Acorn, we reward teams that win when it matters most. The Chargers won the games that mattered en route to capturing a second straight Canyon League championship.
Agoura, which defeated Oak Park 42-14 in the Kanan Bowl, plays Cypress in the Division 9 bracket on Friday.
6. Moorpark (8-2)
Hard to find many flaws with the Musketeers, who suffered losses to heavyweights Calabasas and Westlake.
Moorpark played both teams tough, however, and our staff is impressed with sophomore QB Blake Sturgill, linebacker/ running back/Tom Cruise stunt double Jeremy Harris, receiver Christian Lancellotti (who has emerged as No. 1 target) and receiver Drake London, one of the top junior recruits in football and basketball in Ventura County.
Moorpark plays Los Altos at home in a Division 5 test.
7. Westlake (7-3)
Warriors were fantastic at the beginning of the year, surging to No. 1 in our poll for a three-week spell.
They were loud. They had swagger. They fell to Earth.
Westlake losses to Oxnard and Calabasas weren’t troubling, but a miracle against Camarillo before getting hammered against Oaks Christian the past two weeks are unsettling, to say the least.
Did the Warriors peak too soon? Can head coach Tim Kirksey help this band of brothers recapture their mojo?
We are worried that a team that thrives on emotion is emotionally spent. We’ll learn the truth on Friday night, when Westlake battles Bay League champ Palos Verdes in a Division 3 opener on the road.
8. Camarillo (5-5)
Camarillo’s Jack Willard should share Head Coach of the Year honors with Rio Mesa’s Jim Bittner for what Willard’s done with these Scorpions.
The Scorps don’t have a lot of size, but they’re fighters. They’re a smart, plucky, resourceful bunch, and they earned an at-large Division 3 playoff berth.
Camarillo, which beat St. Bonaventure 35-14 last weekend, will play at 10-0 Lompoc. Count the Scorpions out at your own peril, ladies and gents.
9. Newbury Park (5-5)
Nobody’s been harder on Newbury Park than us, but that’s just because we believed that this team possessed championship DNA.
Great coaching staff, great QB, great tradition . . . but it just hasn’t come together.
If the 2017 Panthers were a TV show, they’d be the current season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
In hindsight, Newbury Park’s 42-40 loss to Westlake Sept. 8 was a turning point. The Cats never really recovered from that setback.
Losing Ian Albaeck, one of the best senior receivers in the county, for two months to an injury was devastating.
The Black Cat Attack could still surprise us by making a memorable Division 3 postseason run. But if Newbury Park falls to 9-1 Citrus Hill on the road Friday, then Panther QB Cameron Rising, a ballyhooed Texas commit, will finish his entire prep career without a single playoff win.
10. Royal (6-4)
The Highlanders won the most important game of the season by defeating Simi Valley 27-23 last weekend.
This year isn’t over yet.
Royal’s win against its fiercest rival catapulted the squad into the Division 8 playoffs as the second seed from the Canyon League. The Highlanders’ reward is to play the area’s only undefeated team, Rio Mesa.
Royal has enjoyed one of the best turnarounds in the area under second-year head coach Matthew Lewis. The Highlanders have won three of their past four games.