By ERIC-PAUL JOHNSON and JOHN MURPHY
After exchanging game film with his first-round opponent, Fontana Miller football coach Jeff Steinberg turned to his assistant coaches and said, "Let's get to work."
Steinberg and his colleagues learned what lies ahead as the CIF-Southern Section unveiled its playoff brackets on Sunday.
Corona Centennial earned the Inland Division's top seed for the third straight season. The Huskies (10-0) open with Yucaipa (5-5), and a potential quarterfinal game at Vista Murrieta (8-2) looms.
Centennial steamrolled the competition last year, outscoring opponents 218-39 en route to its fourth section championship, and the Huskies are considered heavy favorites again.
"They are very formidable," Moreno Valley Rancho Verde coach Pete Duffy said. "They are about as good a high school football team as I've seen."
Centennial coach Matt Logan said nothing is a given.
"We have a perfect record at the moment but we're far from perfect," Logan said. "This is a very tough playoff division."
Rancho Verde, Temecula Chaparral and Miller are the division's other seeded teams. Despite having the No. 2 seed, Rancho Verde (10-0) arguably has the worst draw as it opens with Norco (6-4), the division's lone wild-card recipient.
Norco was the team coaches of the higher seeds hoped to avoid in early rounds.
"It's because of the tradition, and we tend to play better against better teams," Norco coach Todd Gerhart said.
Norco would like to see one trend continue. The wild-card team in the Inland Division has advanced to the title game the past two seasons. Norco won the title as a wild-card team in 2006.
One of the most intriguing first-round matchups will be Redlands East Valley (9-1) hosting Corona Santiago (6-4). The game is a rematch of last year's semifinal, won by Santiago, 25-10.
Perris Citrus Hill (10-0), it should come as no surprise, is seeded No. 1 in the Eastern Division. The Hawks, who won the East Valley Division last season, have been bumped up a few divisions this year. They have a 24-game winning streak that they will put on the line against visiting Lake Arrowhead Rim of the World (6-4).
"We've worked hard all year," Hawks coach Doug Dubois said by phone. "But when you're seeded No. 1, everyone is gunning for you."
Unbeaten Hesperia (10-0) is the No. 2 seed and hosts Riverside Notre Dame (6-4) in the other half of the Eastern Division bracket. Fontana Summit (8-2) makes its playoff debut at No. 3 seed Palm Springs (7-3). Fontana Kaiser (6-3-1), which earned the No. 4 seed with its seventh consecutive Sunkist League title, will host Banning (6-4).
Rancho Cucamonga coach Nick Baiz took his team's No. 1 Eastern Division seed in stride, while his adversary this week, Colton coach Harold Strauss, is annoyed.
"We deserve to be No. 1," Baiz said after his team's 9-0-1 march through the Baseline League. "The Baseline is a tough league. But Colton is a good team. They're well-established."
Strauss agrees, and seemed irritated about the placement of his Yellowjackets (6-3-1).
"I guess our preseason didn't mean anything," he said. "We played five playoff teams in preseason, but we get (the equivalent of) a No. 16 seed. It's interesting."
Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos (8-2) is seeded second and will host Elsinore (5-5). Hemet West Valley (9-1) is seeded third and hosts Glendora (7-3). San Bernardino Cajon (9-1) is seeded fourth and faces the challenge of meeting mercurial Etiwanda (5-5), the high-scoring at-large team from the Baseline League .
"We thought it was a 50-50 chance we'd get Etiwanda," Cajon coach Kim Battin said. "They're a tough team, but I like being at home for the first round."
San Bernardino Aquinas (9-1) was seeded third in the East Valley Division. The Falcons could avenge their lone loss in the quarterfinals if they face Twentynine Palms (7-3).
Temecula Linfield Christian (8-2) and Riverside Christian (9-1) earned the third and fourth seeds, respectively, in the Northeast Division.
Reach Eric-Paul Johnson at 951-368-9530 or ejohnson@PE.com
Published: Monday, November 17, 2008