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La Mirada football snubbed from playoffs despite playing tough schedule

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

November 3, 2022~When La Mirada High head football coach Mike Moschetti looked at his 2022 schedule in the offseason, he knew it was one of the toughest the program had ever had. In addition to their yearly meeting with Mater Dei High and four other non-league games, the Matadores were situated in the Gateway League of the new Suburban Valley Conference and had to play Downey High and Warren High, among others.

As tough as the schedule was, the Matadores went 4-6, won two of five league games and any chance of an at-large berth was washed away when Moschetti saw the CIF-Southern Section divisional playoff brackets this past Sunday and his team wasn’t on any of the 14 brackets.

“We knew going into the last two weeks that we needed to beat either Warren or beat Downey,” said Moschetti. “Finding out today…it really hit us after the loss against Downey that we weren’t going to make it. And it hurts. I think we had 41 consecutive years of being in the playoffs. I know we were the number one team in the state of California for consecutive playoff appearances.

“As the head coach, it’s something that I have to live with,” he continued. “I truly believe that I can always do better as a head coach and that’s going to fall on me. I’m the guy that snapped the playoff streak.”

This is the second straight season in which teams were grouped into their respective divisions once the season was over based off power rankings from CalPreps.com. La Mirada was ranked 110th out of 372 Southern Section teams. Warren, which won the Gateway League with a 9-1 mark, is ranked 19th and is in Division 2, second place Downey (8-2) is ranked 53rd and is in Division 4 while third place Mayfair High (6-4) is ranked 97th and is the top-seeded team in Division 7. The league automatically sends the top three teams to the playoffs.

La Mirada began the season with a 27-24 win at El Toro High before losing three straight games, including a 28-13 setback to undefeated Yorba Linda High, the fourth-seeded team in Division and a 35-0 loss to the nation’s number one team, Mater Dei. In between those two games, the Matadores gave up a fourth quarter touchdown and fell to Servite High 10-7. It was the only win of the season for the Friars. In league action, the Matadores came up short against Mayfair, 16-14, then lost to Warren (37-8) and Downey (43-21). The combined record of La Mirada’s opponents this season was 54-46.

“That’s something that we’re going to have to look at,” said Moschetti of future non-league scheduling. “In the past, and even going into this year, I thought that playing a tough schedule will help your power ranking, even going into the new league…if we could find a way to win enough games, that we could possibly be an at-large team. We try to build our program of challenging these kids and we’ve played everybody over the years from Orange Lutheran to Bishop Amat to St. John Bosco to Mater Dei. It’s something that we’ve always talked about as a program. But there’s no reward for it, now, playing Mater Dei, Yorba Linda and Servite and scheduling an El Toro team that was really good a year ago and a Sunny Hills team that won a championship a couple of years ago.”

The last time La Mirada had a losing record in a full 10-game schedule came in 2018 when the Matadores won two games but finished in second place in the Suburban League. The year before, they went 5-5 in the regular season before losing a first round Division 2 game.

Among the players that La Mirada graduates in June will be quarterback Nehuel Garcia, who passed for over 1,300 yards, their top three running backs, Tanner Roberts, Denver Stillman and C.J. Zackery, who combined for 16 of the team’s 17 rushing touchdowns, and their top two receivers, Xavier Hicks and Zackery.

“Looking back at the year, it’s just disappointing,” said Moschetti. “You could look at that Yorba Linda score and it says 28-13 and we dominated that game. I think they had 37 yards rushing. We moved the ball up and down the field. We had all the momentum and that’s a game we should have won. Servite…I don’t think there’s another type of public school around like we are that will schedule two Trinity League teams. We scheduled Servite after they played in a CIF Championship and not knowing what was going to happen this year.”

Moschetti added that he doesn’t understand how the new system works, and he doesn’t know the formula and how it works. But he does understand how the power rankings work and realizes that the CIF-SS is doing a good job of getting equal teams playing each other in the playoffs.

“I don’t like the old way where you’re just put in a division,” said Moschetti. “I like the aspect that if teams dominate, then they go up. The old way of teams winning three or four CIF championships in a row is never going to happen. La Habra coach [Frank] Mazzotta and I are really good friends and I have I have nothing but respect La Habra High School and their football program. They won four CIF championships in a row (2007-2010), but those days aren’t going to happen again. Maybe in Division I it will. But I’m talking about Divisions 2, 3, 4; it’s not going to happen again, and it’s good.”


Five area teams began their journeys in the divisional playoffs, which began with wild card action this past Tuesday for La Mirada, Norwalk High and Valley Christian High. In Division 4 action, Norwalk defeated Indian Springs High 13-5, then tied Ontario Christian High 9-9 but lost in games (90-83) the next day. The Lancers ended the season at 10-8.

In Division 5 action, La Mirada fell to A.B. Miller High 11-7 this past Tuesday, ending its season at 12-5 while V.C. defeated Los Amigos High 14-4 this past Tuesday before falling to Villanova Prep 11-7 this past Wednesday. The Defenders conclude their season at 9-9.

This past Wednesday in Division 2 action, 605 League champion Whitney High defeated Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks 12-6 and will visit Beverly Hills High today. The Wildcats improved to 17-0. In Division 3 action, Cerritos High had no problem with Bishop Montgomery High, 14-4 to improve to 13-6. The Dons will host fourth-seeded St. Margaret’s High today.


Three area teams advanced to the playoffs with Cerritos falling to Cate High 17-2 this past Tuesday in Division 5 action while in Division 6 play this past Wednesday, Whitney knocked off West Valley High 10-7 and Gahr High edged Arroyo Valley High 12-11. Whitney travels to top-seeded Hemet High on Saturday while Gahr is home to second-seeded Webb High, also on Saturday.