The reasonable question, then, is whether OC's 28-17 win over Alemany will help it or hurt it in its quest for legitimacy, a quest that means nothing early in the season, but means a lot late in the season if the Lions remain undefeated (as they were last year). Will it hurt OC that it failed to blow out Alemany?
And should it? On that second question, I was surprised Friday night's game didn't become a blowout--it seemed like it was heading in that direction, as from the late first quarter to the midway point of the third, OC outgained Alemany 255-60, outscoring the Warriors 21-3 during that stretch. But then Alemany came back with an 80-yard TD drive of its own, and had a surprising defensive stand that led to an OC turnover-on-downs, and set up a late Alemany drive that came 22 yards short of making it 28-24. Which is to say that OC may have shown a lack of killer instinct. But then again, maybe Alemany's just damn resilient.
OC had better hope they are. In other words, if Alemany goes out and beats everybody else on its schedule, then OC looks great for having beaten them, no matter the score. If, on the other hand, the Warriors start losing games, then that 28-17 OC win looks worse with every Alemany loss, and heaven forbid other teams are able to do what OC failed to do--blow out the Warriors.
Final thought. I have come to expect that high school teams will score a few extra second-half touchdowns to pad their stats--not player stats, but margin-of-victory stats. They all know the state bowl committee is watching, and that margin of victory is a factor ... to a point. Eventually, in the fourth quarter when it's 42-0, the winning coach takes his foot off the gas. But Friday night's game never put the OC coach in a position where he had the luxury of making that decision. OC never really shook Alemany, and when I suggest a possible lack of killer instinct, I'm wondering if their failure to blow out the Warriors was due to a subconscious decision by everyone to take their collective feet off their collective gas pedals--if only by just a little. Which, as a competitor, is of course something you never want to do. You want to have killer instinct.
But it only hurts you to lack killer instinct if your would-be victim escapes and winds up killing you, and that didn't happen to OC on Friday night. And if it turns out that Alemany's a damn good, then I don't think OC needs to worry, not even a little, about failing to impress any committee with its margin-of-victory in this particular game. After all, last year the Lions blew out everyone on their schedule and still didn't make it to the state title game. This year, a close win over a good team might turn out to be a better recipe to looking-good-for-the-committee.
They just have to hope like heck that Alemany is a good team.