OCEAN LEAGUE: There appear to be five legitimate contenders for the championship. By David Saunders STAFF WRITER Just like last season, the Ocean League has two teams cresting while three other schools look to catch an unseen wave to glory. Beverly Hills and Culver City finished in a first-place tie last season and should battle for the league title again this year. Morningside earned the third spot, edging Santa Monica and Inglewood with a win in its season finale. “Culver City is the team to beat in our league, but I’m not willing to say that it’s a two-school race,” Beverly Hills coach Carter Paysinger said. “We have four or five schools that are capable of beating anybody any given night.” No team went through last season’s league schedule unscathed. Inglewood beat Beverly Hills, Beverly Hills beat Morningside, Morningside beat Santa Monica, Santa Monica beat Culver City and Culver City and Beverly Hills played to a tie. You might call it a battle of attrition, and this season could prove to be similar. “If you look at last year’s record as a league, it was kind of like a merry-go-round as far as people beating each other,” Inglewood coach Charles Mincy said. Not only does the early-season prognosis of the league look similar to the finish of a year ago, many of the teams’ rosters do as well. Each of the six teams returns its key offensive player from late last season, giving a league that was known for its offense a year ago an even higher scoring ceiling this time around. Culver City brings back 12 starters, including senior quarterback Darius Banks, who led the state in passing last year with 4,115 yards and 51 touchdowns. Beverly Hills is the early favorite, returning 16 starters, including Ramon Judkins, who rushed for 1,294 yards and 14 touchdowns last season en route to earning All-CIF honors. Morningside has a few more holes to fill with the loss of key players, notably two-time all-league receiver Shawnta Husband. But senior quarterback Travis Harvey is the focal point of a revamped passing attack that might be able to keep pace with the other high-powered offenses in the league. Inglewood running back David Freeman led the league in rushing with 1,569 yards and 20 touchdowns. Running back Marcus Allen was a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for Hawthorne. Santa Monica quarterback Ryan Katz completed 66 percent of his passes for 559 yards and eight touchdowns in the Vikings’ three straight wins to close out 2006. “You start naming all of them and you realize that there are a lot of good players coming back on the all the teams,” Culver City coach Tom Salter said. Quarterback play likely will play an even greater role than usual in determining how the league standings shake out. Banks, Katz and Harvey are all three-year starters in offenses that will look to pass before run. Beverly Hills’ Dex Lucci started five games last season and has all the talent around him to make this season a successful one. Inglewood, which ran the ball on two-thirds of its plays last year, is looking to throw the ball at least an additional five to 10 times a game. “I think the league’s probably the best it’s been in a couple years,” Salter said. “It should be a very exciting race this year.” [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!