A change to the postseason formatting was made by the CIF Southern Section office, which released its 2014-2106 playoff groupings Tuesday. Each of the eight local schools were affected in either the make-up of their league or respective division. Track and field, basketball and cross-country, which change their playoff seedings annually, were not involved.
The league only changed divisions in four sports, but perhaps the biggest move came in football, where the league stood pat.
The Pacific League, which is made up of locals Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover highs along with Arcadia, Burbank, Burroughs, Muir and Pasadena, competes in the Southeast Division (Division VII), which swapped out the Hacienda League in favor of the renovated Mission League, which consists of St. Francis, Cathedral, Harvard-Westlake, Salesian, La Salle and St. Paul.
The Mission League, which participated in the Western Division (Division IV) last season, will join a Southeast Division (Division VII) already with the Del Rio, San Gabriel Valley and Suburban leagues.
“I’m a little surprised in football that St. Francis and the Mission League are going to be in that division,” Glendale High athletic director Pat Lancaster said. “Coming off their year last year, I would have thought they’d be heading to a higher group, but that’s the way it happens.”
The decision to bring in the Mission League also didn’t sit well with Burroughs Coach Keith Knoop.
“I would have definitely not liked to have seen the Mission League in our division,” Knoop said. “With the Hacienda League leaving, I don’t know about the Mission League. We’re playing schools that give scholarships to top players.
“Also, if you look at Crescenta Valley, they went 8-2 last year and missed the playoffs because they were told that our league was too weak. So, what happens, we get the Hacienda League swapped with the Mission League. Does that make sense?”
Knoop said the league would not appeal the decision despite the general disappointment.
St. Francis is coming off a 10-3 season and advancement to the Western Division (Division IV) semifinals in 2013.
While the Golden Knights did not face a Pacific League opponent last year, St. Francis has proven a Pacific League tormentor the last five years in compiling a 10-0 record with victories over Arcadia, Burroughs and Crescenta Valley.
As for other sports, the Pacific League is being bumped up from Division V to Division IV in both boys’ and girls’ water polo, likely due to the Crescenta Valley girls winning a 2013 divisional title and the Glendale boys taking the crown in the fall.
“I really think that Glendale, Hoover and Crescenta Valley have had some really strong seasons over the last five years and they’re strong enough to succeed at the next level,” said Glendale outgoing water polo coach Forest Holbrook, who announced he was stepping down Wednesday. “When I got here five years ago, the Pacific League was in Division VI and we’ve moved up. This is just the next step.”
There were also some moves down, as Pacific League boys’ tennis and girls’ soccer dropped one division to Divisions II and IV, respectively.
“It’s a relief that boys’ tennis has dropped to Division II,” Lancaster said. “That just seems more fair. As for the moves, it’s just the nature of the beast. It happens with CIF every year and CIF can’t please everyone.”
The Pacific League remained in Division II-A in girls’ volleyball, in Division II in baseball, swimming, girls’ tennis and boys’ volleyball and in Division III in boys’ soccer and softball.
If there was a beneficiary of change, at least on the football side, perhaps it’s St. Francis football.
Two weeks earlier, St. Francis avoided a potential four-year dagger in not joining the Pac-5 Division (Division I) in football and remaining in the Mission League, which also shed its top two teams, Chaminade and Serra, in favor of La Salle and Salesian.
On Tuesday, the Golden Knights further reaped the rewards of staying put, as the Mission League, which participated in the Western Division (IV), was moved three divisions down to the Southeast Division.
“If you look at the teams in our league, I think this was a fair move,” St. Francis Coach Jim Bonds said. “Everybody wants to look at what we did last year and base decisions off that season.
“We went 10-3 last year and that was one of the best teams I’ve had here in 14 years. We’re not going to go 10-3 every year, so the Southeast Division is a good move.”
Based on Calpreps.com rankings, St. Francis’ score of 48.5 would make the Golden Knights the top-ranked team in their new division with only last year’s two divisional championship game participants, La Serna (47.6) and Norwalk (40.4), within close range.
“I particularly like the Southeast Division because we get to see the San Gabriel Valley League and Pacific League again,” Bonds said. “We were all together in the same division a few years back and we’re familiar with those teams.”
Football marks the only change for St. Francis, as the volleyball, soccer, baseball and tennis teams will all remain in Division I.
An already difficult league season and postseason became even more challenging for Flintridge Sacred Heart volleyball, which was bounced up from Division I-A to the highest division, I-AA.
Couple that move with the reorganization of the Mission League itself, which will still include the top three squads in the Tologs, Harvard-Westlake and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, but replaces the lower half of Louisville, Alemany and Chaminade with the two best teams in the Sunshine League — Marymount and Marlborough.
“I think we knew this was coming and it’s going to be an unbelievable league,” Tologs athletic director Stephanie Contreras said. “It’s going to be an amazing league, the real cream of the crop.”
Last season, the Tologs split the Mission League title, finished 26-5 and advanced to the semifinals of the Division I-A playoffs, where they fell to La Salle, which is also taking the elevator to Division I-AA.
The move marks the only divisional change for the Tologs, who again will be in Division I swimming, soccer and tennis and Division III for water polo and softball.
The Rebels are the only local team making a jump up in football and have some safety concerns.
Flintridge Prep is being pushed up from the Northeast Division (XIII) to the Northwest Division (X) on the back of the success of Rio Hondo Prep, the 2012 Northeast champion.
“I’m not that excited about football,” Rebels outgoing athletic director Alex Rivera said. “The first thing that pops into my head is that there are other divisions that we can play in, which I won’t mention now. I’m concerned about our size. We’re a good-sized eight-man football team, but small in 11-man football.”
Rivera confirmed that the league would appeal its placement in football.
As for other activity, only three sports were affected.
Both boys’ water polo (Division IV) and girls’ volleyball (Division II-AA) moved up one division because of the league’s strength, while girls’ tennis moved down one level to Division III.
The remaining sports of boys’ tennis (Division II), coed swimming (Division III), girls’ soccer (Division III), boys’ volleyball (Division IV), girls’ water polo (Division VI), boys’ soccer (Division VI), baseball (Division VI) and softball (Division VI) remained in their respective divisions.
Perhaps the biggest change in regards to the Prep League is its membership, as Webb left the league in favor of the league’s first public school, Firebaugh of Lynwood.
“There were several schools who could have filled that spot, but Firebaugh seemed like a good fit,” Rivera said.
Holy Family is only making one move next season.
The Horizon League is jumping one division up, from Division V-AA to Division IV-A, in volleyball.
The Gaels will still remain in Division VII in soccer and Division VI in softball, where the team just concluded its season.
Heritage and Liberty leagues
Glendale Adventist Academy will see no movement in its sports.
The Cougars compete in the Liberty League in boys’ volleyball and the league is slated to remain in Division V.
Glendale Adventist also participates in the Heritage League in boys’ soccer and the league is set to compete again in Division VII.