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 four 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.
La Cañada High
Perhaps no area school was affected more throughout all its sports than was La Cañada.
While the make-up of the Rio Hondo League remains the same with Blair, Monrovia, San Marino, South Pasadena, Temple City and La Cañada, the league was moved in virtually every sport.
In football, the Rio Hondo League made the biggest jump, up or down, of any area league as the Rio Hondo moved from the Mid-Valley Division (Division XI) to the Central Division (Division V).
While the majority of schools within the Mid-Valley Division hailed from within the San Gabriel Valley, the Central Division slants toward the Inland Empire and consists of the Hacienda, Mt. Baldy, Palomares and Sunkist leagues, with schools from cities such as Bloomington, Chino, Colton, Fontana, Ontario and Pomona. The nearest divisional schools are located in Hacienda Heights, West Covina and Glendora.
“The changes to the football division are tough for us as a league to accept,” La Cañada athletic director Craig Franzen said. “This division isn’t just better, but significantly bigger than the Rio Hondo League. The average enrollment is 1,417 kids in the Rio Hondo League. The next smallest league in the Central Division averages 2,264 kids.”
As a school, La Cañada posted a Calpreps.com ranking of -5.2 last season, which put the Spartans No. 15 out of the Mid-Valley Division’s 32 schools.
La Cañada, which finished 5-6 last season and advanced to the postseason for the first time in three years, is now No. 25 out of 30 schools in the new configuration despite being a playoff team last year. Overall, La Cañada and the league’s last three schools take up four of the division’s last six total spots.
“This is a safety issue for sure,” Franzen said. “We’re just better fitted for the Mid-Valley Division even in its new realignment. The schools we’re supposed to go against are just so much bigger.”
Franzen confirmed that the Rio Hondo League planned an appeal for football for the Playoff Groupings Appeals Committee meeting at the CIF Southern Section office on May 28.
While Monrovia dragged La Cañada and the rest of the Rio Hondo League up to the Central Division, other league squads also shaped league alignment.
In tennis, the success of the San Marino High boys’ and girls’ teams, which have won titles in the last year, have also affected La Cañada, as the Rio Hondo League will be moved up in both sports from Division II to Division I in the coming fall.
Likewise in boys’ volleyball, reigning Division III champion South Pasadena has pulled the Rio Hondo up into Division II next season.
Perhaps the Spartans’ recent run to a first-ever CIF Southern Section Division V championship match in girls’ soccer was justification for the league to bump the Spartans into Division IV next year.
There were a few sports in which the Rio Hondo League stood pat, such as in boys’ water polo and softball, where the Spartans will remain in Division III and IV, respectively, and in girls’ volleyball (Division II-AA).
There were also some instances where the Spartans dropped a division, such as coed swimming (Division II), girls’ water polo (Division V), baseball (Division V) and boys’ soccer (Division VI).
Like La Cañada, the Rebels are also making a jump in football and share similar 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.
Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy
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.
If there was a beneficiary of change, at least on the football side, perhaps it’s the Golden Knights.
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.
The Southeast Division consists of teams from the Del Rio, San Gabriel Valley and Suburban leagues, which are located around the 605, 91 and 105 freeways, and with the nearby Pacific League.
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.
Football marks the only change for St. Francis, as the volleyball, soccer, baseball and tennis teams will all remain in Division I.
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.