Playoff realignment story

An expansion of what I blogged about last night in reference to the new football realignments. Got a hold of some coaches on the topic. This will also run in the Sun and Bulletin tomorrow.

Kim Battin wasn’t immediately made aware of the CIF-Southern Section’s football playoff realignment when it was released Monday. But once he heard about it, the Cajon coach was pretty happy and understandably so, as the Baseline and Sierra Leagues had been moved out of the Central Division.

Cajon and the rest of the San Andreas League saw the Baseline League dominate the Central Division the past two years, sending three teams to the semifinals in both seasons and two to the championship game, ultimately resulting in titles for Rancho Cucamonga in 2008 and Upland this past season.

The Cowboys, who lost to Rancho Cucamonga in the semifinals in ’08 and to Etiwanda in the first round last year, is happy to see a Baseline-free division.

“If it wasn’t for those guys two years ago, we probably win the division championship,” Battin said. “The Baseline is an extremely tough league and they pretty much dominated the division the past two years. It will be good to see some new blood.”

The Baseline and Sierra will now be sent off to the extremely tough Inland Division, which will retain the Citrus Belt, Big 8 and Southwestern Leagues. The Inland Valley League will move down from the Inland Division to the Central Division in exchange with the Baseline and Sierra, joining the SAL, Mt. Baldy League and the Desert Valley League, which moved up from the Eastern Division, trading places with the Sunbelt League.

“I think its a good thing,” said Colton athletic director Harold Strauss, whose team lost to Rancho Cucamonga the last two years. “We were right with (the Cougars) in the fourth quarter in both of those games, but there was no question that the Baseline teams were on a higher level than the rest of the division. I’m not surprised by this at all.”

Another person who was not surprised by the release was the coach of the Central Division champions. Upland coach Tim Salter has been preparing for the move up to the Inland Division, where the Baseline was in 2006 and 2007, ramping up the 2010 nonleague schedule to include games with Norco, Tustin and Los Angeles Loyola.

“The last time we were in that division, we were very ineffective,” Salter said. “I agree with he CIF, from a geography and school size standpoint.

“The only question I have is that when we (Baseline) had some success, they moved us to what they think is a tough conference. Yet, when (Corona) Centennial or (the) Southwestern (League) have that kind of success, there’s no movement. I guess they just don’t want to jostle the Pac-5.”

Another element that is changing is the existence of at-large bids. Upland finished fourth in the Baseline League last year and received the Central Division’s at-large bid, a luxury that disappears with the division shift.

While Salter and Upland anticipated the move up, the Sierra League was hoping it could stay put. The league has only had one semifinalist — Chino Hills this past season — during the past two years.

“In talking with the Baseline schools and schools that are still in the division, we felt that we best fit in the Central Division,” Chino Hills coach Derek Bub said. “I’m definitely surprised that they decided to move us, but we’ll step up our game.”

Bub theorized that the strengthening of the league during the recent realignment — which saw Covina Charter Oak, West Covina South Hills and Claremont replace Diamond Bar and Chino — factored into the CIF’s rationale to bump up the league.

“Our league is going to be brutal with Charter Oak and South Hills coming in,” Bub said. “After we added those two teams, it was probably hard for them not to move us up.”

In its wake, the Central Division’s sphere of influence, as it adds Riverside and Moreno Valley schools along with Low Desert schools such as Eastern Division champion Palm Springs.
“We are chomping at the bit to play against other teams and I bet teams like Rancho Verde and La Quinta are chomping at the bit to play against us,” Battin said.

The Sunkist, Mojave River and Desert Sky Leagues will stay in the Eastern Division, while the De Anza, Ambassador (formerly Christian League) and the brand-new Mountain Valley Leagues will play in the East Valley. The Valle Vista League remains in the Mid-Valley Division while the Hacienda League (a combination of the former Miramonte and San Antonio Leagues) will play in the Southeast Division.