CIF-SS Council deals blow to several Southland football powers, but that’s good news for Cathedral and St. Francis

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OFFICIAL: Catholic League
Bishop Amat, Serra, Loyola, Notre Dame, Alemany, Chaminade and Crespi
OFFICIAL: Mission League
St. Paul, St. Francis, Cathedral, Salesian, Harvard-Westlake and La Salle

LONG BEACH — The Catholic Athletic Association left the fate of two of its most important leagues in the hands of the CIF-Southern Section and when all the votes were in, several representatives from some of the Southland’s top football powers were disappointed.

The CAA saw its football-only league proposals voted in at Wednesday’s council meeting, then successfully appealed by Cathedral High School, which left one of the major goals of the association unmet. That goal was to create two, four-team leagues that will likely compete in the Pac-5 Division.

Instead, the council voted in Cathedral’s proposal that the two, four-team leagues be turned into one, seven-team league that did not include Cathedral, as originally planned. In the process, the council nixed the CAA’s major objective of securing two, four-team leagues so that it would get four guaranteed playoff spots. With a seven-team league, only three playoff spots will be guaranteed.

“The CAA voted and the final two proposals were 24-0 to have two, four-team leagues,” Chaminade athletic director Todd Borowski said. “We knew there was nothing else we could (today). There was no other appeals and you just have to go with what the council votes.

“We had our say, but apparently it wasn’t good enough. This is a great learning thing for us.”

The big winner in all of it was Cathedral, which avoided being placed in one of the two powerful four-team leagues. Another winner was St. Francis, which faced the prospect of replacing Cathedral in one of the leagues if Cathedral had argued that the Knights were a better fit.

Cathedral’s argument, though, was based on competitive equity and principal Brother John Montgomery made a compelling case that his school did not belong at the Pac-5 level. The final vote tally for Cathedral’s appeal and subsequent plan was 46 (for), 16 (against) and 12 abstentions.

“It’s hard because I feel for those guys because I know they didn’t want a seven-team league because that’s a gauntlet to go through,” St. Francis football coach Jim Bonds said. “I do think the council made the right decision today. It was in their hands and we would have had to live with whatever that decision was regardless.”

The new seven-team Catholic League, which is likely to be placed in the Pac-5 Division next month when playoff groupings are announced, consists of Alemany, Bishop Amat, Chaminade, Crespi, Loyola, Notre Dame and Serra.

The Mission League will now be Cathedral, St. Francis, Salesian, St. Paul, La Salle and Harvard-Westlake. The league configurations will start next school year and last four years.

The CAA had been to the drawing board several times trying and the one overriding theme was the desire to have two, four-team leagues. Where the CAA met trouble was in finding a suitable eighth team to round out the two-league formation.

At first, it was Salesian. But Salesian appealed and won, causing the CAA to put forth another proposal that replaced Salesian with Cathedral, which immediately said it would appeal that idea at Wednesday’s meeting.

“The council made their vote and the council does have the ability to move schools and/or leagues,” CIF-Southern Section commissioner Rob Wigod said following the meeting. “And they did. They made the move to let Cathedral go to the Mission League.

“It’s always the responsibilities of the leagues and the areas to form these leaguing configurations. If they do them and everyone is happy, we’re not here. But as you saw today, there was a school (Cathedral) who felt they were placed in appropriately.”

In other business, the council voted to support a motion that would limit the amount of practice time teams can have in a week to 18 hours in six days and no more than four hours in one day. The new rule will directly football teams who spend long days on the practice field during “hell week” in the form of two-a-day practices.

“This is a state-wide proposal and it’s been looked at by the CIF-State health advisory committee and sports medicine committee,” Wigod said. “A lot of people have said we have do something to limit the time that kids are involved in sports. It’s a health and safety issue.”

The measure will need to pass at the State Federated Council meeting to get enacted.

One motion that was overwhelmingly shot down was a measure that would have allowed athletes to play both club and high school sports at the same time while that sport is in season.

St. Francis might be movin’ on up if it’s left to the CIF-Southern Section council …

There’s a vibe out there among those who closely follow the Catholic Athletic Association’s high school football re-leaguing process that one more twist or turn is coming.

It’s the same vibe that one might get while watching a cinematic thriller that fools you into thinking the ending is obvious before one final act shatters all preconceived notions and leaves the audience with its mouth open.

In theory, the final act to this saga should have already been played out when the CAA met on Tuesday and in a close vote put forth its latest and final proposal for league alignments that would span the next four years.

On April 30, the CIF-Southern Section council will meet to ratify the new leagues and move forward in the process of cementing things so that the next order of business — the new playoff groupings proposals — can take place in May.

One problem, though. Cathedral High School is going to appeal the CAA’s league proposal. Big deal, you say. Appeals rarely win, right? And how can one win an appeal on the very deadline day that everything needs to be finalized?

Well, this is where the aforementioned final twist will take place. In the eyes of this reporter, Cathedral stands a very good chance to win its appeal and if I were St. Francis, I would be getting my argument against joining the Pac-5 Division ready because you’re likely to need it.

At issue is Cathedral’s placement in what’s being called the Catholic South League along with Bishop Amat, Loyola and Serra. The Phantoms don’t feel they belong at the Pac-5 level. It’s the same argument Salesian recently made in its successful appeal, which led to this latest proposal.

Basically, the CAA’s solution was to swap Salesian for Cathedral. That’s not going to work either. At least it shouldn’t. No matter how one feels about how Cathedral and Salesian do business, it’s hard to make an argument that either is more Pac-5 ready than St. Francis.

How St. Francis has avoided being fingered as the team that should be moving up to fill the final spot in the Catholic South League is a total mystery. Personally, I don’t think that any of the trio of Cathedral, Salesian and St. Francis belong in the Pac-5. But if somebody’s gotta do it, the numbers don’t lie and it should be St. Francis.

The Knights are 3-1 against Cathedral over the past four years and the lone loss was by two points. The Knights have finished above Cathedral in the Mission League in three of the past four years.

Some will argue that Cathedral, with its penchant for attracting transfers and supposed craftiness in helping with the financial burden of attending a private school, is better equipped to handle the leap than St. Francis, which is expensive, doesn’t offer much in terms of aid and rarely gets transfers.

While there may be a lot of truth to that, the problem for St. Francis is that it will get laughed off the stage if it tries to use that argument before the council. The main thing that will be considered is competitive equity and Cathedral has a heck of a case if it goes that route and suggests St. Francis be the program to round out the Catholic South.

What high school football fans are witnessing here is actually a microcosm of one of the major plagues of the CAA. So many of the schools in the group frown upon the others for the way they do business.

While some athletic programs abstain from playing the recruiting/athletic scholarship game and ultimately pay the price in terms of wins and losses, others are consistently accused of recruiting or luring top talent, some of which is in the form of transfers. Those schools are the ones winning championships. Ain’t that right, St. John Bosco?

It’s quite the contradiction. Behind closed doors and under their breath, certain CAA schools often entertain the idea and bounce around the concept of starting their own entity separate from CIF. We’ve all heard it at some point.

But how can that happen if nobody can seem to agree on the proper way to do business? How can that happen if you base league placements on which schools play the recruiting game better? How can that happen if there’s contradiction all over the place?

From Damien and St. Bonaventure’s arbitration hearing win and subsequent exclusion from the parochial area to Cathedral and Salesian claiming they can’t be in the same league as each other to now St. Francis being shielded from being the obvious team to round out a league, it’s been a fiasco of a year for the Catholic parochial schools.

One of several things can happen at the council meeting on April 30. Cathedral could lose its appeal and further drama will be avoided. But if the Phantoms win, then there’s a live chance that the council will decide the fate of the CAA leagues.

It’s never good to leave your fate in somebody else’s hands. It’s never a good feeling to let somebody do your thinking for you. But that’s exactly what might happen and probably should at this point.

This council meeting is supposed to be for the simple process of ratifying league proposals that are well thought out and not contradictory. Instead, you can bet there will be fireworks and probably one final twist.

Muir WR/DB Taeon Mason offered by Notre Dame …


Muir wide receiver/defensive back can add Notre Dame to his growing list of suitors.

The Fighting Irish offered the senior-to-be on Tuesday. Mason is reportedly already at USC commit, but is open to all offers. UCLA and Oregon have also shown interest, if not offers.

Although Mason plays both ways for the Mustangs, he projects as a cornerback in college and is one of the top recruits in the country at that position.

Mason was a Star-News All-Area selection last season.

Aram’s Take: If you’re handicapping where Mason goes, you have to think USC will be it. The whole Kevon Seymour (former Muir player now starting DB) connection is going to be tough to overcome. Also, be very afraid of Muir this season … if the Mustangs find a QB.

Brigham Harwell’s Trench Hogs ready to unleash on the Valley this season …

The high school football offseason has plenty going on to show fans just how good their team will be at the skill positions. But what about the linemen?

You don’t see the big guys, err trench hogs, at out passing tournaments unless they’re watching in the stands. No, they’re typically hidden away in smelly weight rooms trying to lay the foundation for success.

That is until former Los Altos standout Brigham Harwell started Trench Hogs, a weekly workout designed to help offensive and defensive linemen get the extra polish that’s usually reserved for skill position players.

“You’re only as good as your lines,” said Harwell, who was the Tribune Player of the Year in 2003 and later played at UCLA. “That’s why I wanted to do Trench Hogs. You only go as far as your linemen.

“I wish their coaches would see see the kind of work they’re doing. The coaches aren’t seeing it, but they’ll see it in camp, because by August these guys are going to be top-notch players.”

Harwell, now an assistant coach at Cantwell Sacred Heart in Montebello, holds the workouts on weekend mornings at Cantwell. Saturdays are for skills work while Sundays are for weight room. There are 15-20 participants on a given weekend.

“It’s amazing to see guys wake up every weekend and be here,” Harwell said. “I went hard during the week in high school, but I would never workout during the weekends. These guys are a different breed. They don’t go on vacation. Football is their lives.”

Harwell is set to unleash his proteges on the local scene this fall, headlined by Bishop Amat’s Ryan Munoz and Andrew Vasquez, and Los Altos’ David Jimenez.

Jimenez is already known a quantity. He was a force last season as a junior and figures to be one of the top defensive linemen in the area this fall. Listed at 6-foot, 255 pounds, Jimenez had 65 tackles last season, including 11 tackles for loss.

“Jimenez is just a strong guy, a lot of power,” Harwell said. “He’s going to be a senior and knows that this is his year.”

Munoz and Vasquez saw limited playing time for Amat last year but figure to be counted on heavily in their junior season. Both players could quickly develop into stars for the Lancers, according to Harwell.

“This year would be their year to make their nose in the Valley,” Harwell said. “They know all the tricks.

“Andrew has technique and is really fast and explosive. Ryan is just all around a good defensive tackle. He has it all.”

Is Monrovia about to become a Wing-T offense?

An ad posted on the CIF by Monrovia football seeking an offensive line coach with knowledge of the Wing-T offense created some grumblings among area football pundits that the Wildcats were going to run the archaic offense under new head coach Chris Stevens.

Stevens put those fears to rest on Friday, explaining that while their will be some elements of the Wing-T in his offense, the Wildcats will be a hybrid that works the ball to their play makers in a myriad of ways.

“We are running the Wing in the run part of it,” Stevens said of his offense. “We are going to have a little bit of the Wing-T run scheme up front. We’re going to block down, pull and kick.

“I’m a hybrid guy. I don’t just sit in one formation and run the ball 80 percent and throw the ball 20 percent. It’s a balanced attack. I’ve incorporated the Wing-T run game with the spread passing game.”

The clarification has to be good news for the strength of Monrovia’s returning nucleus — the wide receivers. The Wildcats have a scary collection of talent on the outside led by Octavius Spencer, James Jackson and Kahlil Bradley.

The bad news for Monrovia’s opponents is that Stevens has designs on not only getting his talented wide outs the ball down the field, but also on jet sweeps.

“They are the group that we return the most experience,” Stevens said of his receivers. “We’re going to get the ball in their hands and make them be the play makers that they are.”

Monrovia begins spring practice on May 5.