By Aram Tolegian
After watching the Monrovia and West Covina high school football teams run roughshod through their respective playoff divisions for the past two years, most Valley fans anticipated there were some serious changes coming both schools’ way when the CIF-Southern Section office announced its new playoff grouping proposals for the next two seasons.
The proposals were released last week and Assistant Commissioner Glenn Martinez has decided to keep Monrovia and West Covina in their respective divisions while making things a bit harder on them with the insertion of some beefed-up competition.
According to Martinez’s proposals, Monrovia and the Rio Hondo League will remain in the Mid-Valley Division. Meanwhile, the Montview and Olympic leagues will be leaving the division and heading to the Northwest. Entering the division will be the Alpha League, which features Sierra Canyon, which went 15-0 last season, and Paraclete, the Mid-Valley champion in 2008.
Monrovia has won the last two division titles, and the combined score of the past two championship games has been 91-22.
In the Southeast, West Covina’s back-to-back titles could have given Martinez reason enough to move the Bulldogs and Hacienda League to a different division. Instead, the Hacienda is staying put, as is the rest of the division, and the San Gabriel Valley League will be joining. The San Gabriel Valley League features teams such as Compton Dominguez, Paramount and Downey. The league would be getting relief after having played in the Western Division last season.
“I hate to move a league,” Martinez said. “I almost feel like I’m punishing five or six schools because of one team’s tremendous success. It’s not to downgrade or say anything bad about a successful program like West Covina or Monrovia, but I don’t think it’s fair for those other five or six schools.
“When you move a league up just because of one particular school, it’s just kind of hurting everyone and I don’t think that’s fair.”
Leagues are allowed to appeal Martinez’s proposals, and an appeals panel will convene on March 27 to consider their arguments. If an appeal is denied that day, the league can appeal again, this time to the Southern Section council at its meeting on April 25, at which time the new groupings will be ratified. Playoff groupings are set in place for two-year periods.
One area league that already stated its interest to formulate an appeal is the Montview League. Gladstone head coach Albert Sanchez, who is entering 14th year at the school and is the longest-tenured coach in the league, said Monday he’s had discussions with other disgruntled coaches in the league and an appeal would be forthcoming.
“We’ve been going back and forth, myself and a few other coaches, trying to figure out what CIF was even thinking,” Sanchez said. “Honestly, on Friday I felt like we’re basically doomed once again. We’ll be playing for a league championship then seeing how far we’re going to have to travel to lose.”
Under Martinez’s proposal, the Montview and Olympic leagues would be leaving the Mid-Valley for the Northwest Division. The Olympic, which features a local school in Maranatha, is comprised of all private schools.
So is the Del Rey League, which already calls the Northwest home. Also in the Northwest are the Pioneer and Tri-Valley leagues, which feature schools from as far away as Carpinteria and Ojai.
“I was trying to do three things,” Martinez said of his Mid-Valley proposal. “One, create a Mid-Valley that had five leagues. Two, bring some competitive equity to that division with the Rio Hondo League holding Monrovia. And finally, I think Montview is a better fit in the Northwest; one playoff win in two years and their enrollment is right in line with the other Northwest schools.”
As for the rest of the area, there was some hope from unhappy schools two years ago when the Sierra League was overhauled and put into the Inland Division that the league would be given relief as soon as the two-year period was over. That didn’t happen and, in fact, Martinez reported the Sierra League did not request a change of placement. So, that means another two years of banging heads with the best teams from the Inland Empire for Valley schools like Charter Oak and South Hills.
“They didn’t request a change, but I kind of played around with it and asked `Do they really fit?’ because that’s a pretty tough division,” Martinez said. “But Charter Oak was pretty successful and Chino Hills lost that one game that they shouldn’t have, so they’ve been pretty competitive.
“Damien, I keep thinking that Greg (Gano) is going to turn the corner. South Hills, they’re struggling, but I’m not sure where they go if you drop them down.”