May 20, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Four OC football coaches react to changes in CIF football playoff divisions

Rick Curtis will be back for his fourth season as head coach at Capo Valley Christian. (File photo Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone)

The recent announcement of the new CIF football playoff divisions have created some mixed reviews from four Orange County coaches.

Under the plan, announced by CIF Commissioner Rob Wigod, there will be a combined Division 1-2 format to begin the season consisting of 24 teams. Division 1 will then have eight teams for the playoffs and teams will be selected after the regular season. The remaining 16 will be grouped in Division 2 for the playoffs.

Orange County teams in the combined Division 1-2 include Mater Dei, Mission Viejo, Orange Lutheran, JSerra, San Clemente, Santa Margarita and Servite.

Twenty-four teams will start out in the combined CIF Division 1-2. Wigod in a release last month said that the setup is similar to the playoff format for basketball, volleyball, water polo and tennis.

A football selection committee will pick the top eight which will be placed in Division 1 and the rest will be in Division 2, Wigod said.

“In this new format, the Division 1 bracket will contain only those teams whose power rankings justify their placement into that division using the most accurate informative we have available to do so,” Wigod said in the release.

There is also a new Division 14, which will have 70 teams. The lower divisions have more teams than the first 10. Division 11 has 35 teams, Division 12 has 46 and Division 13 has 43 teams.

Rick Curtis, who will be entering his fourth year as head coach at Capo Valley Valley Christian, was among the coaches responding to OC Sports Zone for reaction.

Capo Valley Christian’s football team will drop from Division 13 to Division 14 this year.

“I think CIF and the football playoff advisory committee are working toward a solution to developing competitive equity for the CIF playoffs,” Curtis said.

“As far as the large privates, it is a distinct advantage to go to the open division format.  Schools that do not make it into the Elite 8, are then able to drop into Division 2, thus giving them the opportunity for a CIF championship at the Division 2 level.  Trinity League schools that do not make the Elite 8 and drop down to Division 2, will probably sweep through that division. This is what happened in boys basketball this past season.

“The public schools, such as the Irvine schools, look to be placed in the correct divisions based on what they have done in the past, but I am all for using the current year (as proposed for 2020) in the power point system.  I really think they should have done that for the 2019 season, as there is no reason why teams cannot enter their scores and keep them up to date during the season.

“Last year we were in Division 13 and this year we slide down to Division 14 because of the Division 1/2 setup. There are still 71 schools within our division, in comparison to the over 85 schools that were in the division last year.  The problem that we have is that once we get into the CIF playoffs we may be going up against very large public schools. This is where I think enrollment should be factored into the equation.

“Having a small Christian, school such as CVCS (enrollment of 200), going up against schools with over 2,400 students makes it difficult to advance.  As most everyone knows, football is a numbers game.

“For us, we would be better off in splitting the small schools (less than 500 enrollment) into their own division, as was the case prior to the current format. Very few small schools have a chance to win CIF football championships under this format.”

Segerstrom Coach Joseph Tagaloa said the changes likely won’t have a big impact on the Jaguars’ football program.

“After looking at the division breakdown, I don’t think there is much difference on our end,” he said. “Last year we were Division 9 and somewhere in the top 10 in that division.

“This year we have been placed in Division 10, which seems like a drop, but by adding the 14th division, in essence we basically stayed the same, which is understandable after our first round loss. At the end of the day, I am not concerned about where CIF believes we fit. All that matters to me is that I have our players ready to compete every snap regardless of who our opponent is.

“When looking at who else is in the division and who has moved up, I noticed that the teams we played tough last year are sprinkled in from Division 5 through Division 10, so I anticipate coming into the division as being somewhere in the top 10.”

Woodbridge Coach Rick Gibson said he liked the idea of more divisions.

“We were Division 8 last year,” Gibson said. “I like the idea of smaller divisions (team numbers) which leads to more participants. I know in the past, Divisions 10 and above had some teams not get in even though they finished in the top 3. That to me is wrong.

“This is supposed to eliminate that problem. We are Division 9, not sure, as in the past, where we stand. I believe CIF is setting up a time where the current season means more than the past that will truly bring competitive equity. ”

Crean Lutheran’s football team will drop from Division 11 to Division 12 for the playoffs, but the Saints will continue to compete in the tough Empire League.

“One of the major challenges of competing in the lower divisions is the exclusivity of teams that make the post season,” said Saints Coach Randall Reynoso. “Moving down a division will add some teams which means playoffs is even more exclusive in 2019 (46 schools in Division 12 more than any other division other than D14).

“Competing in the Empire League against Division 6, 7, and 8 teams adds to the challenge of seeking a post season opportunity. There are still many quality opponents in D12, as well.”

Wigod, the CIF commissioner, also indicated in his release that the CIF will consider using the format that is being utilized for Division 1 and 2 this year in 2020.

“…In the sport of football, we would like to use the 2019 season as a testing period for the possibility of including current regular season results and potentially creating playoff divisions at the end of the regular season in 2020,” Wigod said in his release.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com