The CIF-Southern Section released its 2017 playoff groupings Thursday largely to a collective yawn from Foothill League football coaches.
The divisions, it seems, didn’t differ much from a tentative draft produced about a month ago.
Still, it’s hard to believe there weren’t a few sighs of relief across the Santa Clarita Valley as several area teams bordered on moving up a division in the official groupings for next season.
Valencia, a semifinalist in Division 2 in 2016, was the second-highest rated team in Division 2, according to the CIF’s one-year-old competitive equity system, which takes into account factors like strength of league and playoff performance over the last two years.
Three more points added to the Vikings’ ranking and they’d be looking down the barrel of a brutal Division 1.
Hart, a victim of a first-round Division 3 defeat last year, was the highest ranked team in Division 3, and West Ranch had the second-best mark in Division 9.
“I guess that’s where we belonged,” said Hart coach Mike Herrington, who as a member of the CIF-SS Coaches Advisory Committee had seen a tentative draft. “We were close. We were the top-ranked team as far as the power rankings go in Division 3. I don’t know about that. We haven’t done anything in the playoffs the last two years.”
Golden Valley was the only Foothill League team to change divisions. On the heels of their first-ever playoff berth and a trip to the Division 7 semifinals, the Grizzlies hopped up to D6.
Golden Valley coach Dan Kelley, too, previously saw unofficial division lines. He said he would have expected the bump up anyway.
“We went to the semis last year. That’s the system: If you’re successful in the playoffs, you move up,” he said. “That’s just the way it’s set up. We’re excited to be in Division 6. We’re ready to compete at that level.”
Canyon and Saugus will also be Division 6. The Centurions made the grouping’s quarterfinals last season before losing by two to Wilson of Long Beach.
As a third-place team, though, the Centurions weren’t necessarily guaranteed a playoff spot under the new system.
The Foothill League gets three “guaranteed” playoff entries. However, since a division may be made up of multiple leagues, it’s possible for it to have more guaranteed entries than the 16-team bracket allows.
In that case, league champs have first priority, followed by second place teams, third place teams and so on.
The at-large selection process is used to eliminate excess guaranteed teams from the draw.
“In our division there are 19 teams that represent 17 leagues and only 16 playoff spots,” Herrington said. “Let’s say those team are all first-place teams, which could possibly happen, then one first-place team would not make the playoffs. So you could be a second-place team and not make the playoffs. That’s the bad thing about it.”
Santa Clarita Christian and Trinity Classical Academy will both remain in Division 13 this season, a grouping that features 84 schools, or 66 more than divisions 1 or 2.
SCCS made the quarterfinals last season.