This is why Golden Valley football isn’t in the playoffs

Golden Valley senior Johnathan Kaelin runs with the ball in a Foothill League matchup with West Ranch at Harry Welch Stadium on Nov. 7. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Golden Valley football coach Dan Kelley doesn’t call his team’s absence from the CIF-Southern Section Division 6 playoffs a snub. He calls it a shame.

“The team that had the best season in school history didn’t get an opportunity to show that they really have in Divison 6,” Kelley said. “It’s a shame, it’s not a snub.”

When the CIF-SS released the playoff brackets at noon on Nov. 3, the Grizzlies, with an 8-2 overall record and a 3-2 Foothill League record, were not chosen as an at-large bid.

Kelley, the rest of the coaching staff and the players were stunned. After a winning season that included historic wins over Saugus and Hart, Golden Valley seemed poised for a deep playoff run.

“It was absolutely terrible for the players,” Kelley said. “Take the coaches out of it. The student-athletes, especially the seniors, they only get one shot at high school football. High school football is once in a lifetime and it was taken away from them and they deserve better.”

MORE: CIF-SS announces football playoff brackets

With 20 schools in Division 6, there is only one at-large team. Compared to other divisions in the Southern Section, that number is very small. Division 10 is the only other school that has one at-large team, while Division 12 and Division 14 have none.

The Grizzlies were on the cusp of making the cut, but Los Osos was ultimately selected as the at-large team by the CIF-SS selection process.

The process takes into consideration head-to-head competition (four points), common opponents (one point), overall record (one point), strength of schedule (two points) and strength of league (one point).

Golden Valley and Los Osos did not play each other and had no common opponents. The Grizzlies had the advantage in overall record, but Los Osos received points for strength of schedule and strength of league.

Strength of schedule was determined by the overall record of all opponents and Los Osos checks in at 52-48, while Golden Valley is at 47-52. The CIF-SS uses CalPreps rankings to determine the strength of leagues. The Baseline League is ranked No. 5 and the Foothill League is ranked No. 10.

Based on that information, Los Osos came out on top, 3-1, to secure the at-large spot.

Kelley agreed that the CalPreps rankings and information is almost always accurate, but thinks that the “project a matchup” function on the CalPreps website might have been a useful tool to take into consideration when choosing an at-large team.

In CalPreps’ hypothetical projection, Golden Valley beats Los Osos 28-27.

Also working against Golden Valley this season was the Foothill League’s coin-flip tiebreaker procedure. The Grizzlies had tied with Hart and West Ranch for second place in the final league standings, calling for a coin flip.

Golden Valley lost the coin flip, relegating them to fourth place in league and denying them an automatic bid to the playoffs.

“You tie in the Foothill League at No. 2, which is a huge milestone for Golden Valley and you’re exited out of the playoffs because of a coin flip that transpires in a parking lot at the district office,” Kelley said. “There’s no cut and dried system aside from a coin flip.”

“It shouldn’t be on (our principal’s) shoulders that a coin flip dictated 43 players’ future in high school football.”

MORE: GV football defeats Hart for first time in program history

Equally surprising as Golden Valley’s denial of playoffs was Canyon’s acceptance into the postseason. Canyon finished the season 2-8 overall and went winless in Foothill League, but was an at-large selection for Division 7.

Division 7, a 21-team division, has three at-large bids. Six teams submitted for at-large consideration, according to the CIF-SS offices, and the Cowboys were selected based on point totals.

Valencia of Placentia was the first at-large selection since it had a record of over .500. Huntington Beach was chosen next because it had the most points according to the CIF-SS  selection process. Lastly, Canyon made the cut due to strength of schedule and strength of league.

Canyon coach Joe Maiale said his team’s admittance to the playoffs was unexpected.

“Before the last couple weeks in league, we thought we had a shot at an at large and you have to put int he at-large bid before you play the last game,” he said. “We didn’t beat Saugus. I think we all thought the season was over.”

Since Golden Valley and Canyon are in different divisions, neither really had anything to do with which team made the cut and which didn’t. In terms of the league’s coin-flip tiebreak procedure, however, Maiale shared similar views to Kelley but admitted a perfect system is far from achievable.

“I think most people would like to have a better (tiebreak), something that just doesn’t rely on luck,” said Maiale, who helped coach Oxnard to a Division 6 championship game last season.

“Once you start talking about things like margin of victory, that leads to leaving starters in, trying to run up the score because you have no choice and ultimately is that not only poor sportsmanship, you have to win by more. You leave starters in, someone gets hurt. There’s no perfect situation.”

Kelley said that he had heard rumors that the CIF-SS is considering changing its at-large process, but can’t say anything for certain. While he hopes for change for the future, he and his team are still celebrating the accomplishments of the 2019 season.

“It’s been a hard week as coaches and also players,” he said. “It was a historical season for GV … and we’re not going to let us not in the playoffs ruin that.”

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