About 9:30 p.m. Friday, six football teams from the Central Section will be celebrating for two primary reasons:
▪ They’ve just won a section title.
▪ They will play in a CIF State Regional.
No more will the Central Section champion – or any of the other 51 section champions in the state, for that matter – have to wait a dreadful day or two to learn if they’ll advance to a regional as determined previously by a subjective voting process.
“That’s been eliminated and all the political junk that goes with it,” Central Section Commissioner Jim Crichlow says of a substantially expanded state postseason party.
“That’s the idea,” says Ron Nocetti, associate executive director of the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs prep athletics in the state. “The biggest comment we’re getting from schools is they really appreciate the fact if they win a section they’re going to play again and will not have to rely on who thinks who is better. That’s been a positive reaction.”
Regional and Open Division matchups will be determined by the state’s 10 section commissioners Sunday at the Irvine Marriott, beginning at 11 a.m.
The latest expansion – following two previously in a state bowl system launched in 2006 – calls for 12 regionals at host sites in both the state’s North and South next weekend. Teams will not be seeded; rather, placed via a seven-point competitive equity criteria in these divisions: I-AA, I-A, II-AA, II-A, III-AA, III-A, IV-AA, IV-A, V-AA, V-A, VI-II and Open Small-School Division. Those winners will then be paired in North vs. South bowl matchups Dec. 18-19.
Teams selected for the elite Open Division will not play a regional and, instead, go directly to a state championship at 8 p.m. Dec. 19 at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium.
The regional and Open Division matchups will be determined by the state’s 10 section commissioners Sunday at the Irvine Marriott, beginning at 11 a.m. Crichlow expects the process to last about three hours. Participating teams will then be notified before the matchups are announced publicly.
Only section champions will be eligible, but for a couple of exceptions. And those do not apply to the Central Section.
Criteria considerations for divisional placement and hosting are: win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head competition, common opponents, various website rankings (i.e., MaxPreps, Cal-Hi Sports, CalPreps), opponents’ win-loss records and venue suitability.
Traditionally attached to the South in all sports involved in state regionals, the Central Section’s D-I, III and V football champions will play in the North while the II, IV and VI winners remain in the South.
There’s a twist in all this for the Central Section.
Traditionally attached to the South in all sports involved in state regionals, the section’s D-I, III and V football champions will play in the North while the II, IV and VI winners remain in the South.
The purpose is to help balance the postseason card in a state that has 936 schools in the South and 599 in the North. Playing in the North is well received by the Central Section, which has long felt that’s a more natural fit for all sports and continues to campaign for a permanent switch, with Crichlow beating the drum.
It has been difficult for the section to compete in the South, specifically with powerhouses from the 579-school Southern Section. The South also includes the Los Angeles City and San Diego sections.
Of the postseason football games – 37 in all – 32 will be played at host sites.
The five exceptions are considered marquee championships – the two Open Division games and also those in I-AA, I-A and II-AA. Those will be Dec. 18-19 at Hornet Stadium.
While, technically, participating teams won’t be seeded, the procedure will involve seeding elements in both division placement and hosting.
For example: the winner among the Central Section’s D-I finalists Friday night, Clovis and Liberty-Bakersfield at Lamonica Stadium, likely will be slotted in II-AA or II-A for a regional. The Cougars and Patriots would be considered too strong for IV or V. And the premise of competitive equity is to match opponents with like ability, regardless of enrollment.
Cal-Hi Sports Editor Mark Tennis, to name three Central Section examples, has Clovis projected for II-AA, Hanford in IV-AA and Immanuel for V-A. But, again, all have to win Friday to hit the state committee’s greaseboard at Irvine.
Crichlow says five of the section’s 12 finalists stand good chances of hosting a regional – Clovis or Liberty-Bakersfield, Ridgeview, Immanuel and Kennedy.
Interestingly, if section coaches are thinking state regional, they’re not admitting it.
I think every coach and player know (the regionals) are out there, but, personally, I don’t think beyond Friday night, I really don’t.
Hanford coach Josh Young on what he believes is the No. 1 goal of local coaches: winning a section championship
Several contacted expressed the same sentiment: Winning a section title is priority. Achieve that and regional mental and physical preparation will begin Sunday night.
“Our goal is to win the Valley title, which is a huge deal,” Clovis coach Rich Hammond says. “The next step is an opportunity to make history for our school and play in a bowl.”
Coach Josh Young of defending D-III champion Hanford says: “I think every coach and player know (the regionals) are out there, but, personally, I don’t think beyond Friday night, I really don’t. Our goal is not to go to a regional; we want to be back-to-back (section) champs.”
So immersed in a D-V duel with top-seeded Immanuel at Reedley High on Friday night, Mendota coach Beto Mejia wasn’t even aware that the regional carrot dangles: “We win and we go? Oh man, I’ll try to get that.”
All games at 7 p.m. Friday
Division I: No. 2 Liberty-Bakersfield at No. 1 Clovis
Division II: No. 2 Lemoore at No. 1 Ridgeview
Division III: No. 2 Memorial at No. 1 Hanford
Division IV: No. 4 Chowchilla at No. 3 Washington
Division V: No. 7 Mendota at No. 1 Immanuel
Division VI: No. 2 Avenal at No. 1 Kennedy