Clovis News: Sports

Extra games for CIF state bowl bids may give section a shot

Central Section representatives acknowledge two things about the expansion of the California Interscholastic Federation state football bowl championships, effective 2012:

It will increase the chances of a section team making the five-division finals at Carson's Home Depot Center. That hasn't happened in the event's five-year history.

There is no guarantee the section will be involved, not even in the new regional format, which was approved last week in a 7-3 vote by the CIF's Federated Council.

"That," section commissioner Jim Crichlow said, "would be a reach."

Regional championships will be conducted in each of the five divisions -- Open, I, II, III and IV -- with Northern winners matched against the Southern winners in the state finals. The Central Section is aligned with the South.

Regionals will be played at or near sites of the higher seeded team, Crichlow said.

He voted in favor of the expansion, which is geared toward the Central Section as much as any because of its difficulty penetrating a dance dominated by the Southern Section.

The Southern was one of three sections -- the North Coast and San Diego being the others -- that voted against the expansion.

"They don't want us to have the opportunity of getting in [to a championship] automatically [by winning a regional]," Crichlow said.

But Crichlow emphasized that the regionals -- effectively one round of state semifinals -- still will require that teams win section titles to even be considered.

"And you just don't know who will match up," Crichlow said.

He did say, however, that at least two section teams -- Clovis East (Division I) in 2006 and Washington (D-III) in 2010 -- likely would have made regionals had the new arrangement been in place. (State bowl divisions vary a bit from section playoff divisions. Washington, for example, won last season's section D-IV title.)

"This really increases our opportunity," Crichlow said.

Clovis West coach Mike Parsons responded with guarded optimism: "Well, it's better than it was; it's a step forward, definitely."

He knows the drill, having won what was then called a state Small School Division with a 15-0 Modesto Christian team of the Sac-Joaquin Section in 2009.

And that drill -- for a Central Section team to even approach automatic consideration, he said -- goes beyond winning league and section titles.

It first probably calls for that team to not only go unbeaten against strong nonleague opposition, but also have a few of those nonleague schools go on and reach section finals.

Clovis West, which received state bowls attention last year after going 12-1 and winning the section D-I championship, has a formidable nonleague schedule in Merced, Del Oro-Loomis, Crespi-Encino, Bullard and Edison.

A key target is Crespi of the Southern Section, which gave the Golden Eagles their only 2010 loss (34-33).

"I think you have to beat a Southern California team," Parsons said, "to get in serious [bowl] conversation."