Grant and Van Nuys will inaugurate the Los Angeles City Section 2015 prep football season at 7 p.m. tonight, Aug. 27, as far as Valley-area teams are concerned. More games take place on Friday, Aug. 28. And the next 11 weeks will alternate between ecstasy and anguish, as well as rapture and resignation. Then the playoffs start.
As with every season, there are questions. All three divisions that play 11-man football have been reshuffled. The best division for a Valley team to win a City title — for now — looks like Division III. The most competitive division with Valley teams in it appears to be Division II.
The one with the most questions for Valley teams is Division I.
Let’s start there.
Of the 20 Valley teams that play City football, six are in Division I. Birmingham, in 2007, was the last team from here to win that title. Since then Division I has been run primarily by Narbonne of Harbor City, the defending champ who also won titles in 2012, 2011 and tied for the 2008 title with San Pedro; and Crenshaw of Los Angeles, champions in 2013, 2010, and 2009.
Arleta, El Camino Real, San Fernando, Sylmar, and Taft join Birmingham as the Valley’s 2015 entries. All share a similar circumstance: having a competitive enough schedule to warrant a reasonable seeding (as in at least one home playoff game), and being able to match up against the tremendous athletic football talent that has inhabited those schools the past few years.
“Most of the D-I schools like Narbonne, Crenshaw, Carson, they already competitive with each other because they are [the type] of teams they see every year,” San Fernando Coach Robert Garcia said. “On the San Fernando Valley side, now it’s us, Sylmar, Birmingham, Taft, Arleta, El Camino Real…there are not too many.”
Another issue are the leagues the teams play in. Arleta (East Valley), and San Fernando and Sylmar (Valley Mission) have have both Division II and Division III teams in their leagues. That tends to lessen the value of the championships of those leagues in the eyes of the selection committee and the computer rankings. Even if Arleta, San Fernando or Sylmar go undefeated in league play, that’s no guarantee they would open the playoffs on their home field.
What ultimately has to change is the playoff performance. The Valley teams have to win against the Division I teams “down the hill” to garner respect.
“We have to do a better job of trying to keep up with them. I’m not blaming anybody else,” Arleta Coach Bill Coan said. “That’s what we have to do.”
No one believes any of the six schools here would turn down a chance to play Narbonne, Crenshaw, or any other City Division I in the Coliseum in December. What has to be proven is that they can keep up once they’re on the same playing field.
Division II will have a new champion. Both finalists from last year — Sylmar and eventual winner Hamilton of Los Angeles — have moved into Division I.
There are seven area teams in the division: Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Cleveland, Granada Hills, Grant, Poly and Verdugo Hills.
Canoga Park and Chatsworth may be teams to watch.
The Hunters have moved out of Division I but still have a Division I kind of schedule with nonleague games against Taft, Birmingham, Palisades, and league games against San Fernando and Sylmar. If Canoga Park can survive and get into the playoffs, the Hunters would be very battle-tested.
Tyger Goslin, a junior, opened some eyes last year when he took over as Chatsworth’s quarterback. The Chancellors also have two top returning running backs in seniors Javin Mitra and Tawan Funches; if a receiver corp can be developed to balance the rushing attack, the Chancellors could be dangerous.
Contenders could emerge from the other five Valley schools — particularly Cleveland, which seemed to come on toward the end of last season — but fans will have a better read on those teams as 2015 progresses.
The biggest non-Valley competition, historically, has come from Los Angeles schools Fairfax, University, Jefferson and Westchester. But there are two other new entries that will stir the pot — Los Angeles High, which won the 2014 Division III championship, and View Park of Los Angeles.
Wide Open Division
Division III has the largest number of City teams, with 25. It also has the largest collection of teams that, competitively, are close to each other.
Valley-area schools in Division III include Chavez, Kennedy, Monroe, North Hollywood, Panorama, Reseda and Van Nuys.
Reseda was happy to escape Division I after being placed there in 2011. That was also the Regents’ last winning season; having to consistently go up against bigger, more physical programs took a toll. But now Reseda, in the words of Coach Alonso Arreola, can again play teams “that look like us.” It will be interesting to see where the Regents stand come November.
Kennedy was Division I as recently as 2012. It spent the last two years in Division II. Division III might seem like another demotion, but it could also be a blessing. Coach Terrance Johnson, who took over the program last last year, should have time to rebuild the players’ confidence and skill levels without the pressure of trying to knock off better teams — at least this year.
What also bears watching: does the resurgence Monroe enjoyed, reaching the Division III championship game, continue this year? Or do the Vikings embark on another 2-3 year rebuilding plan?
These are but a few of the questions that color the football landscape in 2015.
The answers start forming tonight.