Attention 2018 prep football. This is your wakeup call.
Yes, it is earlier than usual.
The City and Southern sections kick off their seasons starting today, Aug. 16, with regular nonleague and league seasons ending in October and section title games being played during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The state football playoffs will take place during the first two weeks of December.
“Basically it was dictated by the CIF state office,” noted Sports Information Director Dick Dornan of the LA City Section. “It’s to have everybody on the same timeline for all three seasons (fall, winter and spring.)
“This is a rare occurrence. The state (wants to coordinate with) the National Federation of High Schools’ calendar. They wanted to make sure all 10 sections were on the same page. Next year it will return (to the regular starting calendar). But now, every seventh year this happens because in every year the calendar moves up a day. So every seventh year, you will have an early start like this.”
Understandably, not all coaches were thrilled when they first heard the news. While many, when asked, seem to be in the “it is what it is” camp, Birmingham Charter High Coach Jim Rose did not mince words in expressing his dissatisfaction.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Rose said. “We’re in Southern California. We’re gonna have three games in August. Back when I went to school, school didn’t start until after Labor Day. And we’re moving up the season for what? So four teams don’t play into their Christmas break, or something? There’s a thousand teams in California. It seems way too early.”
Chaminade High Coach Ed Croson — whose team plays in the Southern Section and opens tonight against Oaks Christian High of Westlake Village — pointed out a particular disadvantage.
“Our problem is they did not move training camp back a week,” Croson said. “What essentially happened is we all lost a week,” which is a third of early summer practice weeks. “In all the years past, after the first week of practice we would have a scrimmage, after second week our blue-and-orange game. Then another scrimmage, and then start. With losing a week of camp, our first inter-squad scrimmage was in pads. And you can’t teach what we have to teach in three days before a game.
“It was just bad…the City is different, I think they allowed their people to go more than three days in transition. If we wanted to work in helmets, it would be Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We have to worry about a rash of injuries…no one’s happy about this.”
The weather concern is a genuine one, since August and September are traditionally very hot months. But as Dornan said, “It did shorten the summer, there’s basically not much you can do. Adhere to protocol for safety, but otherwise go play. Again, this year will be the rare exception.”
Still, it should not diminish some of the possible storylines for this season. To wit:
Can San Fernando High repeat as a City champion? The Tigers last pulled off back-to back-titles in 2012 and 2013. Back then they were in City’s Division II. There’s no guarantee they will get to defend their Division I championship because — depending on how they play — the Tigers could instead find themselves in the City’s Open Division come playoff time. That would mean probably having to go through teams like defending Open champion Narbonne High of Harbor City or Crenshaw High of Los Angeles, which won the state CIF Division IV-AA championship bowl game last December. Like we said, no guarantees.
If San Fernando goes Open Division, what Valley team in the City could join them? Birmingham — which played in the Open Division last year — and El Camino Real Charter High could also wind up in the City’s top bracket. Whoever wins the West Valley League could expect an Open invite. They would be the top contenders from there, but don’t sleep on Cleveland High.
What about the Mission Valley League teams chasing San Fernando? Reseda High doesn’t have a huge quantity of bodies, but the Regents could certainly win the league if the Tigers falter. The rest of the league teams — Canoga Park, Kennedy, Panorama, Sylmar and Van Nuys — are more question marks than known facts.
Any sense of how the East Valley League stacks up? Not especially. It seems Arleta High’s league title to lose, but the Mustangs could be pushed by either Chavez or Grant — if those teams can stay healthy and intact. Monroe, North Hollywood, Poly and Verdugo Hills would appear on the surface not to have the personnel to challenge those three. But there’s a reason why they play the games.
The Mission League is one of the most competitive in the Southern Section. What says the crystal ball here? It’s cloudy. Chaminade, the defending league champion, is a Division I team (as are last year’s playoff teams Bishop Amat High of La Puente and Serra High of Gardena) but has sturdy roadblocks outside of league blocking its path to a section title game in St. John Bosco High of Bellflower and Mater Dei High of Santa Ana. Alemany, Crespi, Loyola of Los Angeles and Notre Dame — section Division II and Division IV teams — are fighting to get back into the league championship picture.
Who are other potential section title contenders from the Valley? Teams like Harvard-Westlake, Sierra Canyon, St. Genevieve, Campbell Hall, and Heritage Christian are in lower divisions but play football just as fierce as their bigger brethren. Some, like Sierra Canyon High, are perennial contenders. Others depend on how the season breaks for them.
These questions, and others will be defined and answered over the next 10-14 weeks.
That’s another reason why they play the games.