In the middle of the high school basketball and soccer playoffs, I just have to tell you about this startling agreement reached by the Gold Coast League for the 2018 football season: Chatsworth Sierra Canyon and Lancaster Paraclete are guaranteed the league's two automatic playoff spots regardless of their record.
The other four league schools that play 11-man football — Brentwood, Calabasas Viewpoint, Lancaster McAuliffe and North Hollywood Campbell Hall — in return won't be required to play Sierra Canyon or Paraclete. They will compete for third place.
This decision was made because Sierra Canyon and Paraclete have apparently gotten too strong for the other schools in football. Viewpoint forfeited to Paraclete last year, citing safety reasons.
Based on this decision, Sierra Canyon and Paraclete could go 0-9 before meeting in their season finale and still be awarded the two automatic playoff berths from the league.
Asked if the Southern Section would intervene, Southern Section spokesman Thom Simmons said: "We can't do something that is not in our power, according to the bylaws."
Sierra Canyon and Paraclete certainly aren't feeling bad. In fact, they get to schedule nine nonleague games against quality opponents before ending the regular season playing for the Gold Coast League title.
Sierra Canyon has already scheduled games against Westlake, Lawndale, Redondo, Valencia, Bakersfield, Simi Valley Grace Brethren, Calabasas and San Pedro. Paraclete still has openings but reached agreement to play Higley (Ariz.), West Hills Chaminade, Quartz Hill, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame and La Cañada St. Francis.
The Southern Section had better take notice, because if schools can get together and decide not to play a particular school, others might follow. Should Moore League teams stop playing Long Beach Poly because it dominates? Last season, the Jackrabbits won a league game 81-0. And another they won 64-0.
Said Simmons: "The bylaws provide no direction or ability for us other than to accept the entries of the league. It's not something we would push, but it's not our role to get involved. It's a league decision."
Campbell Hall Athletic Director Juan Velazquez said his school, which competes in the Division 13 playoffs, is not ready to face Division 3 Sierra Canyon.
"We're trying this for this year," he said.
This could be a developing weakness of the new Southern Section playoff format that places each school in a specific playoff division regardless of the league. Schools can keep rising within a league while others are stuck.
At a minimum, the Gold Coast League has launched a debate about what to do when ambitious programs become too good within a league. The other schools have basically waved the white flag of surrender when it comes to playing Sierra Canyon or Paraclete in football.
"I think it's wrong and goes against everything competitive athletics is about," Sierra Canyon football Coach Jon Ellinghouse said.
"It's crazy," Paraclete Coach Dean Herrington said.
But at a time when parents are concerned about safety issues in football, the other schools don't have any other choice. They can't simply boot Sierra Canyon and Paraclete out of the league. And taking a forfeit is worse.
Without membership providing new options, the Southern Section can't do anything. Remember the Southern Section tried to move Westlake Village Oaks Christian and Ventura St. Bonaventure to new leagues, spent thousands of dollars in legal costs and lost. There won't be any intervention this time.