One Mission League coach ventured to say that the league could be “one of the most competitive football leagues in Southern California.”
Another said he hopes his team is “able to compete with” its 1990 rivals.
And a third coach simply said, “I like it.”
The newly formed league of Catholic high schools--a melting pot of teams from two Southern Section divisions and four leagues--combines some of the more formidable powers from Division I with former Division VII juggernauts.
Stepping down from Division I are Alemany and Crespi from the defunct Del Rey League and Bishop Montgomery and St. Paul from the powerful Angelus League. They will join former Division VII teams Chaminade and Notre Dame from the San Fernando Valley League and St. Bernard, a Camino Real League member the past two years, in the Division III Mission League.
Loyola, which won the Del Rey League title the past three years, and former Del Rey League mate St. John Bosco fill in the blanks in the Angelus League with perennial powers Bishop Amat, Mater Dei and Servite.
Although the Southern Section’s realignment seems to favor such programs as Alemany and Crespi--teams that traditionally finish in the top three in league standings but usually are ousted from the playoffs within the first two rounds--Chaminade, a former power in Division VII, is being thrust into a tiger pit of Division I talent.
Competing in the lower-level Santa Fe and San Fernando Valley leagues, Chaminade consistently won. The Eagles took the 1987 Santa Fe title by storm and played for the Desert-Mountain Conference championship, losing to Irvine Woodbridge, 13-10. Chaminade finished second to Notre Dame in San Fernando Valley League play in 1988 and 1989 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs in ’89.
But that was then.
Chaminade had been seeking a legitimate playoff bracket to help justify the school’s departure from small-time football, but Coach Rich Lawson figures the Eagles might be in over their heads in Division III.
“We hope we’re able to compete with those former Division I schools,” he said. “Chaminade has never been (at this level). We’re kind of going to be the new kids on the block.”
Perhaps, but over the past two years the Eagles have compiled a 4-1 record against teams from Divisions I and II, including last year’s 35-14 bombing of Palmdale, a Golden League team that is jumping to Division I football this fall and is on Chaminade’s nonleague itinerary Sept. 14.
Unlike Chaminade, Notre Dame and St. Bernard have seen rough-and-tumble Division I football.
From 1973 to 1987, Notre Dame played in the Del Rey League, then a member of the Big Five Conference. St. Bernard formerly played in the Angelus League, of the same conference. The Big Five Conference became Division I in 1988 when the Southern Section altered its playoff format.
Lawson said that Chaminade’s goal is a third-place finish in the league--which will guarantee a berth in the Division III playoffs--and added that he is not immediately concerned with potential Division III opponents outside the Mission League.
“Preparing for league is going to be a challenge in itself,” Lawson said.
For several coaches from outside the Valley area, the Mission League is to some extent a mystery. St. Paul’s familiarity with the Mission League begins and ends with Bishop Montgomery.
“You’re used to seeing certain groups of teams every year and you know what to expect,” said St. Paul Coach Miguel Olmedo, whose team is ranked second in the division in the Southern Section preseason poll. “This situation is like going into a blind date.”
With the incorporation of the two former Angelus League teams, Alemany Coach Pat Blackburn sees the Mission League near the top of the depth chart.
“I think it’s going to be a very tough league with St. Paul and Bishop Montgomery,” Blackburn said. “I don’t think one team will go through league undefeated.”
If you think league play is tough, take a gander at some of the nonleague schedules:
Crespi: The Celts opened Thursday with 1989 Hawaii state runner-up Kahuku. They also will play host to Redlands and Loyola and travel to Hart before opening league play at Bishop Montgomery.
St. Paul: The Swordsmen will entertain Loyola, play road games against Long Beach Wilson and defending Division I champion Fontana and play host to 1989 Division VII titlist Serra.
Notre Dame (ranked eighth in the Southern Section poll): The Knights will open with Lynwood, a tough San Gabriel Valley League team, and Canyon, which Notre Dame last beat in 1983.
Despite a 3-7 record in 1989, Bishop Montgomery should be in the thick of things: Its junior varsity last year tied for the Angelus League title with a 9-1 record.
MISSION LEAGUE FINAL 1989 STANDINGS Notre Dame: 11-2, 4-0 Chaminade: 8-3, 3-1 Alemany: 6-5, 3-1 Crespi: 7-4, 2-2 St. Bernard: 5-6, 2-2 St. Paul: 4-7, 2-2 Bishop Montgomery: 3-7, 0-4 PROJECTED FINISHCrespi Bishop Montgomery Notre Dame St. Paul Alemany St. Bernard Chaminade PLAYERS TO WATCH
Player School Pos. Ht Wt Class Terry Barnum Alemany RB 5-10 175 Jr. Albert Borunda St. Paul QB 5-9 155 Sr. Bill Canalez Crespi K-DB 6-0 170 Sr. Ted Corcoran Chaminade FB 6-2 215 Jr. John DiSante Notre Dame OT-NG 6-4 270 Sr. Mike Hall Bishop Montgomery LB 6-3 225 Sr. Ryan Kieling Crespi WR 5-9 155 Sr. Fano Malieitulua Notre Dame TB 5-10 175 Sr. Marvin Negrete Bishop Montgomery RB 5-9 190 Sr. Frank Romano Crespi ILB 6-3 220 Sr.
Note: The Mission League is in its first season; 1989 finishes are based on
previous league affiliations.