Last year, coach Jimmy Nolan led the Fountain Valley High football team to its first postseason win in 14 years.
If he takes the Barons back to the playoffs next season, it will be in a new division.
The CIF Southern Section released its football playoff divisions for the upcoming 2018 fall season on Thursday, affecting the 11 high schools in the area.
The five local programs in the Sunset League will be in different divisions. Runner-up finisher Edison remained in Division 2, while newcomer Corona del Mar stayed in Division 4. Huntington Beach moved up one spot to Division 6, Newport Harbor dropped a spot to Division 7, and Fountain Valley went down two spots to Division 8.
League champion Los Alamitos is in Division 2 again.
“All I know is we are in a difficult Sunset League, where we’ll be lucky to get to the playoffs, so that’s the only thing I can wrap my brain around before having the nerve to think about playoffs,” Nolan said. “I won’t look at what division we’re in until it’s relevant, until we’ve earned the right to look at the playoff division.”
A year ago, Edison, which went 4-1 in the league, and Fountain Valley qualified for the playoffs, each reaching the quarterfinals in their respective divisions. CdM claimed a 5-0 Pacific Coast League title last season and made the quarterfinals.
The Barons finished tied for third place in the league at 2-3 with Huntington Beach and Newport Harbor, but they won the tiebreaker determining the league’s No. 3 playoff representative. The Oilers missed the playoffs for the third time in four years, while the Sailors failed to make it for the third straight year.
Edison coach Jeff Grady said the Chargers belong in Division 2, and CdM coach Dan O’Shea said the same goes for his team in Division 4.
“There are a lot of factors that go into determining who goes where and I know there’s no one perfect way to do things,” Grady said of the playoff division formula, which is based on a school’s regular-season record, its strength of schedule, its league’s strength and its playoff performance during the past two years. “I think our division is tough and there are a lot of really good programs represented.”
Marina, which is playing in the Golden West League in 2018, moved up to Division 9. The Vikings, which went 0-5 in the Sunset League in 2017, did not qualify for the Division 12 playoffs last year.
Ocean View and Laguna Beach, which are both part of the Golden West League, are in Division 11 and Division 12, respectively. The Seahawks did not advance to the Division 13 playoffs last year, finishing fifth at 1-4. The Breakers, the runner-up in the Orange Coast League at 4-1 in 2017, made the Division 12 playoffs, losing in the first round.
“We are so young in key positions it’s hard to tell where we really belong,” Laguna Beach coach John Shanahan said. “Our kids have worked their butts off this offseason, so I am real excited to see the results.”
Los Amigos is in Division 13 in 2018. The Lobos missed the Division 12 playoffs after placing fifth in the Garden Grove League at 1-4 last year.
Estancia and Costa Mesa, both from the Orange Coast League, remain in Division 13. The Eagles took fourth in the league at 2-3 in 2017, while the Mustangs finished last at 0-5.
“Of course we would like to be [in a] higher [division], but we need to win more games and get better,” Estancia coach Mike Bargas said. “That’s what we’re working towards, [to] get back into the postseason and get to where we were a while ago. Guys are working hard and getting ready right now.”
As was the case last year, the higher the division, the fewer number of schools will compete for berths in each 16-team playoff bracket. Eighteen teams are vying for 16 entries in Division 1, 18 in Division 2, 19 in Division 3, 19 in Division 4, 22 in Division 5, 22 in Division 6, 24 in Division 7, 24 in Division 8, 29 in Division 9, 29 in Division 10, 34 in Division 11, 46 in Division 12, and 82 in Division 13, the lowest division.
With so many teams in Division 13, making the playoffs will be difficult. Only the top two teams in the six-team Orange Coast League received playoff berths last year.