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Change Is Widespread for 2018-19 High School Sports Season

Teams start playing earlier than ever; schedules are adjusted; Channel League goes all county

Channel League Athletic Directors Click to view larger
The athletic directors of the of the new Channel League are, from left, Cris Avery (Santa Ynez), Dan Troup (Cabrillo), Claudia Terrones (Lompoc), Abe Jahadhmy (San Marcos), Dan Feldhaus (Dos Pueblos) Adaline MacGregor (San Marcos assistant AD) and Joe Chenoweth (Santa Barbara High). (JC Corliss / Noozhawk photo)

Every high school sports season brings change.

Whether it be new coaches, different league alignments, new opponents, new playoff divisions, or transfers, there’s always something to keep followers of prep sports on their toes at the start of a new school year.

The changes this year in the Santa Barbara area are widespread.

The first thing that's different is the sports calendar. Call it the early bird catches the football.

All eight of the area football teams — Bishop Diego, Carpinteria, Dos Pueblos, Santa Barbara, San Marcos, Lompoc, Cabrillo and Santa Ynez — will play Week Zero games on Friday, Aug. 17.

Most of them will be playing before the first day of school.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and this is the earliest I can ever recall,” Dos Pueblos Athletic Director Dan Feldhaus said of the start of football season. “Even when I used to coach football, it seemed like we weren’t starting (practice) until mid-August and the first game would be late August or early September.”

Girls volleyball starts sooner. The first day teams can start playing matches is Monday, Aug. 13.

The earlier season means a shorter summer vacation.

“It’s a bummer for the kids to have to start so early and play a game before school even starts,” Feldhaus said. “They’ll start playing games in a couple of weeks and they won’t start school until the following week.”

Longtime San Marcos AD Abe Jahadhmy, who started coaching at the school in 1987, remembers the days when the football season opener was played on the Friday after Labor Day.

“The kids are back in school and they’re all fired up,” he recalled. “Now… I’m glad we’re on the road for the first game."

Jahadhmy explained the early kickoff to the season is due to many schools in the CIF-Southern Section starting earlier and the CIF state playoffs.

The CIF is the governing body of high school sports in California.

“(The CIF) makes so much money off the state playoffs that they are moving everything earlier,” said Jahadhmy.

For football this season, the Southern Section playoffs start Nov. 2, the state regionals are Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, and the state championships are Dec. 7-8.

Last year, Bishop Diego played its CIF State Championship game on Dec. 16.

The early calendar also has forced schools that host tournaments to scramble for new dates.

Santa Barbara High, which traditionally hosts its girls volleyball Tournament of Champions at the end of October, moved it to Aug. 24-25 because the CIF-SS semifinals are slated for the last weekend of October.

Winter sports will begin on Nov. 12 and the spring sports season in early February. Those earlier starts will create a lot scheduling changes for tournaments.

An All-County Channel League

The other major change in the area is the new alignment of the Channel League.

Longtime members Dos Pueblos, Santa Barbara and San Marcos will be joined by Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Cabrillo to form an all-county circuit.

Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Cabrillo, formerly of the Los Padres League, were left without a league when the Santa Maria area schools and the schools from San Luis Obispo County elected to leave the CIF-Southern Section and join the Central Section.

During the re-leaguing process, which is done every two years, several proposals were submitted on where to place Santa Ynez, Lompoc and Cabrillo.

After all was said and done, the decision came down to geography, and the three were put in the Channel League.

Ventura and Buena, meanwhile, joined the Pacific View League with four Oxnard schools.

“Ultimately, (geography) was one of the determining factors in why they ended up with us,” Feldhaus said of the North County schools joining the Channel League. “We’re the closest to them and we’re pretty close in size, maybe outside of Santa Ynez, but the proximity was a determining factor.”

Jahadhmy added that geography trumped the other criteria — competitive equity and school size — in the re-leaguing process .

While the northern schools are smaller in enrollment, they have competed against the Santa Barbara area schools for years in several sports.

But now they'll be doing it in league competition.

"Coming out and competing against these other schools is going to be challenging but we’re up to the challenge." said Claudia Terrones, who begins her first year as AD at Lompoc High. "It is a big change. We don’t have to drive as far, which is nice and the competition is going to be good.

"I'm looking forward to seeing what’s going to happen in the fall. I’m looking forward to the challenge and so are our teams."

Cabrillo AD Dan Troup said his coaches and athletes are fired up about playing in the Channel League.

"Obviously for us, it’s a huge step up in competition," he said. "All three (Santa Barbara) schools are larger than we are and larger than the other two schools that are coming in with us. They have some really solid teams across the board, so we’re looking at it as a challenge.

"We’re not going to run from the challenge; we’re going to roll up our sleeves and get after it. We’re here now, for better or for worse."

Troup admits "there might be some trepidation here and there," but he's confident his teams will step up.

"Every time they come here and every time we go down there, we'll be ready to compete," he said.

"We’re excited to see how the league unfolds," added Terrones. "After a year, we’ll re-evaulate and see if it’s really for us. But I think we’re going to be OK in some areas and so-so OK in others.

"I told all of our coaches we have to have that positive attitude and give everything we have to the kids. We’re flexible and the coaches are also."

Terrones, Troup and Cris Avery of Santa Ynez all agreed that joining the Santa Barbara schools in the Channel League following the break-up of the Los Padres League made sense.

"Geographically, it makes the most sense. Logistically, it makes the most sense. Demographically, that’s where there is a challenge," said Troup. "They are larger than we are, but I’d rather be driving an hour and have our parents driving an hour than two or three hours (to the Central Valley). It just made the most sense."

As a benefit of becoming a six-school league, the Channel League will have three automatic qualifiers for the CIF-SS football playoffs.

That should be great news for Santa Ynez, which for the last three years has gone 8-2, 8-2 and 7-3 but didn’t make the playoffs because it finished third behind Lompoc and St. Joseph in the five-team Los Padres League.

With the new league comes new bylaws. 

Terrones said the discussion among the athletic directors was productive and positive. 

"We took in some of what they had and they took in some of what we had," she said. "I think we came to a conclusion that we came up with a good set of bylaws for the year and the following year. So we’re in a good place right now."

Among bylaws for the fall season:

» Boys water polo will play only one round of games and have a league tournament at the end of the season at the Lompoc Aquatic Center. 

» In girls golf, teams will play dual matches rather than league mini tournaments as the northern schools did in the LPL. 

» In cross country, there will be one regular-season league meet and the league finals as opposed to the three meets conducted in the old Channel League.

The fewer league competitions in cross country and water polo will give teams opportunities to compete in more invitationals and tournaments.

Jahadhmy said the CIF has expanded the number of contests teams can play in several sports, allowing them to enter more competitions.

The Santa Barbara area ADs said both sides worked well together to forming the new league rules.

"The ADs from the north have been great," Santa Barbara's Joe Chenoweth said. "We have had productive meetings to create new bylaws to the new Channel League. I think we are a little nervous to see the levels of play. However, we are going into it with a positive outlook."

Said Feldhaus: “Making our schedules and bylaws, there was a lot of give and take with the schools from the north. They’re trying some things they haven’t done in the past, like golf, and there are some things we’ve incorporated, like some of the end-of-the-season tournaments and venues.”

“They’re good people,” Jahadhmy said. “That goes a long way. There’s a lot of give and take. It’s a good relationship and that makes a big difference.”

And if things don’t go smoothly in the first year, Feldhaus noted, “For the following year, we can always change it.”

Other Changes

Here is a list of a few other changes for local prep sports in 2018-19:

» Defending CIF-SS and state football champion Bishop Diego is playing in the football-only Camino League with Moorpark, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks and Grace Brethren.

» Carpinteria goes from a four-team Frontier League for football to the new seven-team Citrus Coast League. The Warriors will be joined by Fillmore, Santa Paula, Santa Clara, Malibu, Nordhoff and Hueneme.

» Laguna Blanca and Providence will now compete in the Tri-County Athletic Association, which consists of the Tri-Valley and Frontier Leagues. They were formerly in the Condor League.

» Scott O’Leary Stadium at Dos Pueblos is getting a turf field and all-weather track. The project is expected to be completed by Thanksgiving. DP will be playing its home football games at San Marcos. The site of the league cross country meet in late September is still to be determined.

» The Santa Barbara girls basketball Tournament of Champions, which traditionally starts the week before Christmas, will be moved to January. 

» Santa Barbara High is shooting for a spring opening for the remodeled Peabody Stadium, which will include an all-weather track and turf field.

Said Chenoweth: "As far as I know, the stadium is on schedule to be opened April 2019. If it happens, we will try to move our lacrosse matches and possibly a track meet into the stadium right away."

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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