New format could pit Empire teams against East Bay schools

  • 10/30/2008:C1: Cardinal Newman running backs Joe Ferguson, right, and Jeff Badger run drills during practice on Tuesday. SRPSP

    PC: Cardinal Newman's Joe Ferguson, right and Jeff Badger, left run drills during practice at Cardinal Newman High School, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008.

With just a couple of weeks left in the regular season of high school football, it?s time to check out the North Coast Section?s new playoff system.

To better assimilate the state bowl games ? expanded to five games at Carson?s Home Depot Center on Dec. 19-20 ? the NCS did away with Class 3A, 2A, A and B formats and replaced them with five divisions.

Each division has an enrollment limit ? Division I is 2,001 and above, Division II is 1,401-2,000, Division III is 701-1,400, Division IV is 401-700 and Division V is 400 and below ? and the football teams fit one of the five divisions.

Schools can still petition the NCS to ?play up,? which Cardinal Newman has done. Its enrollment places Newman in Division III, but the Cardinals will play in Division II because most of the North Bay League teams it plays are Division II schools. Newman petitioned to play up before the start of the season.

The biggest difference in the NCS playoff format is the mixture of East Bay schools with the usual Redwood Empire field of schools from Sonoma County, Marin County, Mendocino County and Humboldt-Del Norte regions.

It doesn?t look like many schools with winning records will get bumped from the playoffs, because the biggest division ? Division III ? has 31 schools and the biggest playoff field, a 16-team bracket.

Division II, with schools like Newman, Rancho Cotate, Ukiah, Casa Grande, Maria Carrillo and Petaluma, has 26 schools and a 12-team playoff bracket.

Healdsburg and Analy are Division III teams, Middletown, Fort Bragg, Clear Lake and Cloverdale are Division IV, and St. Vincent, Tomales, Anderson Valley and Rincon Valley Christian are Division V. There are eight-team playoff brackets in Division IV (17 schools) and Division V (19 schools).

Probably the biggest difference between this year?s playoffs and last year?s are the logistics. Teams have to travel farther outside their areas for games, although don?t tell Analy that after back-to-back playoff trips to Crescent City to play Del Norte.

In the 1980s and ?90s, when Empire teams played East Bay schools in the playoffs ? remember Montgomery playing De La Salle? ? there was always the presumption of superiority by the East Bay. Seeding meetings regularly had Empire schools playing no home games and playing the best of the East Bay early on.

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