Playoff road trips just got longer.
The Southern Section on Wednesday made a huge change in the section's football playoffs, moving the Sunset League out of the Pac-5 Division and replacing it with the Marmonte League.
That means South Orange County's southernmost teams could travel to Ventura to play St. Bonaventure. Or vice verse.
It likely means that next year's Pac-5 championship will be harder to defend for Santa Margarita Catholic, and harder to win for teams such as Mission Viejo, San Clemente and Tesoro. Those four teams reached the semifinals last season.
Santa Margarita will go into the season as the favorite to repeat as champion but will be looking at teams such as Westlake (14-1 in 2011), Westlake Village Oaks Christian (11-3) and St. Bonaventure (10-3) instead of Edison (8-3), Huntington Beach (9-3) and Newport Harbor (5-6).
The Pac-5 was generally regarded as one of toughest divisions in the nation before the switch was made. Now?
Is there a word worse than brutal?
Obviously, the biggest names in the Marmonte League belong to St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian, both of which are private schools.
Since the formation of the Pac-5 Division, private schools have won four of six championships:
- 2006: Orange Lutheran 30, Edison 20
- 2007: Long Beach Poly 13, Encino Crespi 3
- 2008: Long Beach Poly 20, Tesoro 17
- 2009: Servite 16, Edison 6
- 2010: Servite 41, Mission Viejo 27
- 2011: Santa Margarita 27, San Clemente 13
Edison has been the most successful of the Sunset League teams, having reached the finals twice since 2006. But over the last four years, excluding Edison's run to the finals in 2009, the Sunset League has been 2-11 in the playoffs, and one of those victories was by Esperanza—a team that's no longer in the Sunset League.
By moving into the Southwest Division, the Sunset League moves into a playoff bracket that has been dominated by La Habra for most of the last five years.
La Habra, which began playing Pac-5 opponents to improve itself, won four consecutive championships before being beaten in last year's semifinals by El Toro (which will move into the South Coast League for the 2012 season and thus be in the Pac-5). Two of those titles came in years in which it lost to Los Alamitos, which hasn't won a playoff game since 2004.
Here's a look at the history of the Sunset League's Los Alamitos and La Habra, which won titles in 2002-03 and from 2007-10:
- 2009: Los Alamitos 28, La Habra 13
- 2008: Los Alamitos 28, La Habra 21
- 2005: Los Alamitos 28, La Habra 0
- 2004: Los Alamitos 35, La Habra 7
- 2003: Los Alamitos 37, La Habra 7
- 2002: Los Alamitos 24, La Habra 20
Tustin won the Southwest title last year, and leagues in the all-Orange County division lobbied to keep the Sunset League out. The Sunset League went 3-2 against Southwest Division teams last year; both of the Southwest victories came against Marina (1-8-1 overall)
The Southwest Division instead wanted the much weaker Pacific Coast League, which includes the Irvine schools and Corona del Mar, which won last season's Southern Division championship over PCL rival Beckman.
The playoff cycle will be in place for two seaons before it will be reexamined.
The new Pac-5 Division (Division I)
- Marmonte: Westlake, Oaks Christian, St. Bonaventure, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Royal, Newbury Park, Agoura, Calabasas.
- Moore: Long Beach Poly, Lakewood, LB Cabrillo, LB Wilson, Jordan, Compton, Millikan.
- Serra: Mission Hills Alemany, Loyola, Encino Crespi, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, La Puente Bishop Amat.
- South Coast: Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Tesoro, El Toro, Trabuco Hills.
- Trinity: Servite, Santa Margarita, St. John Bosco, Mater Dei, JSerra, Orange Lutheran.
The new Southwest Division (Division VI):
- Century: Villa Park, Brea Olinda, Esperanza, Foothill, El Modena, El Dorado, Anaheim Canyon.
- Empire: Yorba Linda, Tustin, Cypress, La Palma Kennedy, Garden Grove Pacifica, Western, Placentia Valencia.
- Freeway: La Habra, Buena Park, Troy, Sonora, Fullerton, Sunny Hills.
- Sea View: Laguna Hills, Aliso Nigel, Capistrano Valley, San Juan Hills, Dana Hills.
- Sunset: Edison, Huntington Beach, Newport Harbor, Los Alamitos, Fountain Valley, Marina.
The old Southern Division (Division IX)
- Garden Grove: Rancho Alamitos, Los Amigos, Garden Grove, Bolsa Grande, Santiago, La Quinta.
- Golden West: Segerstrom, Ocean View, Westminster, Loara, Orange, Santa Ana.
- Orange Coast: Estancia, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Godinez, Calvary Chapel, Saddleback.
- Pacific Coast: Beckman, Corona del Mar, Woodbridge, Irvine, Northwood, University.