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State of Play: Mark Tennis     It may seem like Southern California schools and teams in many sports always get benefit of the doubt...

State of Play: Mark Tennis 

   It may seem like Southern California schools and teams in many sports always get benefit of the doubt when it comes to rankings and honors on the statewide level compared to Northern California.

   Here’s a shock. Yes, they do. But it has nothing to do with Southern California teams being “better” or Southern California student-athletes being more special. It’s just how the state in general is carved up into CIF sections and how the biggest section of them all, the Southern Section, is organized and run.

   The Southern Section is not just bigger than any other CIF section in the state, it’s much bigger. If you take the number of schools, for example, from the Sac-Joaquin Section, the North Coast Section and the Central Coast Section and put them all together, guess what? The Southern Section is still almost 100 schools bigger in size.

   Plus, the Southern Section has had the philosophy for many years of organizing its playoff divisions in all sports in which the highest divisions ““ Pac-5 for football, Open Division for boys and girls hoops, Division I for baseball, etc. ““ contain the best competitive teams regardless of school enrollment. 

   A good Northern California comparison would be if the West Catholic League of the CCS, the East Bay Athletic League of the NCS and the Sierra Foothill League of the Sac-Joaquin all had its top teams playing each other in the section playoffs. 

   In short, other than the few teams (relatively speaking) from the L.A. City Section and the San Diego Section, the best of the best in SoCal are playing each other all the time in almost every sport. 

   This tends not to happen in Northern California in many sports. Take softball this spring, for example, with top teams like Amador Valley-Pleasanton (NCS), Archbishop Mitty-San Jose (CCS) and Vacaville (Sac-Joaquin) not playing each other once.

   So when it comes time to start comparing teams for rankings and Team of the Year honors, the ones who’ve played and beaten each other will logically have the edge over those that haven’t.

   There are exceptions to that generality, of course. In sports in which there are CIF state championships, the top teams playing at their best at the end tend to win. 

   Then there are programs like De La Salle-Concord in football that transcend section or state boundaries. When the Spartans were at the height of their 151-game national record win streak from 1998 to 2003, they beat the top teams from Southern California just like they beat the top teams from Northern California. 

Mark Tennis is the co-founder of Cal-Hi Sports, and publisher of Cal-Hi Sports is the authority in state rankings for football, basketball, baseball and softball, as well as the recognized state record keeper for all high school sports. Contact him at  HYPERLINK “” and follow him on Twitter, @CalHiSports.



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