Believe it or not, we have arrived at the start of the high school football season as both Amador Valley and Foothill start their campaigns this Friday night. (Our 2018 football preview issue will run on next Friday).
Amador opens at home against Del Oro, while Foothill travels to San Leandro.
It will be an interesting season to say the least as the East Bay Athletic League has again tweaked how the football league will be structured, and to be honest, it's a bit of a head-scratcher.
This year EBAL officials have divided the league into two separate divisions -- the Mountain and the Valley. This has been done in the other sports as well, but with football there are a couple of major differences.
The divisions were not done geographically as would make perfect sense, but rather by what is perceived a competitive balance. In addition, there will be a league champion in each division and with that title, an automatic berth in the North Coast Section playoffs.
It gets better.
Recently in football, De La Salle was on an island, not competing for an EBAL title, which allowed the other nine teams in the league to fight for a chance to hang a banner.
Let's be honest -- that is the only fair way to handle the Spartans. Originally when De La Salle came into the league, I was in favor of it as I have always crowed about the EBAL being the best league in Northern California. And if you want to be the best, then you must beat the best.
I honestly believed over time, EBAL teams would figure out a way to play and at times, beat the Spartans. It hasn't happened, and with De La Salle getting stronger and stronger at times where the numbers are down at other programs, it's not going to happen any time soon.
At the end of the day, the Spartans, while enjoying an EBAL title, have their eyes on bigger prizes -- NorCal and California state titles. Winning the EBAL was a formality and with this new format, it will be again.
So how do the divisions shake down and what does it mean for our Pleasanton teams? Well, good for Amador and bad for Foothill.
Based on a five-year competitive record, the Mountain or "A" Division will be comprised of De La Salle, Monte Vista, San Ramon Valley, California and Foothill. Foothill had the best mark over the last five years for schools other than De La Salle. The Valley or "B" Division has Amador, Livermore, Granada, Dougherty Valley and Dublin.
Once again, the winner of the Mountain and the Valley get a league title and an automatic NCS berth. In other words, De La Salle gets a banner and the five teams in the Valley battle for one as well.
As for the other four in the Mountain? Thanks for playing, now try to get an at-large berth.
Imagine entering a season and knowing you have no chance to win the title.
I mean there are teams each year that start behind the eight ball, but with injuries and breaks, anything is possible. Not the case with De La Salle. The Spartans are loaded, deep and not going to lose a league title.
There is also going to be a system where the last-place team in the Mountain will be sent to the Valley and the top Valley team reassigned to the Mountain, much the same as European soccer leagues work.
Will this promote tanking to be relegated to an easier division? You'd like to think not, but when tanking has become the norm in pretty much all professional sports, you must to wonder if it will trickle downhill.
This is a slippery slope the EBAL is going down, and one that could have easily been avoided. Hopefully nothing comes into question regarding losing, but in this day and age, anything is possible.