The 2022 East Bay Athletic League football season ended with some positive achievements from both Amador Valley and Foothill.
The Falcons vanquished the rest of the EBAL Valley Division for their second straight fall championship, and the Dons started to see the strength of their younger classes toward the end of the season.
The contrast is looking to next year: The Dons have a lot more reasons to be excited than the Falcons.
By virtue of finishing at the bottom of the Mountain Division the last couple of years, the Dons will now be a member of the Valley Division.
Conversely, after winning the Valley two straight seasons, the Falcons are now being moved up to the Mountain Division.
"We are going up -- it's been decided," Foothill coach Greg Haubner said. "I am just hoping we have enough kids to compete in what has become the conference of champions."
Haubner and the Falcons did take a run at staying in the Valley. At the postseason EBAL coaches meeting, Haubner asked for and received a vote of coaches to allow Foothill to stay in the Valley, where they belong from a competitive situation.
The final vote was 5-5, with all the Valley coaches voting on Foothill's side and all five Mountain schools voting for Foothill to make the move up.
Hurting Haubner's chances was that one of the Valley coaches did not even show up to the meeting, and that would have been the tie-breaking vote.
If it had passed, then it would have been sent to the EBAL athletic directors for a vote of approval. Word has it one Valley athletic director was going to vote against what his coach wanted, so it may have been a moot point.
This is not about Foothill looking for a way out. Declining numbers of players puts the Falcons in a precarious position.
It's just a poor situation for the Foothill football players. One of the smaller schools in the EBAL, Foothill is already in danger of not having enough players for a freshman team next season.
"I could have a freshman team for maybe three games before having to drop the season to move up enough players to help us fill a roster," Haubner said. "Then you would have kids forced to play varsity that are not physically ready."
Now the Falcons will be sent to compete against EBAL teams with up to twice as many players on their rosters, as well as players that are much bigger physically.
There is no competitive balance, and now the safety of the players is being brought into question.
If the numbers continue to drop at Foothill, a normal number of injuries could end with the Falcons close to not fielding a team in the middle of the season.
How is that even close to what's the best for the kids? It's not, and it's not a well thought out decision. This could ultimately lead to the demise of the Foothill football program.
If you follow local football, you know the Foothill schedule will be five straight weeks of playing San Ramon Valley, Monte Vista, California, Clayton Valley and of course De La Salle. Football is the one EBAL sport where a competitive imbalance is real, and the difference is getting bigger each season because of enrollment and a change of demographics.
Amador has had to play those schools in the Mountain for the last couple seasons, but in the Dons' favor was the larger number of players that were physically able to match up.
Amador coach Danny Jones would seem to benefit from not having Foothill to compete with in the Valley race, but he voted to support Haubner and the Falcons.
"It might be better for us if Foothill is in the Mountain, but in the end, it's about the kids," Jones said. "Think about it -- this year if we were both in the Valley, we would have met the last week of the season for the league title."
Having been in the Mountain, Jones knows what the Falcons are in for with the move.
"You know where Foothill is -- for that matter us as well," Jones said. "But the Valley is where they belong. They just don't have the numbers and are one injury away from not being a very good team."
No matter what happens moving forward, this past season will be a memorable one for the Falcons, especially their seniors.
"At the beginning of the season, I felt good," Haubner said. "We had a good group of skill kids, but then we started losing kids to season-ending injuries."
In the end the team lost six to seven starting positions for the season. It could have easily gone south, but the Falcons rallied to win their four league games, including a 38-30 thriller over Livermore, and a 28-22 overtime win against Dublin.
Haubner mentioned the play of Ryley Flynn, Jackson Brayden, Rory Grady, Conor Baesemann, Luke Havily, Kyle Trent and Jensen McMillin for rising to the occasion.
"These guys really stepped up," praised Haubner. "Truth be told, we had an amazing supporting class."
Haubner was also happy for his seniors.
"When they were freshmen, they couldn't even finish their season because they didn't have enough players," Haubner said. "Then COVID hit, and they had to deal with that. I was so happy and so proud of them."
Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his Pleasanton Preps column, email firstname.lastname@example.org.