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Area football coaches approve of new-look leagues for 2020

Area football coaches approve of new-look leagues for 2020

The three leagues with four teams each look for Central Coast high school football is gone.

The two leagues, six teams each look is here.

The new-look leagues will debut during the 2020 football season. The Mountain League, which includes mainly of teams from larger schools, will consist of two-time defending league champion St. Joseph, Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles, Righetti, San Luis Obispo and Templeton.

The Ocean League, which is comprised of teams from primarily smaller schools, will include Mission Prep, Morro Bay, Santa Maria, Nipomo, Pioneer Valley and Atascadero.

Nipomo coach Tony Dodge gave the new league alignments a ringing endorsement.

"First off, I like the two-league format," Dodge said in a phone interview.

"Just having two leagues means more league games and gives a league championship more meaning. The plan for 2021 is to take the top team from the (2020) Ocean League and move it to the Mountain League and take the bottom team from the Mountain League and move it to the Ocean League."

Dodge said, "I hope they keep it consistent like that instead of constantly changing the leagues."

The 2019 Central Coast football leagues consisted of the Mountain — eventual league champion St. Joseph (which also won the inaugural league title in 2018), Righetti, Paso Robles and Arroyo Grande; the PAC-4 — eventual league champ San Luis Obispo, Nipomo, Pioneer Valley and Atascadero; and the Ocean — eventual league champ Templeton, Santa Maria, Morro Bay and Mission Prep, which returned to 11-man football after playing eight-man the year before.

There were two Central Coast football leagues in 2018, area programs' inaugural year in the Central Section. Those were the five-team Mountain League and the six-team Ocean League as Mission Prep played mainly an 8-man schedule.

Like Dodge, Righetti coach Tony Payne likes the new look of the football leagues.

"I'm thrilled," Payne said. "We had a vote between the coaches, and we told the athletic directors what we wanted. I don't know the specifics of the vote the AD's took, but that vote determined this was the direction we were going to go.

"It was decided it was San Luis Obispo and Templeton (the league champs from the smaller leagues) who were going to to go (to the larger Mountain League). Those teams have really good coaches and really good players."

Payne said, "I am just thrilled to not have to worry about scheduling non-league games in October, which was very difficult. Even with the all-league voting, it will be better. Before, with the small leagues, it was a skewed picture."

St. Joseph coach Pepe Villasenor, too, said that trying to schedule non-league games last year with just a four-team league was a headache for his school.

"We were having a hard time getting teams (from other regions) to come here," said Villasenor. "I don't know why. I would love to play on the Central Coast."

Villasenor said, "I do like the new leagues. I like that there are more league games. We will prepare for whoever we have to play."

Santa Maria coach Dan Ellington said, "I wasn't for merging the leagues. In the Central Section, your overall record has a bigger effect in your playoff standings than your league finish.

"However, I don't mind the change. It pus us back in the same league as Pioneer Valley and Nipomo, which have been good rivalries for us in the past."

Santa Maria's coach said, "The change puts all of us in a more familiar regular season mode, with five league games. I also think choosing your pre-season opponents becomes even more important because now you have a tougher road through league play, at least for Santa Maria.

"Like always, Santa Maria will meet the challenge."

Though area sports' collective future is in flux because of COVID-19, the coronavirus, the 2020 prep football season is currently scheduled to begin on Aug. 28.   

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Sports Reporter

Kenny Cress, sportswriter for the Santa Maria Times since September of 2000. BA in political science from Cal Poly Pomona. BA in journalism from Cal State Northridge.

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