CIF playoffs showing competitive improvement after change

Without question, the first round playoff results for the Coachella Valley’s four postseason-bound 11-man teams was a tough blow to take, with La Quinta, Palm Springs and Coachella Valley all falling in the first round. But on a larger level, Friday was a success for the CIF Southern Section’s new competitive equity divisional system set in place starting this fall.

To jog your memory, in previous years, the DVL teams competed in the Eastern Division in the playoffs, with the De Anza League teams in the Northwest Division. Though they did have numbers, divisions still contained leagues that the CIF considered to be on similar levels as a whole, but there were plenty of problems.

League winners far too often rolled over first round opponents, making it tough for some teams to get into the postseason rhythm, while others got bounced in embarrassing fashion. Just last year, Palm Springs beat Hillcrest 62-7 and actually got to sit their starting QB in a playoff game. Palm Desert beat Silverado 47-7, and Coachella Valley lost to Serrano by 56 points. La Quinta (two points) and Rancho Mirage (20 points) won by smaller margins. The first three results tended to be the rule, rather than the exception.

CIF SS commissioner Rob Wigod released a statement Monday with statistics to show the impact of the latest divisional structure, based on competitive equity of teams’ prior two seasons, an attempt to place teams with similar levels of success against similar teams in the same division to promote closer contests once the postseason began.

READ MORE: Blackhawks bounced from playoffs by Redlands

With this structure, Division 1 (formerly the Pac-5 Division) reduced average margin of victory to 28.87 points in the first round, from 37.75 a year ago. Wigod used Division 3/Inland Division (down to 17.37 from 37.25), Division 10/Southern Division (down to 14.50 from 27.62) and Division 11/East Valley Division (down to 13.75 from 25.62) to help illustrate the change.

Margin of victory reductions for the other nine divisions weren’t listed, but two (Divisions 2 and 7) had margins this year under 19 points, while the other seven fell between 21 and 28 points. As a whole, 38 of the 104 first round games were decided by 14 points or less, compared to 29 a year ago. Of course first round games aren’t meant to all be barnburners, but it’s clear the system moved things in the right direction.

READ MORE: Rancho Mirage girls tennis clinches school’s first CIF title

READ MORE: Xavier Prep eases into water polo semis

With a similar system in boys’ water polo, the goal differential showed a significant drop, with the average margin of victory across all seven divisions dropping from nearly nine goals to just a hair over six goals in the first round. In the quarterfinals, the average fell from nearly six goals to just over three.

In girls’ tennis, out of 80 first round matches, there were 36 that ended with scores of 13-5 or higher, compared to 59 a year ago. In the second round, 17 matches this fall ended in 9-9 ties or 10-8, compared to eight a year ago.

Of course, our Rancho Mirage girls’ tennis team pulled out the squad’s – and school’s – first-ever team CIF title last Friday, and the first for a local team since 2009. Two boys’ water polo teams – Xavier Prep and Shadow Hills – are alive in the semifinals of their respective divisions and have the potential to win the valley’s fourth and fifth boys’ water polo titles and first since 2013.

Andrew Garcia (#5) throws the ball but were unable to get a first down.

Andrew Garcia (#5) throws the ball but were unable to get a first down.

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