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Tim Myers: Foothill League football’s inevitable fallibility

Myers' Musings

Posted: November 27, 2010 9:30 p.m.
Updated: November 28, 2010 4:30 a.m.

Many will disagree on when the football prowess of the Foothill League peaked, but I would drive a stake in the sand in the year 2003.

In that year, the Hart High School Indians would rather easily defeat vaunted Mission Viejo for the CIF Southern Section Championship, and Foothill League schools would hold three of the four slots in the semifinal bracket.

The nascent Marmonte League, comprising high schools along the 101 Freeway corridor of Ventura County, would grovel in the soon-restructured Northern Division in the shadow of the power of the legacy football teams of the Foothill League: Hart, Valencia, Saugus and Canyon.

Some might argue that 2003 only showed the peak of Indian prowess, and that the Foothill League itself would continue its prominence with Valencia losing to Mission Viejo in the 2004 CIF championship and Canyon High School capturing both the CIF championship and the resurrected state championship in 2006.

Come forward and where do we stand a mere four years later? The Foothill League will send only four teams to the postseason, with the remaining five slots given to the more beloved Marmonte League.

And the Hart Indians that a mere seven years ago seemed unbeatable will sit out the postseason for the first time in 30 years, winning only one league game against the Golden Valley Grizzlies, a team still looking to register its first league win in school history.

Why did this happen? Many will mutter about the private schools in the Marmonte League that include St. Bonaventure and Oaks Christian that can outright recruit players rather than utilize the complicated machinations required (and done) by public schools to move prime players around the high school chessboard.

One political anti-incumbent segment even blames Frank Ferry, City Council member and principal of Bishop Alemany High School, for luring promising players into the San Fernando Valley.

My personal favorite revolves around the diminution of the Herrington brothers’ unholy coaching triumvirate to a mere solo act. But I assert once again that one can always find the answer in the raw numbers.

Based on numbers provided to the state Department of Education, in the 2003-04 academic year, three of the four legacy high schools of the Foothill League (Canyon, Saugus and Hart) boasted just under 3,000 students enrolled while Valencia enrolled a whopping 3,500 students.

When we moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1996, these schools all enrolled right around 2,000 students. So folks, that rampant high school growth during that period did not amount to a figment of your imagination.

In 2009, the last year for which the Department of Education provides numbers, Valencia, Canyon and Saugus basically lost 500 students each compared to 2003, while Hart lost a whopping 800 students — all primarily due to the opening of Golden Valley and West Ranch high schools.

More surprisingly, with two brand-new high schools coming online, the William S. Hart Union High School District only contains 2,600 more high school students enrolled in all the comprehensive high schools than it did in 2003, leaving it long one high school if it hoped to achieve an aggregate enrollment of 2,500 per high school.

Incredibly (at least to me), well-known plans exist to build another high school in Castaic, further hollowing out the existing schools.

How does this impact football prowess, and, for that matter, everything else from sports to academics?

Anyone with experience in pomology (the science of growing fruit) knows that the more trees one plants, the more opportunity for a yield of good fruit.

In other words, coaches and teachers find it much easier to shake both academic and athletic talent out of a 3,000-student school compared to a 2,000-student school.

Can one see restoration on the horizon? Unfortunately, in addition to an extra high school bringing even Valencia low enrollment — the only team that might advance to the semifinals of the Northern Division, confirmed by the opening-round dusting of Saugus and West Ranch and the poor showing of Canyon — the Hart district in total enrolled only 200 more students in grades 9-12 than it did the previous year.

This flattening of the expansive growth rates from 1996 to 2003 portends something unthinkable mere months ago; an actual decline in enrollment.

I had hoped for a strong Hart High team to lose to slightly stronger Valencia and Canyon teams. What we now enjoy constitutes a clash of the enfeebled, and I just find that sad.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. “Myers’ Musings” appears Sundays in The Signal.


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