Strathmore and Golden West to bump up to higher divisions while Exeter might get dropped to a lower division
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
PORTERVILLE – Three local teams could face new playoff competition in the fall. The Strathmore Spartans and Golden West Trailblazers are projected to get the bump to Division V and to Division III respectively. While, the Exeter Monarchs might be moved down from Division IV to V.
The move which some believed should have happened in 2018 is finally occuring. The Spartans who are three-time Division VI Valley champions, have the potential to be moved up to Division V. The move is decided by a point system through the CIF Central Section’s competitive equality model. One reason for the delay could have been Strathmore’s insufficient number of points in the last realignment window of the 2015-2016 seasons.
“I think it’s time to move on,” Strathmore head coach Jeromy Blackwell said. “We’ve got a lot of young talent returning, so I don’t think it’s a terrible time.”
Strathmore will be losing Alonzo Acevedo, who stepped up to fill the role of leading running back after the graduation of Joseph Garcia, and ran for 1,797 yards and 32 touchdowns. Despite Acevedo’s graduation, Strathmore will not miss a beat next season and might even turn a couple heads at Division V with the crop of talent they have coming back at tailback.
In all, Strathmore has seven returners at the position who combined for 1,337 yards and 18 touchdowns. The leader among them was Carlos Moreno, a player Strathmore will have for three more seasons. Moreno toted the ball 93 times for 676 yards and seven scores.
Blackwell is pleased with the programs all-around talent coming back, and the reputation Strathmore has built over the last two seasons.
“We have to increase our level of preparation if we are to succeed,” Blackwell said.
Strathmore should feel right at home with the change since they already take on three opponents in the East Sequoia League from that division: the Woodlake Tigers, Corcoran Panthers, and rival Lindsay Cardinals.
Blackwell admits the thrill of the possibility Strathmore could face some of the bigger schools from the area is exciting for his players.
Just minutes after losing their Division IV Vallety title game, Golden West head coach Paul Preheim predicted his team would see new faces in a different divison next year. Now, the Blazers and cross town foe, Central Valley Christian Cavaliers are slated to move up to Division III.
“It’s exciting,” Preheim said. “We’ve just got to keep doing what we are doing and get better at it.”
According to Preheim, he feels that if the Division III rankings were released today Golden West would rank fifth or sixth in Division III. The biggest reason is a set of twin brothers who played both ways and made huge impacts for the Blazers in 2018. Michael and Lonnie Wessel saw significant playing time both at tailback and linebacker during their sophomore seasons.
Lonnie emerged as the Blazers’ leading running back halfway through the season and finished with 243 carries for 1,422 yards and 20 touchdowns. His total touchdowns led the team and he was only 171 yards behind senior back Cristian Ortiz. He led the defense in total tackles as well with 110.
Michael might have played second fiddle to his twin brother, but put up numbers any first-year varsity player could be proud of. At tailback he finished with 126 carries for 679 yards and eight touchdowns. On defense he was second behind his brother with 77 tackles.
As a receiving threat, Michael set himself apart. His 13 catches for 302 yards were second best on the team.
If the change goes through Golden West will no longer be the lowest divisional opponent in the West Yosemite League.
Exeter could be moved down to the lowest divisional competition the program has seen in quite some time. The Monarchs are projected to be moved down to Division V in 2019. That is after Exeter lost in the opening rounds of the 2017 Division IV playoffs 46-13 to the Roosevelt Rough Riders and missed the 2018 playoffs completely.
“I think its where we are at right now,” Exeter head coach Keirsten Lamb said. “Before I took over, I know Frankland was looking to make this move happen. It seems pretty logical.”
Lamb agrees with the sections move becasue of their school size. In recent years Exeter Union High School has seen their enrollment drop to barely above 900 students according to Lamb.
The teams they will see in the postseason if they move to Division V might be around the same size, but school size is not a factor in the section’s realignment decisions anymore. It is based on records, and Exeter went 1-3 last season against Division V teams. Their only win was against a Central Sequoia League newcomer Hanford West, 62-27.
“You still have to work hard and compete no matter where you are at,” Lamb said.
Lamb’s remedy to compete better at Division V includes, improving fundamentals, but more importantly getting to know his players. By putting his offensively and defensively talented players in positions to succeed, Lamb hopes ot make a true change heading into the 2019 season.