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COMMENTARY: Inaugural year of 605 League comes with mixed reviews

 

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

 

The concept was first mentioned in 2008, put into place in 2016 and approved in January of 2018. Three former Suburban League schools, two from the former (original) Academy League and one from the Del Rio League were to form the 605 League.

The main reason was to give half a dozen schools, whose athletic teams, for the most part, have struggled to compete with the powers of those three leagues, a new league that would be better suited in certain sports in terms of competitive balance. But was it the right move?

I have spent the past school year talking to numerous coaches, athletic directors, players and parents from Artesia High, Cerritos High, John Glenn High and Whitney High, as well as current Suburban League member Norwalk High, and depending on what sport you’re talking about, there isn’t a unanimous liking or disliking about the 605 League. Some like the new league, others don’t. Some are thrilled because now their schools can win league championships in sports they haven’t won in long time while some think it doesn’t benefit their respective sports.

Before going down the list of winners and losers of the major sports, let’s get this straight. Whitney benefited in the travel department as their athletic program doesn’t have to venture to East Irvine, Newport Beach and San Juan Capistrano for league events, especially on a Friday afternoon when the 405 Freeway can be a nightmare. Instead, Whitney is in a league with its ABC Unified School District rivals for the first time, and the school is joined with longtime Academy League rival Oxford Academy.

The school that didn’t benefit with the defection of three institutions was Norwalk High, which is now mired in a four-team Suburban League where half of the circuit claim automatic berths to the CIF-Southern Section playoffs. Knowing that La Mirada High and Mayfair High dominate most sports, and have over the past two decades, Norwalk will be in a tough situation until the Suburban League adds more schools, or Norwalk moves to another league.

Here’s a recap of how the new league did, as well as Norwalk, in the major sports for the 2018-2019 school year.

FALL SEASON

Artesia and Glenn came away the big winners in football, finishing in the top two spots in league. And, what a relief because since 1998, La Mirada or Mayfair combined to win the Suburban League all but once. Meanwhile, Artesia, which had finished above third place just twice in the past 20 seasons, won the 605 League and for added measure, advanced to the Division 12 championship game. Glenn had its best league finish in over two decades and Pioneer High, which had historically finished in the bottom third of the Del Rio League, had its best league placing since 2002. The formation of the 605 League was mostly football-driven as the former Suburban League teams had a hard time competing with La Mirada and Mayfair, and in this sport particularly, it paid off for Artesia and Glenn.

Cerritos won the Suburban League in girls volleyball, heavily owned by Mayfair, three times since 2005 and was the league champion in the 605 League while Whitney, which had finished no better than fourth place 16 straight seasons, came in second place with Pioneer at third place. Cerritos and Whitney stand to be in a better place in the 605 League.

In girls tennis, it was status quo for Cerritos, which has gone 200-2 in league play since 2002. So, moving to the 605 League didn’t help or hurt Cerritos while Artesia and Glenn were the bottom two as they had historically been in the Suburban League. Expect more of the same in this sport for years to come.

Norwalk football went winless in 2018 while its girls volleyball team finished in third place and girls tennis in last place.

WINTER SEASON

Once again, La Mirada and Mayfair were the kings of the Suburban League in boys basketball for the better part of the past 11 seasons but Cerritos claimed the 605 League title this past season with Artesia coming in second place. Those programs figure to compete for a league title in the near future with Whitney trying to get back to the middle of the pack.

In girls basketball, Oxford Academy’s brief reign seems to be over as Cerritos and Whitney could finish as the top two teams next season. The new league didn’t hurt or help Cerritos or Whitney as they have always been competitive in the Suburban League and Academy League respectively. However, it may be more of the same for Artesia and Glenn, who had struggled in the Suburban League.

While Artesia clearly dominated in boys soccer, Cerritos and Whitney battled for the last playoff spot and are a force to reckon with, along with Pioneer High. And in girls soccer, which got a lot of talk during the winter season, it was all Cerritos with Artesia second. Everyone else struggled and the future doesn’t look too well for the other four teams. The 605 League is Cerritos’ to lose in this sport.

As for Norwalk, only boys soccer benefited with the new look in leagues. Girls basketball, a consistent playoff team in the old system, advance this past season. But boys basketball and girls soccer each won one league contest.

SPRING SEASON

The biggest winner was the Cerritos baseball team, which won a league title for the first time in over two decades. Glenn claimed a playoff berth while Whitney has plans on being in the top three in the near future. While Glenn has been a playoff team recently, the new league could benefit the Eagles. Artesia was once again in last place, something that has happened to the program four out of the last five seasons.

In softball, winning league titles isn’t new to Cerritos, but for Artesia, it was unchartered territory as those two shared the 605 League crown. Whitney finished in third place but could see a sharp decline beginning as early as next season. With that said, softball could be in the same boat as girls soccer-a two-team race between Cerritos and Artesia, then everyone else.

Cerritos and Whitney finished first and second on boys tennis and boys volleyball respectively and that could be a common theme in the near future while Norwalk’s baseball and softball teams finished in last place while its boys volleyball team won a Suburban League championship.

There have been minor grumblings about Norwalk and Gahr High possible moving out of their current leagues, or more schools being added to the Suburban League. But that would not happen for the next few years. Until then, get used to three-game league seasons for football in both leagues and Norwalk playing nine league games in most of their sports.

 

 

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