_____________________________ ST. NORBERT CHURCH           RATES ________________________

Socialize

FIVE YEARS OF 605 LEAGUE – Cerritos High and others finding competitive comfort in 605 League 

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

Artesia High, Cerritos High and John Glenn High, once longtime members of the defunct Suburban League, were hoping for a better chance to be competitive in the 605 League when it was introduced to the CIF-Southern Section to kick off the 2018-2019 school year. The former Suburban League had been primarily dominated by La Mirada High and Mayfair High, though the three schools that broke ties with the Suburban League had spurts of success.

Five years into the existence of the 605 League and it’s been a win-win for the six-member 605 League as every school has tasted life as a league champion, has gone deep in the playoffs and has even called themselves a CIF champion.

One of the main reasons for the formation of the 605 League, which also includes former Del Rio League member Pioneer High and ex-Academy League rivals Oxford Academy and Whitney High, was football driven. From 1998-2017, La Mirada and Mayfair combined to win all but one football league crown, though Cerritos was a tri-champion in 2001.

In the five years of the 605 League, Cerritos has two league titles in football and Artesia and Glenn have one each. There was no official league season in the fall of 2020 as the pandemic shifted the season to the spring of 2021 with no more than six games played, and Pioneer went to the playoffs last season. 

“I think Covid had kind of an effect on us, especially on the smaller schools,” said Cerritos co-athletic director Robert Adams. “I think for some of the schools, the 605 League has done really well. For Cerritos, I think it’s a mixed bag. Not all sports have benefitted at Cerritos because some of the other schools have not been able to field all the sports they committed to and/or all the levels they committed to in those sports.”

Adams continued to say that he is hopeful that the schools which don’t have all levels in certain sports will correct itself. But for now, the six institutions have to figure out ways to schedule competitive non-league games for their lower level teams during league action if there aren’t enough league teams to field a balanced schedule.

“The 605 League’s first five years have been a success,” said Glenn athletic director Linda Parra. “We have had the opportunity to create competitive equity in every sport. Teams who have not had much success in league play in the past, have been able to compete and qualify for the CIF playoffs. Many of our league teams have had success within the CIF playoffs as well.”

Although Glenn’s football team won the league in 2019, it has tried to stay within striking range of an automatic playoff berth in some of the other sports. Last season’s girls volleyball team finished in third place, the 2021-2022 boys basketball team finished in third place and advanced to the quarterfinals in the playoffs, the 2019-2020 boys soccer team was a second place finisher, the 2019 baseball team got third place and the last three Eagle softball teams have combined to go 18-12 in league action with a pair of playoff trips.

“Yes, while there are some athletic teams at John Glenn that might struggle a bit in the league, due to participation and lack of experience, I do believe the 605 League is beneficial for JGHS Athletics,” said Parra.

While Glenn has struggled, Cerritos has thrived more than the other five schools. Of the four major sports in each of the three seasons, the Dons have claimed 33 league titles. That doesn’t include the dominance in such sports like boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, boys and girls track and field and boys and girls wrestling. It’s statistics like that that shows why the 605 League is a good landing spot for Cerritos.

“Right now, it certainly is,” said Adams. “I think it’s easier for us at Cerritos than it was for La Mirada. I don’t think the situation is apples to apples in as much as when the Suburban League was attacked six years ago, or seven years ago, all the schools had similar population. For La Mirada to excel in as many sports as they did was very impressive. It’s a less impressive feat for a 2,100 student school to dominate or to have success over a bunch of 1,000 or lower population schools. We’re twice the size of most of the schools in the 605 League.”

But with the good, comes the bad. Whiney was hit probably the hardest in a pair of sports when Covid shut everything down in the early spring of 2020. The baseball team was on the verge of a possible playoff berth in 2020 despite finishing in fifth place in 2019 and had a strong senior class returning. But low numbers wiped out the return of a team in 2021 and the Wildcats haven’t fielded a team since then. The same happened with its girls soccer team, which went to the playoffs weeks before Covid hit. Some of the girls played for the 2020-2021 boys team which advanced to the Division 7 championship game. But even then, Whitney boys soccer has gone winless in league action the past two seasons while there has not been a girls soccer program.

In girls soccer, Cerritos has gone 40-0-0 in league action and went to the Division 4 semifinals this past February. But Artesia, Oxford Academy, Pioneer and Whitney have either been eliminated in the wild card or first round nine times and only Oxford has advanced to the second round once. On top of that, Glenn has yet to win a league game.

“Again, I think you can make an argument that Covid may have played a little part of it, but the 605 League has not shown as much competitiveness as we have hoped,” said Adams. “And, we have dropped levels. Girls soccer, using them as example and I’m the coach of that, obviously, we don’t participate in a six-team league. We participate in a five-team league [and] not only do we participate in a five-team league, but we participate in a five-team league with no junior varsity teams. So, that presents a huge difficulty on our side.”

Adams said he and Cerritos would be open to entertaining expansion of the league as needed in order to preserve the competitiveness and the validity of the different sports in multiple levels.  

Not winning a 605 League title doesn’t mean you can’t have success in the playoffs, especially with the CIF-SS having changed its divisional format over the years. Artesia’s 2019 league title in football got the Pioneers to the Division 12 championship game. No other league team has gotten out of the first round. Whitney girls tennis, which was 2019 co-champs with Cerritos and lost in the Division 4 semifinals, moved up a division for the 2021 season, won league and went to the semifinals again while Cerritos advanced to the quarterfinals.

The winter sports have been the most competitive with the farthest advancement in the postseason. In boys basketball, after seeing Cerritos open the league with three straight league titles, Artesia has won the last two and played in the Division 4AA semifinals two seasons ago. Last season, Whitney finished in third place, lost in the Division 5AA semifinals and played in the state tournament.

In girls basketball, which has seen four of the six schools have a share of a league title, Oxford Academy went to the Division 2A championship game in 2019 as did Cerritos in 2022 in Division 3AA. In 2020, Artesia finished in fourth place but won the Division 5AA crown while three schools have combined for four quarterfinals appearances. And in boys soccer, Artesia won the Division 5 championship two seasons ago and Oxford Academy played for the Division 7 crown last season.

In the spring sports, Whitney’s 2019 third place softball team lost in the quarterfinals and two seasons later, Cerritos fell in the semifinals in the same sport. Just a month ago, Artesia’s third place softball team lost in the seventh inning in the Division 6 semifinals while in boys volleyball, third place Oxford Academy went to the 2019 Division 6 semifinals. 

Finally, in boys tennis, 2022 was good for league champion Oxford Academy (quarterfinals), second place Cerritos (Division 4 champions) and third place Whitney (Division 3 finalists). This past spring, league champion Whitney and second place Cerritos both lost in the quarterfinals.

“From a community standpoint, the varsity sports obviously take the spotlight, and they should,” said Adams. “That will always be the case. But, without a strong lower division, whether it’s a two-level sport or a three-level sport, you’re going to lose participation. I’ve always been of the opinion that the 605 is a lower competitive league, overall, taken in total from the Suburban League before the Suburban League split.”

The original plans for the 605 League was to have a similar model that the Suburban Valley Conference is using. That conference merged the Suburban League, which had five members once the 605 League was formed, and the San Gabriel Valley League, which had six members.  

“That was always the target when the 605 League was developed,” said Adams. “Now, keep in mind, the Suburban League has now merged in a model with the San Gabriel Valley League in a way that Cerritos and Artesia and [Glenn] tried to do for multiple years, and the Suburban League blocked it. That’s when we were forced to leave.

“All three of us tried vigorously to try to bring in some other schools in order to form a conference,” he continued. “The Suburban League six years ago was a seven-team league, and that presents some difficulties as well. Just by bringing in three additional teams, whatever those would have been, and going to a conference model would have changed the competitive nature.”

While the SVC is trying to get a 12th school to make things equal between the Gateway League and Mid-Cities League, the 605 League is trying to do the same, especially for football since Oxford Academy and Whitney do not house football programs.

Some of the changes in the near future will take place in golf and water polo where the league will be entertaining guest schools coming into the league. Adams said that swimming and water polo are always in a difficult situation because of facilities. He would love to see badminton come into the 605 League, but it takes three or four teams to make that happen. 

For the 2023-2024 school year, Valley Christian High will join the 605 League in boys and girls golf while Calvary Chapel Downey High come in for wrestling purposes. And, pending administration approval, Milken Community will enter the league for boys water polo.

“Overall, I’m very pleased with where the 605 League is,” said Adams. “It’s easy to take a microscope out and focus on individual sports and every individual sports can say ‘yes, we would be better over here or we would be better with somebody else coming in with us’. In general, it has worked out really, really well.”

“I would like to see our [league] participation numbers in certain sports improve so that we can all have healthy junior varsity and varsity teams,” said Parra.