Before heading off for the Central Sequoia League starting in the 2018-19 school year, Hanford West is ready for one last season in the West Yosemite League in all sports.
The school leaving the WYL for the CSL highlights league and playoff division shakeups locally that could drastically change the landscape of high school sports in Kings County.
The CSL consists of Dinuba, Central Valley Christian, Exeter, Immanuel, Kingsburg and Selma. Hanford West will be the league’s seventh team.
After the 2017-18 school year, the WYL will only consist of six teams: Hanford, Lemoore, Golden West, El Diamante, Mt. Whitney and Redwood.
Since joining the WYL in the mid-2000s, Hanford West has failed to win a single league title in a majority of sports the school offers.
For some Hanford West coaches, the change doesn’t seem necessary -- even though most of the athletic programs have failed to win any league titles in their respective sports.
Hanford West head football coach Cannon Sanchez said that while the Huskies usually have problems with depth, the drop doesn’t do much to help the program. In the past 11 years, however, Hanford West has gone a combined 6-60 in league play.
“I don’t think it helps us in any way,” Sanchez said. “I wanted us to play in the WYL. I feel like it’s a linear move.”
In a sport like boys basketball, where Hanford West has won league titles, the feeling is the same.
“I’m conflicted,” said Hanford West boys basketball coach Kenneth Gregory, who also went to Hanford High. “Me and my entire coaching staff grew up playing in the WYL and have friends at other WYL schools. Leaving is going to be like breaking up with part of your family.”
While the CSL has powers in some sports such as football (Kingsburg/Selma/Dinuba) and wrestling (Selma), other sports aren’t as top-heavy as compared to the WYL, which consistently has its league champion go on to win higher division Section titles than what Hanford West normally competes at.
As for the WYL, the team will turn to a six team league, eliminating some schedule headaches, including late season byes because of the odd number of teams.
The Huskies will continue to have the same problem now in some sports, including football. Hanford West had a Week 10 bye every year while in the WYL and will continue to do so. With more teams playing basketball, the CSL will most likely have to play league games in December, something Gregory isn’t a fan of. After playing two league games, teams have up to a month break with time off or one or two holiday tournaments scheduled.
WYL will no longer have that problem.
With Hanford West joining the CSL, the CSL will now have another school that competes in every sport, helping the league fill out its competition. Because of the sizes of Immanuel and CVC, both schools don’t compete in some sports because of the lack of athletes.
While Hanford West was the smallest school enrollment-wise in the WYL, it will now be an average-sized school in the CSL but is still smaller than Dinuba, Kingsburg and Selma.
Gregory said he’d also prefer to see the leagues stay as they are.
“We still get a lot of talent at the school,” he said. “I’m not going to complain about the move. I just don’t see any major difference between the two (leagues).”
While Hanford and Hanford West won’t be in the same league, teams are expected to continue to play each other yearly in nonleague matchups.
The 2018 Dog Bowl between Hanford West and Hanford football teams is already scheduled to be played during Week 1 of the season. Traditionally, the teams haven’t played each other until the first week of WYL play in Week 4.
“It’s going to be a weird way to start the season,” Sanchez said. “Usually the season builds up a little before we play each other. It’s going to start the year with a bang though.”
The WYL isn’t the only local league that will look different starting in the 2018-19 school year.
The East Sequoia League and East Sierra League will both have changes.
Alpaugh and Fresno Christian will replace Orosi and Farmersville in the East Sierra League. The league will now consist of Laton, Kings Christian, Summit Charter Academy, Wonderful College Prep, Alpaugh and Fresno Christian. Orosi and Orange Cove will shift to the West Sequoia League.
In sports the East Sierra League doesn’t offer (tennis, golf, soccer, track and field, cross country), Fresno Christian will compete in the West Sequoia League.
In the East Sequoia League, Corcoran, Granite Hills, Lindsay, Sierra Pacific, Strathmore and Woodlake will be joined by Farmersville in all sports. Summit Charter Academy will compete in soccer and cross country, sports the East Sierra League doesn’t have.
The Central Section has also made changes to playoff divisions for fall sports. Winter and spring divisions are expected to be announced later in the year.
Here’s a look at division changes for the playoffs in fall sports involving Kings County:
Football: Following back-to-back Central Section Div. III titles in 2014 and 2015 as well as a 4A state title in 2015, Hanford has been elevated to Div. II.
Hanford West will drop to Div. V and Laton will cease play in 11-man football. The Mustangs, which haven’t won a game in three straight seasons, will make a return to playing 8-man football.
Volleyball: Hanford drops to Div. IV while Avenal, Corcoran and Sierra Pacific all will drop from Div. IV to Div. V.
Girls tennis: Corcoran, the 2016 Div. IV champion, moves up to Div. III. Hanford West drops to Div. IV while Sierra Pacific moves up to Div. IV. Hanford also drops to Div. V.
Girls water polo: Following multiple years of success at the Div. II and III levels, Hanford has been elevated to Div. I. Hanford West drops from Div. I to Div. II.
Boys cross country: Hanford, Hanford West and Lemoore all drop to Div. IV. Sierra Pacific drops to Div. V.
Girls cross country: Hanford, Hanford West and Lemoore drop to Div. IV. Avenal and Sierra Pacific drop to Div. V.
Girls golf: Following back-to-back Central Section titles in 2015 and 2016, Lemoore is elevated from Div. II to Div. I. Hanford West drops to Div. III.