In its first season, the Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan division produced some of the most exciting games of the year.
The recent division realignment could create even more heart-pounding matchups.
Carmel, a Central Coast Section Division V finalist this season, will join Aptos, Christopher, Alvarez, Gilroy, San Benito and reigning co-champions Palma and Salinas in the PCAL-G next fall, the league announced on Tuesday.
“The guiding principle for division assignment is to make each of those divisions as competitive as possible, with the most competitive teams in the Gabilan division,” PCAL Commissioner Tim McCarthy said through a press release.
The Padres, coached by Golden Anderson, won the PCAL’s Mission division this fall. They finished the year with a 12-1 record, having won 16 games dating back to last season before falling to The King’s Academy of Sunnyvale in the section finals on Dec. 1.
Carmel has not finished with a losing record since 2000, and is set to return quarterback Kai Lee and running back Dakota Mornhinweg — the two combined for 52 touchdowns this year.
Aptos head coach Randy Blankenship, whose Mariners finished tied for third in the Gabilan and won the CCS Open D-III title on Dec. 1, said he’s excited to see the addition.
Since the start of the decade, Carmel has a 9-3 record against teams from this year’s Gabilan. The Padres also beat Salinas, 36-23, to start the year.
“Golden does a great job, he’s a good coach,” Blankenship said. “It’s nice to have another competitive team in our league.”
Carmel took Seaside’s place in the division. The Spartans finished second-to-last in the Gabilan with a 1-6 record. Their lone league win — also their only win of the year — came against Gilroy, which went winless in the Gabilan and also finished 1-9 overall.
Every team outside the big four of the Gabilan — Aptos, Palma, San Benito and Salinas — struggled this season. Alvarez only had two league wins — coming against Seaside and Gilroy — and Christopher also struggled to compete, losing to the big four by an average of 29.5 points.
“It wouldn’t have been fair to leave [Seaside] up there,” Blankenship said. “[Having Carmel up] makes our league even more interesting.”
Carmel and Seaside weren’t the only teams moving on Tuesday. Monterey moved up to the Mission after winning the Cypress, swapping spots with Watsonville, the last-place finisher in the league’s second-toughest division.
Monterey will play Alisal, Monte Vista Christian, North Salinas, Scotts Valley and Soledad in the Mission.
Watsonville, meanwhile, will see King City, North Monterey County, San Lorenzo Valley, Santa Cruz, Soquel and Gonzales in the Cypress. Soquel and Gonzales were moved up from the Santa Lucia. The latter won the division and advanced to the CCS D-V semifinals.
The Wildcatz’s move rekindles a trio of Santa Cruz County rivalries against S.L.V., Santa Cruz and Soquel. Watsonville and N.M.C. also have a rivalry that dates back to their meeting in the CCS finals in 1988.
"It's an exciting opportunity," said Watsonville head coach Ron Myers, who is heading into the sixth year of his second stint at Watsonville and 47th season of coaching overall. "It's been a long time since we've played league games within the county...It's basically the old [Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League]."
St. Francis moved to the Santa Lucia after tying for last in the Cypress. Pacific Grove, which finished second-to-last in the Cypress, also moved down. Pajaro Valley, Greenfield, Harbor, Marina and Stevenson will also compete in the Santa Lucia.
Here’s how the other six fall sports of the PCAL will look next fall:
The PCAL will expand to five divisions next year, as Rancho San Juan, a new high school in Salinas set to open in 2019, will join the league.
M.V.C. will stay in the Gabilan with champion Salinas, runner-up San Benito, Carmel, Notre Dame-Salinas and Christopher. Those six teams will welcome in Mission champion Alvarez.
Santa Catalina and King City moved down from the Gabilan to the Mission. They will join Alisal, Monterey, Seaside and Cypress champion Gilroy in the league’s second-toughest division.
North Salinas, St. Francis and Pacific Grove moved down to the Cypress after finishing fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Mission. They’ll compete against Anzar, Pajaro Valley and Soledad.
Watsonville, Gonzales, Stevenson and N.M.C. were all moved down to the Santa Lucia after finishing in the bottom half of the Cypress. Rancho San Juan and Trinity Christian complete the division.
Greenfield, Kirby, Marina, Oakwood, Pacific Collegiate School, Pacific Point and York make up the Arroyo.
The top seven boys and girls teams of the PCAL, according to the league’s “formula,” were placed in the Gabilan for next fall, meaning six schools had their boys and girls teams split between two divisions. The boys teams at Greenfield, King City and Pacific Grove will all compete in the Gabilan, but their girls will call the Mission their home. Likewise, the girls at N.M.C., Gilroy and North Salinas will compete in the Gabilan, while the boys of those programs will race in the Mission.
This year’s boys Santa Lucia champion, M.V.C., was moved into the giant 10-team Mission. Watsonville, Marina, Palma, Seaside, Alvarez and Soledad will all join the Mustangs as well as aforementioned N.M.C., Gilroy and North Salinas.
In the girls Mission, local schools Watsonville and M.V.C. will race against Alvarez, Greenfield, King City, Marina, ND-Salinas, Pacific Grove, Seaside and Soledad.
In the Cypress and the Santa Lucia every school had its boys and girls teams placed in the same division.
The former features Gonzales, Monterey, P.C.S., St. Francis, Stevenson and York. The latter carries Anzar, Ceiba, Christopher, Kirby, Oakwood, Pajaro Valley, Santa Catalina and Trinity Christian.
Watsonville and N.M.C. were left in the Mission with Alisal, Alvarez, Gilroy, ND-Salinas and newcomer Rancho San Juan.
Carmel, Christopher, San Benito, Pacific Grove, Salinas, Santa Catalina and Stevenson will compete in the Gabilan.
The four local tennis teams will compete in the same divisions next fall. M.V.C. and St. Francis will again play in the Mission against Alisal, Christopher, Alvarez, San Benito and North Salinas. And Watsonville and Pajaro Valley stayed put in the Cypress with Gilroy, Gonzales, ND-Salinas, Oakwood and Rancho San Juan.
The Gabilan will feature Carmel, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas, Santa Catalina, Stevenson and York.
GIRLS WATER POLO
Aptos will remain in the Gabilan after a runner-up finish this fall. The Mariners will see champion Soquel, Santa Cruz, Santa Catalina, Salinas, Gilroy and Christopher in the division.
Pacific Grove addition of water polo brings the Mission to nine teams, the others being: Alvarez, Harbor, San Benito, Monterey, ND-Salinas, Pacific Grove, S.L.V. and Stevenson.
BOYS WATER POLO
Despite a 2-10 finish in the Gabilan this fall, Aptos will again compete in the division. Champion Soquel, Stevenson, Santa Cruz, Christopher, Carmel and Mission champion S.L.V. will play the Mariners in the Gabilan.
Alvarez, Gilroy, Harbor, San Benito, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Palma, Salinas and York will play in the Mission.
Editor's Note: This article will publish in the Dec. 7 edition of the Register-Pajaronian newspaper.