Fri, Dec 10 2010 03:10 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The CIF-Metro Conference is back for its 11th season after surviving off-season budget cutbacks within the Sweetwater Union High School District, and the state’s only officially CIF-sanctioned roller hockey league appears better off — and larger — than ever due to the expansion to four competition leagues with the admission of one new school.
The arrival of the Cathedral Catholic High School Dons from the club-based San Diego County High School Roller Hockey Conference hikes conference membership to 17 varsity teams. The Dons will play in the new Central League alongside the St. Augustine Saints, La Jolla Country Day Torreys and West Hills Wolf Pack.
The new four-league set-up promises to provide much more even competition and parity within each league — and, according to league liaison Jerry Nestlerode, coach of the Southwest Raiders, it will provide true geographic competition within the conference for the first time.
“I think it balances the schedule better for all the teams in the conference,” Nestlerode said. “We have more regional play by having a true South Bay League and Mesa League, the Central League and the North County League. The North County League is now a true North County league.”
Mar Vista coach Ron Cole lauded the division into four geographic regions. “The South Bay teams are now all playing together and I think that’s how it should be,” he said.
The 2010-11 season faced off Monday with a non-league contest pitting the Hilltop Lancers and the West Hills Wolf pack at Skate San Diego in National City. The season will conclude with the Kiwanis Cup championship playoffs in late February and early March.
Each conference team is scheduled to play 20 regular season games. Ten of the 17 teams qualify for the single-elimination playoffs, with each league champion receiving automatic entry into the playoffs.
The majority of games will once again be played at both Skate San Diego and the Escondido Sports Center — venues located about 31 miles apart that reflect the conference’s general north-south geographic split. The outdoor rink at Castle Park High School also will be used for pre-Winter Break contests.
The Mesa League remains the same as last season with members including the Bonita Vista Barons, Chula Vista Spartans, Eastlake Titans, Hilltop Lancers and Otay Ranch Mustangs.
The South Bay League loses La Jolla Country Day and St. Augustine to the new Central League but retains an all-local lineup with the Castle Park Trojans, Mar Vista Mariners, Southwest Raiders and Sweetwater Red Devils.
West Hills vacates the North County League to join the Central League. North County League holdovers include the Poway Titans, Rancho Bernardo Broncos, Scripps Ranch Falcons and Westview Wolverines.
Westview is the defending North County League and Kiwanis Cup champion while Eastlake won last season’s Mesa League title. La Jolla Country Day captured the 2009-10 South Bay League title but the Torreys’ move to the new Central League ensures that a new South Bay League champion will be crowned in 2010-11.
West Hills, which defeated Hilltop, 21-0, in Monday’s season opener, is picked to win this year’s conference championship.
Teams in the South Bay League and North County League will each play 12 league games while Central League teams will each play nine league games and Mesa League teams will each play eight league games.
Nestlerode and Cole agreed the identity of the new SBL champion remains a mystery — and that’s the exciting prospect.
“All the teams in the South Bay League will be competitive with each other,” Nestlerode said. “It’s anybody’s guess who will be the league champion. Between the four teams, it may come down to which team can come together the best and field the best team for the league games.”
The conference is set to expand to at least 18 teams next season with the return of the Montgomery Aztecs, Nestlerode said.
“Right now, it’s a success story for 17 teams in the county,” the Southwest coach said.
Players and parents interested in bringing in new teams may contact Jerry Nestlerode directly at 793-6950.
© 2009 The Star-News