The most comprehensive league realignment in North Bay League (NBL) history has done everything it was intended to do, or so says a consensus of school coaches and administrators.
The new system, implemented in 2018, merged former NBL schools with the Sonoma County League, forming a combined league with two divisions. The configuration features a highly competitive Oak Division, and less competitive Redwood Division.
The NBL includes Windsor, Analy, El Molino, Cardinal Newman, Elsie Allen, Healdsburg, Maria Carrillo, Montgomery, Piner, Rancho Cotate, Santa Rosa and Ukiah. St. Vincent of Petaluma was added to the fray this year, with all of its teams being placed in the Redwood Division.
League officials and school athletic directors met during the summer to reevaluate each sport, moving teams across divisions as needed. Following the first two years of implementation, only a few teams changed divisions.
Healdsburg, one of the smallest schools in the league, has done well under the new configuration, with all but one of its teams competing in the Redwood Division in the first two years following realignment.
The HHS boys soccer team was the lone exception, having spent the last two years in the brutally tough NBL Oak Division that included perennial powers Montgomery and Maria Carrillo. That will change next season as they move to the Redwood Division to compete with Analy, Cardinal Newman, El Molino, Roseland University, St. Vincent and Ukiah.
“It's a good bracket, but half of the teams won't field a JV team,” HHS veteran coach Herbert Lemus said, when weighing the pros and cons of changing divisions. “That will force us to play bigger schools so that we can schedule our JV team. But we’re thinking about the program as a whole and trying not to concentrate just on one team.”
The HHS boys basketball team is on the flip side of the coin after winning three straight league titles, the last two coming in the NBL Redwood Division. The Greyhounds have been placed in the competitive Oak bracket, where they’ll square off with Cardinal Newman, Montgomery, Piner, Maria Carrillo and Analy.
“I was the only person attending the league meeting that was against Healdsburg moving up, but it was only because of the impact it would have on our JV team and overall program,” HHS Athletic Director Brian Osborn said. “I argued that for the smaller schools it’s a little tougher to sustain success, but at the same time it will be fun to watch us play against the big dogs.”