Head scratcher

The Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association has shaken up its divisional alignments again, opting for a more regional approach to how it sets up who and where its teams will play.

The question raised by several coaches however, has been whether or not this is truly a regional realignment.

“It’s nothing against the smaller schools,” Fredonia varsity baseball coach Vince Gullo said. “Frewsburg’s been as good as us the past few years, but if the realignment is strictly about saving money, then why are we driving past Cassadaga three times heading to other schools? How come Jamestown still gets to stay in the (ECIC), but their softball team gets to play in (CCAA) Division 1? There were so many different deals going on and it has hurt us tremendously.”

“Cassadaga, I believe, has a higher population than Maple Grove for sure,” Dunkirk varsity baseball coach Frank Jagoda added. “But yet they’re not in with us. I’m not complaining that it’s Maple Grove (that was added to the league), but it’s not a true grouping for what they said they tried to do.”

Looking at the CCAA Division 1 baseball alignment, which is now Division 1 West, gone are Gowanda, Olean and Allegany-Limestone – two Class B schools and a Class C school. Coming in are Frewsburg, Maple Grove and Silver Creek – all of which are Class C schools.

Frewsburg gets a pass because it has been the most dominant Class C team in Section 6 for the better part of the past decade. Maple Grove and Silver Creek, however, have had some tough days on the diamond in recent times. This is something that concerns Gullo.

“Playing lesser competition, we won’t improve as much,” Gullo said. “And we won’t gain, from winning, the number of seeding points we’d normally get. That could have us seeded lower come playoff time and it’s possible that we could lose a home playoff game during the (Sectional) semifinals.

“If it was realignment strictly based on geography, that’s one thing,” Gullo added. “But people chose to make exceptions.”

You may be asking yourself at this point, “So what? What does it matter which schools play which schools?”

As Gullo noted, it matters in terms of seeding points for the sectional playoffs. The points are accumulated during the league portion of a team’s schedule only. So, if a Class B school like Dunkirk or Fredonia goes from playing in a league consisting mostly of other Class B schools to a league playing three Class C schools, the potential to gain seeding points is lost. Therefore the Class B teams are at a decided disadvantage compared to Class C schools, which have significantly more to gain in terms of playoff seeding and the Class C coaches know it.

“I think it’s good for us,” Frewsburg varsity baseball coach Jay Grann said. “I think we’re going to play a lot better competition now throughout our league and it’s going to help us get even more ready for the playoffs.”

Grann also knows going forward that there’s no guarantee that his team will be as dominant as it has been in league play.

“Sure, if a Class C team wins all (of its league game), it helps them tremendously,” Grann said. “But we’re playing in a much more difficult division and the Class C teams are going to lose a lot more games than maybe they have in the past.”

The reasoning behind the shuffling of the leagues, as far as anyone has been told, is to cut down on costs. Gullo and Jagoda, amongst other coaches, aren’t buying it though.

“If you sit down and think about it and ask yourself why they did it … If it was a true regional thing, there are still some schools that should be in our division that aren’t,” Jagoda said. “Why isn’t Cassadaga Valley with us? They had the option of saying, ‘no’ when other schools didn’t have the option of saying, ‘no.’ Something happened and it’s kind of confusing how they did it.”

“We drive right by Cassadaga which is a bigger school than Maple Grove and Frewsburg and they’re closer to us as well,” Gullo added. “It’s a bigger school and it’s 10 minutes away. So now we get to go 45 minutes away. It makes no sense. It’s going to save pennies. The cost saved to Fredonia baseball is a trip to Olean and Allegany.”

Mike Janisch, Silver Creek’s varsity baseball coach, had a slightly different view of things.

“Schools are getting so much smaller now that it’s really difficult to go by any arbitrary criteria to set up an alignment,” Janisch said. “This one happens to be regional, the other one we used previously was enrollment-based. So there are all different kinds of ways to do it. This one just seems to be, at this point in time, quite a bit different than what they had been at other times.

“I certainly am not displeased with the fact that we will have to travel less,” Janisch continued. “That doesn’t mean it is going to be easy on us in terms of any league setup, because we will be one of the smaller schools in that league.”

Gullo’s concerns went deeper than just the level of competition his boys on the varsity squad will face. He’s also worried about how the realignment will affect the Hillbillies’ jayvee and modified programs.

“Some of the schools we’ll be playing don’t have jayvee teams,” Gullo said. “So now we lose jayvee games and this realignment may force us down the road to go with just modified and varsity teams. And that’s not going to help anybody. The smaller schools don’t have the numbers so they have to (have only modified and varsity), but we have the numbers for baseball and softball.”

Jagoda echoed Gullo’s fears.

“It seems like our county, certainly in baseball, is going to be dictated by the smaller schools,” Jagoda said. “Which is going to hurt the larger schools. Fortunately, we’re still able to field a modified, jayvee and varsity team. But if you have jayvee teams like Fredonia, Southwestern, Falconer and us, who are they going to play? They’re going to have to go out of their way or the districts are going to have to decide that they’re just going to play their league games. It’s going to hurt. The kids aren’t going to get the game experience they need to move up to the varsity level.”

CCAA Division 1 basketball, which consisted previously of Dunkirk, Fredonia, Olean, Falconer, Southwestern, Gowanda, Falconer and Allegany-Limestone, will now consist of Dunkirk, Fredonia, Falconer, Southwestern, Silver Creek, Maple Grove and Frewsburg. Olean, with its dearth of talent, will be playing an independent schedule this season while Gowanda and Allegany-Limestone will be playing in Division 1 East this winter.

“I don’t even try to look at the reason behind (the realignment),” Silver Creek varsity basketball head coach Rob Genco said. “We’ll miss playing those schools that we were playing, because over the years I was able to develop good relationships with the other coaches, so other than that, it doesn’t change anything in how we’re going to prepare and get ready for the season.”

Dunkirk varsity basketball head coach Jerome Moss noted he was happy that his team wouldn’t have to travel to Olean or Allegany anymore, but noted that in terms of the competitive level of the league, it shouldn’t miss a beat.

“If you look at Silver Creek, they’ve put together a great program and they don’t seem to have lost too much,” Moss said. “And Maple Grove is always competitive, so I think we’ve picked up two quality teams and I think we’re going to have one of the best leagues around.”

Moss did note however, the effects of not having a league made up mostly of Class B schools.

“That’s the big worry,” Moss said, noting the loss of seeding points. “As you know with the point system the way it is, we actually lose out on a point. And that can affect us in the playoffs, but you know what, you’ve got to worry about that when it happens and go and play your game where you’re seeded and go from there.”

Like other coaches, Moss never really got a clear answer as to why the leagues were set up the way they were for the upcoming school year.

“The answer I got was money came into play and bus trips and getting back late and things like that,” Moss said. “Basically, we all heard the same things. What are you going to do? I wondered why we didn’t have Cassadaga Valley instead of Frewsburg. That would have made more sense. I feel sorry for Frewsburg. They’re the ones that have to come all the way up here to play. I don’t get that, but I guess they thought that was the way to go. And look at what Gowanda has to do. Gowanda is right here in our area and now they have to travel (farther).”

After discussing the realignment with several coaches, one thing became clear: They like the fact they don’t have to travel too deep into Cattaraugus County, but they can’t, for the life of them, see the rationale behind it.

“I think that’s a little confusing,” Grann said. “We’re driving through some school districts and not playing them. I think it’s going to work both ways. Obviously it’s going to hurt the (Class B schools) because they’re not going to get their points, but a team like us, if we lose to some of those B schools, we’re not going to get as many points and we’re going to fall in the seedings too. So it kind of works like a double-edged sword.”