By Ray Hamill — Many St. Bernard’s fans might not like to hear it, but the H-DNL has voted to keep the Crusaders football team in the Big 4 for the next two seasons.
The decision was approved by an 8-1 vote at last month’s league meeting, with one vote for each school, and it was announced on Thursday night.
The criteria for this decision, according to the league, is to keep both the Big 4 and Little 4 as viable NCS conferences and is based on competitive equity.
Without the recent realignment, the Little 4 would have just three teams and would not qualify for an automatic NCS playoff berth, as is the case for leagues with less than four teams.
Previously South Fork had competed in the Little 4 in football, but dropped down to eight-person football three years ago, leaving the smaller school conference with just three teams in 2017.
Two years ago, the H-DNL moved Arcata and McKinleyville from the Big 5 to the Little 4 and moved St. Bernard’s from the Little 4 to what is now the Big 4, giving each conference four teams.
According to the league, “The process approved by the HDNL was based on the NCS competitive equity divisions for football and the NCS competitive equity points earned during the NCS playoffs.”
The re-alignment will be re-addressed every two years.
In addition to St. Bernard’s, a Division-6 program, the Big 4 includes three Division-5 schools, Eureka, Del Norte and Fortuna.
The Little 4 includes three Division-7 teams — Ferndale, Hoopa and McKinleyville — and one Division-6 team, Arcata.
According to the H-DNL, St. Bernard’s has 21 competitive equity points, while Arcata has just one.
The Crusaders have certainly dominated the smaller schools conference in recent years and have not lost to a Little 4 team since 2013, a winning streak that is now 30 straight games.
This past season, they swept three lopsided games from Little 4 opposition by a combined score of 135-49.
In two years competing against the bigger schools in the Big 4, the Crusaders are 2-4, going on to win a state championship after a 1-2 league campaign this year.
St. Bernard’s fans, however, believe it is unfair that a school with an enrollment of around 150 students should have to compete in conference against schools with close to or more than 1,000 students, as is the case with the other three Big 4 teams.
This year’s SB football roster had 27 players, although the program did not field a JV team and realistically had less than 20 varsity players on hand.
According to MaxPreps, Eureka had a roster of 34 varsity players, Fortuna 30 and Del Norte 26, and all three feature JV teams as well.