But it will be the football programs that get first crack at the return to the two-league standings.
For those who forgot, Reed, Spanish Springs, McQueen, Reno, Hug and North Valleys will comprise the High Desert League, while Carson, Douglas, Bishop Manogue, Galena and Damonte Ranch will battle it out for Sierra League supremacy.
But is the two-league system better?
“I’d prefer two leagues if there were more teams,” SSHS football coach Scott Hare said. “We kind of go round and round. I think there are pros and cons on both sides. I think the biggest con is there is only a five-team league, so four out of the five teams are going to make the playoffs. I think that just makes it tough to put your best eight in the playoffs.”
Still, Hare felt the 11-team league had its major downfall in that not everyone played each other. In the first year of the 11-team league, Reed, Carson and McQueen finished in a three-way tie for first place, but Carson didn’t play either Reed or McQueen.
It all worked itself out on the field in the playoffs in 2010, but the Senators again didn’t have to play the Lancers or Raiders last fall, the two teams most felt were at the top of the class in the North during league play.
When Reed and Carson met for the Northern 4A championship as the only two teams to go undefeated in league, the Raiders showed how an unbalanced schedule can be deceiving, shellacking the Senators 49-0.
Hare also feels the competitive balance is shifted by not playing every team. It’s not just about wins and losses for seeding purposes, it’s also about the bumps and bruises teams receive by playing physical teams like Reed and McQueen or the bumps and bruises teams escape by not playing them. Those bumps and bruises can affect a team’s performance the following week and leave it more susceptible to upsets.
One big positive for the two-league system is the return of non-league games that help fine tune for those league matchups later in the year.
Spanish Springs and Reed will both play California teams early in the year. The Cougars also have non-league clashes with every Sierra League team except Carson, while the Raiders will take on Douglas, Manogue and Carson in non-league action, giving these teams five weeks before they open up league play (Sept. 28) — which will decide their postseason fate.
All coaches seem to agree that no matter the number of leagues and how playoff berths are decided, teams are going to go out there and play to win every game.
“I really don’t even care,” Reed football coach Ernie Howren said. “I liked the one-league system. I liked the two-league system. Whatever they go with, we’ll go with. Those non-league games do mean a lot. They get us ready for league. It’s always been important to us to have non-league games.”
Another shake up occurred in the 3A, which is now the Division I-A, after 10 teams from southern Nevada dropped down from the former 4A classification.
While it wouldn’t affect Sparks teams until the state tournaments, SHS athletic director and football coach Rob Kittrell is looking forward to more challenging state tournament action. In the past, three northern teams would beat out one southern team and it felt like state was just an extension of the Northern 3A regional playoffs.
“I think competition wise, it really broadens it across the state,” Kittrell said. “I think you’re going to see soccer, the Southern 3A hasn’t had much success in state tournaments. Now you add a lot of schools like Sparks, inner-city who struggle to get kids out, but you’re going to have some of those Hispanic populations.
“In basketball, Faith Lutheran alone, they’ve been a good 4A team. They’re good competition there in all their sports. From the southern perspective, it just adds more depth competition wise. Now we get a true state tournament. That’s nice not seeing the third-place team from the North in the state tournament.”