By Phil Anastasia
Holy Spirit, a perennial power that spend much of last season as the No. 1 ranked team in South Jersey, will move down to the National Division in the Cape Atlantic League's new alignment for football for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
The Spartans were 11-1 last season, their only loss to North Jersey powerhouse DePaul Catholic in the Non-Public 2 state title game. They finished No. 2 in the rankings.
Holy Spirit won state titles in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
"I'm not happy about it," Holy Spirit coach John Iannucci said Monday morning. "We would love to be in the division with the biggest and best teams. We earned that right on the field."
Iannucci said he was speaking for himself and not the Holy Spirit administration.
Iannucci said one "positive" of the arrangement is that Holy Spirit will have an open date in its schedule. The Spartans intend to play a game against an out-of-state opponent.
"We'll take advantage of this," Iannucci said. "We want to be a premier program. We want kids who are coming here to know we intend to be a premier program."
Oakcrest also will move down to the National Division from the American Division in the re-alignment.
St. Augustine Prep, Vineland and Ocean City will move up from the National Division to the American Division.
In the past two seasons, the CAL's cross-over games matched the No. 1 team in the American (based on power points in previous seasons) against the No. 1 team in the National and the No. 2 team against the No. 2 team, and so forth.
Under that arrangement, Holy Spirit and St. Joseph would play in a cross-over game as they are the No. 1 teams in their respective divisions based on power points over the last three seasons.
But the league still is working to finalize schedules, according to CAL president Mike Gatley, because National Division teams need to arrange a game and one American Division team would not get an automatic cross-over (as there are nine American teams and just eight National teams).
The CAL re-alignment comes a few weeks after the Colonial Conference voted down a proposal to create an alliance between the two leagues for cross-over games.
The CAL also needed to account for the loss of Hammonton, an American Division team that will leave the league in September to join the Tri-County Conference (and, automatically, the West Jersey Football League).
The new alignment has nine schools in the American Division and eight in the National Division. With one league-arranged, cross-over game, schools in the American Division will be guarenteed a full nine-game schedule while schools in the National will be assured of eight games and will need to arrange for a ninth game.
The league took all its Group 5 and Group 4 schools and put them in the American Division and all its Group 1-2-3 schools and put them in the National Division.
Then, to "fix the competitive imbalance," the league moved the top-rated team in the National Division (St. Joseph) up to the American Division.
Here are the division alignments (in order of cumulative power points over the last three seasons) for 2014 and 2015:
American: St. Joseph, Millville, Atlantic City, Egg Harbor, Absegami, St. Augustine, Mainland, Vineland and Ocean City.
National: Holy Spirit, Cedar Creek, Bridgeton, Oakcrest, Lower Cape May, Buena, Middle Township and Pleasantville.
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