The playoff picture for the upcoming high school football season has became a bit clearer.

The CIF Central Section released base divisions for the 2022-23 school year then, giving area teams a look at the near future

Last year, the Central Section used a new playoff format where playoff divisions were determined after all regular season games were played. During the 2021 fall season, that format brought on some controversy.

Smaller schools having the rare spectacular season were seemingly punished by this new system, getting thrown to the wolves in higher divisions once the playoffs started. It also resulted in bigger schools playing in lower divisions. 

The section adjusted on the fly during the winter season, instituting base divisions for the basketball playoffs. The base divisions were also used in the spring.

This will be the first time area football teams have base divisions for the playoffs. No area teams are in Division 1, though they could wind up there once the regular season ends. 

Mission Prep is a prime example of why base divisions were instituted. The Royals are in the Division 4 base group this year. Last season, the small-school powerhouse went 9-0 during the regular season and dominated Ocean League foes, going 5-0.

The Royals' reward was the No. 10 seed in the Division 2 playoffs. They beat No. 7 Lemoore 21-12 and lost to No. 2 Bakersfield, one of the top programs in the history of the Valley, 28-16 in the second round. Mission Prep likely would've been in Division 3 or 4 last year if base divisions were in play. This year they can't be higher than Division 3. 

Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles, Righetti and St. Joseph were placed in Division 2 when the base divisions were released Wednesday. That means those teams can either stay in Division 2, move up to Division 1 or down to Division 3 once the final playoff brackets are released in November. 

Last fall, Righetti won the CIF Central Section Division 5 championship. This year, the lowest the Warriors can be in is Division 3, though they could also move up to Division 1 if they have a sterling regular season. They could also remain in Division 2.  

St. Joseph, which nearly knocked off No. 1 seed Bullard in a 29-28 defeat in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs last year, joins Righetti in the Division 2 base grouping. They could move up to Division 1 or drop to Division 3 depending on the end-of-season computer rankings. 

The high school football season is set to kick off on Friday, Aug. 19. The final week of the regular season is Oct. 28.

Also of interest is the division placements of Lompoc, Santa Ynez and Cabrillo, the three schools who have left the CIF Southern Section for the Central Section this year. 

Lompoc has a Division 3 base division, Santa Ynez is in Division 4 and Cabrillo is in Division 5, despite not having won a game since 2017.

The only other area program besides Lompoc to start out in Division 3 is San Luis Obispo. Remember for the playoffs, Lompoc and SLO could end up in Division 2, 3 or 4 depending on the computer rankings.

Atascadero, Mission Prep, Nipomo, Pioneer Valley, Santa Ynez and Templeton are area teams in the Division 4 group.

Cabrillo, Morro Bay and Santa Maria are in the Division 5 group. Morro Bay won the Division 6 title a year ago, beating Pioneer Valley in the semifinals. Morro Bay could end up in Division 6 again, or even move up to Division 4. 

No area teams are in Division 6.

Orcutt Academy is in the one-division 8-man football group.

There will be eight teams in the Mountain League this fall: Arroyo Grande, Lompoc, Mission Prep, Nipomo, Paso Robles, Righetti, Santa Ynez and St. Joseph.

The Ocean League will have seven teams: Atascadero, Cabrillo, Morro Bay, Pioneer Valley, San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria and Templeton. 

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