John Carroll got some good news the day before his Oceanside Pirates were to meet Carlsbad for what would be the title-deciding game in the Avocado League.
Coach John McFadden of Eastlake called Carroll and told the Oceanside mentor that Eastlake had used an ineligible player in the 23-19, season-opening victory over the Pirates.
Instead of an 8-1 record, the Pirates were 9-0 the next night after they defeated Carlsbad, 17-7, in the annual battle of North County titans at Swede Krcmar Field, named after the e Lancers’ first coach.
Carlsbad was ranked No. 1 in the County and had come into the game with an 8-0 record.
The forfeit “is a win on paper, but that’s all it is,” said Carroll, downplaying the issue. The coach had his eye on another target, a seventh trip to the big stadium in Mission Valley.
OCEANSIDE ON MOVE
Oceanside clinched the league championship the next week with a 32-0 triumph over cross-town rival El Camino.
The Pirates’ momentum was snowballing.
Oceanside rolled through the playoffs, defeating Steele Canyon, 34-10, Castle Park, 52-14, and Helix, 27-10 for the II championship.
NORTH COUNTY CLOUT
Oceanside, Torrey Pines, Vista, and Valley Center were champions in Divisions I, II, and III, a four-of-a-kind winner by teams located North of the Ted Williams Parkway, also known as State Highway 56.
Torrey Pines generally was recognized as part of this group because of its league affiliation, but was located within the San Diego City Limits.
The combined record of the four squads was 46-4-4.
Oceanside was 13-0 with a fifth championship in John Carroll’s 16 years, all coming in the last nine seasons.
Vista (10-2-1) and Torrey Pines (10-2-1) played to a 14-14 tie for the D-I title, and Valley Center (11-0-2) outlasted Brawley 39-33 for the D-III championship.
SHIFTING SANDS OF PLAYOFF SITES
Three of eight playoff semifinals venues were changed days before the games.
Monte Vista (11-0), the top-seeded III squad, was to meet Valley Center (9-0-2) at Escondido High. The Monarchs appealed for a more centrally located site and were granted a switch to Serra High.
Advantage, Monarchs? Hardly. Valley Center, forced to travel an additional 25 miles from its location fairly close to Escondido, took it out on Monte Vista and surprised the Monarchs 24-22.
Helix (9-2) and Grossmont (8-3), blood enemies for more than 50 years, agreed that they didn’t want to play at Serra, Grossmont going even further by acquiescing to meet the Highlanders on Helix’s turf.
In this case, both coaches, David Napoleon of Grossmont and Donnie Van Hook of Helix, preferred to play on the Highlanders’ artificial turf after playing all of their home games on an ersatz surface.
Helix won 23-17 in overtime to advance to the D-II finals for the fifth season in a row.
The playing field was not affected by rainy weather which persisted throughout the game, although Helix missed a 20-yard field goal attempt as regulation play ended. The Highlanders stopped Grossmont on the first possession of the overtime, then scored for the victory.
RIDE SHORTENED FOR BLYTHE
Palo Verde Valley of Blythe (9-1), sitting in the furthest reach of the San Diego Section, got a break when its matchup with Horizon (6-4), was moved from La Jolla to El Centro Central.
The trip ticket for the Riverside County team was downsized from about 225 miles to slightly more than 100 and Horizon’s was lengthened from about 10 miles to 120.
Coach George Dagnino’s squad prevailed over the Panthers 40-27, thus guaranteeing at least one 200-miles-plus junket for the Yellowjackets, to Qualcomm Stadium, where they were beaten by Santa Fe Christian in the IV finals 20-12.
BLYTHE, BRAWLEY BREAKTHROUGH
With Palo Verde Valley and Brawley, the Imperial Valley League, which joined the San Diego Section in 2000, was represented in the Qualcomm Stadium championships for the first time.
Palo Verde, Brawley, Calexico, El Centro Southwest, and El Centro Central followed Holtville, Calipatria, Imperial, and Winterhaven San Pasqual, which took on the San Diego designation in 1980.
WHAT’S IN A NAME?
St. Augustine and University of San Diego High…Uni or University to most locals…were playing for the last time.
Not exactly, but Uni was leaving its campus near the University of San Diego and moving to an opulent, new facility in Del Mar and beginning in 2005 would be known as Cathedral Catholic.
Marketing-oriented officials at both schools were calling it “The Final Showdown” and the 9,759 sold tickets guaranteed an overflow crowd at Southwestern College.
The Dons shot down their parochial school rivals 45-34. Junior running back Demetrius Sumler, who rushed for 224 yards in 30 carries and scored three touchdowns, summed up his feelings to Steve Brand of The San Diego Union:
“I expect Cathedral versus St. Augustine to be just as intense,” said Sumler. I try to just do my job, whatever it takes, and not think about who we’re playing.
“But this was St. Augustine, so it means a little more.”
Oceanside, gradually moving up after losing its opener (before Eastlake forfeited to the Pirates) and its preseason No. 1 ranking, edged top-ranked Vista 17-15 on Sergio Valdez’ 38-yard field goal with 33 seconds remaining.
Valdez had toed the winning kick in the Pirates’ 27-24 win over their old North County rival in 2003.
“I would have preferred that we would have blown them out,” said Valdez.
LONGHORNS HAVE THEIR CORRAL
“We have realized our dream,” said Rancho Buena Vista athletic director Dave Whiddon as he surveyed a crowd of 5,000, which helped dedicate the Longhorns’ new, campus stadium.
RBV teams’ home games had been at neighboring Vista since the school opened in 1986.
The visiting Colton Yellowjackets spoiled the inaugural, 30-14.
Coach Jeff Hutzler’s La Jolla Country Day squad shook off a discouraging, opening-game loss to Canoga Park Faith Baptist to win 11 in a row and earn the San Diego Section 8-Man championship.
The Torreys and Faith were tied at the end of three quarters but a 24-point fourth quarter gave the Contenders, the top-ranked Southern Section squad, a 38-14 victory.
A Johnny Unitas-Joe Montana replay?
Francis Parker quarterback Matt Morrison connected on five passes in a row on a 68-yard drive that ended with Ian Yoder’s 21-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining, lifting the Lancers to a 10-7 win over Calexico Vincent Memorial.
HAUSER MOVES TO MISSION HILLS
Chris Hauser, 34-14 in five seasons and with a 2001 championship at Vista, moved to the new Mission Hills High in San Marcos. Without a senior class, the Grizzlies started 10 sophomores in their first game, a 21-0 loss to Madison, and began a 1-10 learning experience.
As a welcome (?) to Hauser, the field sprinklers went off during the game at Madison. District officials finally figured out a way to shut off the water.
SUCCESS FOLLOWS OTAY’S FIRST COACH
Gene Alim, 98-23-3 in twelve seasons and with two championships at Sweetwater, returned to the sidelines for the first time since 1994 and led the first-year Otay Ranch Mustangs to a 8-2 record.
GIVE ME AN H…GIVE ME A T…
H-Town Christian opened in Paradise Hills, coached by Frank Henry, former Patrick Henry athlete with coaching experience at Utah, San Diego City College, Laguna Beach, and Horizon.
The Lions would be on the football scene for three seasons. Henry, who also served as principal, was succeeded by Ray Toilolo in 2005 and the campus moved to the Encanto community, competing in the Pacific League.
Discussing Torrey Pines’ victory over Castle Park, coach Ed Burke (“Defense won it for us”) kept his counsel regarding play of the Falcons’ special teams after Torrey trailed 4-0 at halftime—yes, 4-0—before overcoming Castle Park 24-4.
It was one of the more unusual coaching nights for Burke, who won 243 games in a legendary career at King City, Taft Union, Torrey Pines, and San Dieguito.
The Falcons’ kicking teams were in for some additional work and pointed observations the next week from the veteran mentor, who looked on peevishly when a low snap and botched punt resulted in a second quarter safety that put the Trojans in front 2-0. Burke’s jaw dropped a few minutes later after a high snap botched another punt and stunningly resulted in two more points for Castle Park.
Morse released head coach Mike Moran in July, eight months after the Tigers finished the 2003 campaign with a 1-9 record. Moran’s replacement, Stewart Roper, was replaced after 13 days because of problems with his job application.
Robert Savage was named interim coach, then was joined by co-coach Tony Valencia, a school district veteran of almost 40 years who had been hired as Morse’s athletic director.
Savage was 1-1 as the sole head coach but was not a credentialed teacher. Valencia’s addition would allow a head coach to be available to students during the academic day.
Morse topped Kearny 38-0 in the first game with co-head coaches and posted a 6-5 record overall and earned their first playoff berth since 1998.
FORFEITS OKAY WITH COACHES
Hilltop, 1-9 with three forfeits for using an ineligible player, was in the II playoffs. El Cajon Valley, 4-6 and “clean”, was out.
Coaches doing the seeding correctly followed existing criteria and were essentially unconcerned about forfeits, according to Bill McLaughlin, San Diego Section assistant commissioner.
“Letting a team that is one and nine with three forfeits into the playoffs is sending the wrong message,” said El Cajon Valley coach Joe Hubarth.
Hubarth said he didn’t address the Hilltop situation when he made his team’s presentation to the coaches’ committee because he didn’t think Hilltop was in the conversation.
“It was shocking,” said Hubarth. “If they were 6-4 and dropped to 4-6, sure, but not 1-9.”
San Pasqual sent the Lancers home early, winning the first-round game, 31-7.
Quarterback Jason Forcier, who resided in Carlsbad and was an Amtrak veteran, commuting to Mater Dei in Santa Ana, transferred to St. Augustine…Forcier passed for 35 touchdowns and 2,641 yards in a 7-5 season…Oceanside defeated Marian Catholic, 34-12, in Week 2, ending the Crusaders’ 27-game winning streak, third longest in San Diego Section history…Jack Neumeier, who coached John Elway at Granada Hills High and, after retirement, moved to Fallbrook and helped turn the Warriors into an offensive powerhouse in the 1980s, passed away at age 86 at his home in Camarillo…eight different Helix running backs rushed for a combined 403 yards as new coach Donnie Van Hook celebrated his first game with a 47-0 victory over Patrick Henry…not to be outdone, St. Augustine rushed for 419 yards in a 33-13 victory over El Capitan in its opener…Hoover rushed for 477 yards in a 59-0 win over Army-Navy…Bonita Vista’s well-traveled Barons scored the final 14 points to win at Linganore of Frederick, Maryland, 27-21…the Barons played La Jolla in Havana, Cuba, in 2003…Oscar Fernandez kicked a 19-yard field goal as time expired and Clairemont surprised Mission Bay 13-10…with five seconds remaining Chris Schearing of Madison kicked a 40-yard field goal to give the Warhawks a neighborhood bragging rights win over Clairemont, 23-20…Silver Strand rivals Coronado and Mar Vista battled for the Adrian Taufausau Trophy, named after the Coronado quarterback who died in 1996…the Islanders honored their fallen graduate with a 47-7 victory…Serra lost its first four games and was outscored 206-52, then won five in a row and made the playoffs, finishing 5-6…La Jolla Country Day’s first-ever night game at home resulted in a 62-20, eight-man victory over Tri-City Christian…the Torreys won the eight-man title, defeating San Pasqual Academy, 53-12….