Oceanside became the first San Diego Section team to participate in the state playoffs, which resumed in 2006 after an 80-year hiatus.
The Pirates (11-1) of coach John Carroll, who won Carroll’s fourth San Diego Section championship and Oceanside’s 10th overall, were chosen to represent the South in the Division II championship against 13-0 Novato.
Two opponents, two different worlds.
The Pirates represented the tough fiber of a Marine Corps town, hewn by the DNA from nearby Camp Pendleton. The Hornets were a North Coast Section team located in a leafy Marin County enclave about 30 miles beyond San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
The schools shared a curious geographical thread. Each was located within a stroll of the legendary, original U.S. Highway 101, although separated by more than 500 miles.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
Bigger, with more team speed, the Pirates struggled. After taking a 7-0 lead they trailed 14-7 at the half before rolling to a 21-0 second half and 28-14 victory.
“I think it was too easy (Oceanside’s early lead),” Carroll said. “Those guys came to play. I think we lost our edge for awhile.”
“Maybe it was the underestimation of them,” receiver Frankie Zimmerman said. “They came out so hard and you have to give them credit for that.”
Novato was no chump. The Hornets were 12-1 in 2006 and 11-2 in 2005 and were riding a winning streak of 25 games.
Oceanside had trailed at halftime only once in 12 games. “That was our worst first half of the year,” said Zimmerman, who caught a 22-yard pass from Jordan Wynn for the Pirates’ first score.
FIRST GAME STUMBLE
Oceanside’s great season got off slowly as it was beaten, 28-20, by Helix in the season opener.
The Pirates had another tough game the next week but defeated La Costa Canyon, 27-20.
Oceanside didn’t know it then but it would meet the Mavericks again in the San Diego Section semifinals with its season on the brink.
BAD WEATHER AND PLAYOFFS
Driving rain throughout the County and sodden fields. It must be late November and the games that count most.
The semifinals were about resilience for teams playing in the blustery, wet weather of early winter.
Oceanside passed the test.
The Pirates entered the third round of the postseason with a 9-1 record, with a goal of two more victories for a Section title, and maybe an invite to the second annual State Bowl series.
In a game that featured a combined 15 fumbles and “mud from goalline to goalline,” Oceanside knocked out La Costa Canyon, 14-10, with a late, fourth-quarter touchdown.
Pirates quarterback Jordan Wynn passed eight yards on fourth and seven to Zimmerman for a drive-saving first down.
Then Armani Taylor wedged into the end zone from a yard out four plays later, sending the Pirates into the Division II final against Mission Hills, which Carroll’s battlers dispatched, 26-7.
85 YEARS AGO
After defeating Gardena, 31-14, for the Southern California championship in 1922, San Diego accepted an invitation to play in the state playoffs.
The Hilltoppers were defeated by Bakersfield, 17-6. They had lost to the Drillers, 33-0 earlier in San Diego’s 10-4 season.
OCTOBER, THE CRUELEST MONTH
Beware the Santa Ana winds and heat.
Only four years had passed since largest blaze in California history. The Cedar fire, which began Oct. 26, 2003, charred almost 300,000 acres and took down more than 2,232 homes from Scripps Ranch to Julian, 60 miles away.
It happened again, almost to the day, Oct. 21, 2007, on another hot, Santa Ana day with high winds in the mountains.
Smoke was sighted near Santa Ysabel, between Ramona and Julian, in East San Diego County.
Flames again rose up and began a rampage that rolled West, through Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Westwood, Escondido, and parts of Rancho Santa Fe.
It was the second largest blaze in County history, burning 197,900 acres, and destroying 1,040 residences.
Concurrently, another devastating blaze, the Harris Fire, cut a swatch through San Diego’s South Bay areas.
Once again all high school sports activity was canceled for one week.
The house my wife and I purchased in 1977 in Scripps Ranch burned down in the Cedar fire. We rebuilt on the same site.
I was back working with the St. Louis Rams and sitting on the runway at the airport in Seattle after a game against the Seahawks.
As the plane was about to take off for the return flight to St. Louis, I received a text from good friend Bob Cluck, in San Diego:
“The fire is in Santa Ysabel; at least 40 miles away…you should be okay.”
Meanwhile, my wife Susie, who had been at a casino in St. Charles, Missouri, with other Rams staffers watching our game, called our daughter in San Diego.
Susie told Courtney to go to our Scripps Ranch home, which was vacant, and gather the architectural drawings that were used for our new house.
We were going to rebuild again if we lost our second home.
When I returned to our apartment in Clayton, Missouri, I checked my email and there was a message from the Scripps Ranch community advisory board.
“The fire will be here at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow,” was the terse message the board sent to Scripps homeowners.
The winds blew in another direction. Scripps Ranch was never threatened. We were lucky, this time.
WEEK 4 TO QUARTERFINALS
What a difference six weeks makes.
Poway squeezed past El Camino, 15-14, in an early-season, nonleague game, then routed the Wildcats, 55-6, in the D-I quarterfinals.
Said unhappy El Camino coach Trace Deneke of the eventual champion Titans: “They would have had a tougher time if they just scrimmaged themselves.”
The blowout “felt nice,” understated Poway coach Damon Gonzalez, whose team, riding Nick Ricciardulli’s 22 touchdowns, would complete a 12-0 season by defeating Rancho Buena Vista, 21-7, in the finals.
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
How big the difference between City and North County football? San Pasqual (7-2) met Hoover (6-3) in the playoffs. Final score, Eagles 62, Hoover 21. How big the difference between small city and small Imperial Valley football? Horizon (2-7) defeated Imperial (7-3) in the playoffs, 35-21. The Bishop’s then kayoed Horizon, 63-45.
‘HE PROBABLY COACHED MOSES’
That’s what third-year Eastlake quarterback Derek Witte said of his new position coach, respectfully of course.
Witte was talking about Jan Chapman, a 46-year coaching veteran who had completed 25 years on the staff at Southwestern College but started his career at the new Marian High in 1960, after quarterbacking the fledgling University of San Diego program.
Chapman accepted Eastlake coach John McFadden’s invitation to continue. There was no generation gap, although there was a passage of generations.
Eastlake linebackers coach Steve Witte, the quarterback’s father, played for Chapman in one of Jan’s earlier incarnations as Hilltop’s coach.
“With him it’s someone to read the field with,” Derek Witte said of Chapman. “He’s another quarterback and someone for me to talk to.”
HORNETS FIND STING
Ron Hamamoto couldn’t have been blamed if he had second thoughts about his new job.
When Hamamoto called his first practice at the re-born Lincoln High, the Hornets did not have uniforms or a place to practice.
The school had been shut for four years and the beautiful, new campus was missing a few items.
Necessities such as helmets and pads were on the way.
Some doubters wondered whether the Hornets would win a game. None of the players from the 5-5 season of 2002 were around and Hamamoto would have to assess the talent and make quick judgments on the run, before the season began.
The Long Beach Poly graduate, who had been offered the coaching position by Executive Principal Mel Collins, himself a former Poly administrator, was the right man for the job.
Lincoln posted a 6-5 record in its return and reached the Division III playoff quarterfinals. It was the Hamamoto’s 18th time in 21 seasons that one of Hamamoto’s clubs made the postseason, 11 at University, now Cathedral, and seven at Rancho Bernardo.
Highlight of the season was 25-20 surprise of Point Loma, which had outscored opponents 168-19 in its previous four games and would advance to the D-III title game.
SHORT, BUT NOT SMALL
Cathedral bludgeoned Point Loma, 41-3, for the D-III title behind 5-foot, 10-inch (or less) quarterback Nick Russell.
“Let’s face it, I’m vertically challenged,” said Russell. “I’ve got a big heart and coach (Sean Doyle) says it’s heart that wins games.”
Russell threw for three touchdowns, giving him 21 for the season. “He may not have a quarterback’s body, but that kid’s a winner,” said Doyle.
Big running back Tyler Gaffney scored two touchdowns for the Dons and finished the season with 28.
Gaffney would almost double that total in 2008.
Each Friday afternoon during football season Tyler Gaffney’s’ mother provides him with two bananas, catering to Gaffney’s favorite fruit.
Gaffney’s teammates in turn tagged him with a somewhat unusual nickname: “Peel”.
The Marian Crusaders, languishing for years in decrepit surroundings in the Nestor community, were moving to a new, 52-acre campus and would now be known as Mater Dei Catholic.
Located near the new California 125 highway and within the Southern edge of the San Diego city limits, the team was immediately taken by the elements.
“Hell week! It was hotter than hell for three days,” said lineman Brian Lacey.
“We’re not on the beach anymore,” declared coach Matt White.
The 20 minute move inland resulted in a rise in temperature from the cool sea breezes of Imperial Beach.
Not to fret. The Crusaders were more than happy to compete in front of the fresh, concrete seating area, on an all-weather gridiron, and other attractive amenities.
WHO’S TO ARGUE?
Tim Costello wasn’t talking about the 12 points he scored in The Bishop’s 17-7, Division V championship over Christian.
“I definitely think we’re a Top 10 team,” said Costello of the 11-1 Knights, who slowed Christian’s 5,000-yard career rusher Lawrence Walker with a smothering defense.
The Bishop’s was known for offense, averaging 50.2 points a game. But D-V teams seldom cracked The San Diego Union rankings.
Costello did his part with perhaps the San Diego Section championship day’s most complete performance.
Costello intercepted a pass, rushed for a touchdown, kicked a 31-yard field goal and two points after, and averaged 44.8 yards punting.
Mount Miguel was eliminated by Cathedral, 35-0, in the D-III semifinals, keeping alive a 27-season (since 1981) streak of not having reached the San Diego Section finals.
Mount Miguel had made the playoff semifinals the week before for the first time in 21 years, defeating Ramona, 29-27, on a six-yard touchdown pass, Aaron Bryant to Ahmad Nunley.
It was 11 years and counting since a D-I team from the city had made the finals. Mira Mesa was eliminated by Poway, 16-0, in the semifinals.
HARD KNOCKS FOR RED BIRDS
The Hoover Cardinals won their first five games and outscored opponents, 172-47.
It was a mirage.
None of the five losers had winning records. Hoover was beaten, 46-7, in its sixth game by Point Loma.
Hoover had not beaten the Pointers since 1957, losing 15 in a row to the Pointers.
The Cardinals flatted out to a final record of 6-4, their last game a 62-21 loss to San Pasqual in the first round of the playoffs.
HARD KNOCKS FOR PATRIOTS
Patrick Henry’s 35-0 win over Crawford gave the Patriots a 4-1 record, their best start since a 7-0 run in 1999.
The Patriots lost their last four to finish 4-5.
QUICK KICKS—West Hills made its 15th consecutive playoff appearance and 16th in the school’s first 19 years…the Wolfpack was yet to advance beyond the quarterfinals…Oceanside’s 31-7 victory over Carlsbad ended the Lancers’ 25-game, non-losing streak…Montgomery still was looking for its first playoff win since 1986, losing a first-round game to Brawley, 31-28…a 46-6 victory over Warner in the 8-Man finals wasn’t San Pasqual Academy’s only reward…the Dragons were going to move up to 11-man in 2008… Christian announced a move to Valhalla High for home games after more than 30 years of using Valley Stadium on the Granite Hills campus…the Patriots eventually would move back…