2005: A Contentious Season

–Playoff divisions increased.

–At least two programs were rocked by  ineligibilities.

–Game officials came under fire.

–A brawl between Helix and Mount Miguel resulted in a referee’s suspension and a “double forfeit”.


The San Diego Section playoffs became five divisions, marking the first time since a fourth division was added in 1979.

Lousy teams with no chance of winning prevailed again.

In 1959, the last year San Diego was in the CIF Southern Section, there were playoff  brackets of 16 teams each in the upper and lower divisions and eight teams in the Small Schools.

Five of the of the 29 schools in San Diego County, including San Diego, Chula Vista, Mar Vista, Kearny, and Ramona, comprised 14.5 per cent of the Southern Section’s 40 postseason spots. There were about 300 schools from Atascadero south.

You had to earn your way into the playoffs.

San Diego and Ramona won championships, which meant a lot, but so did just making the playoffs.


Fifty-seven of 88 San Diego Section teams, almost 65 per cent of schools playing football and not including those in eight-man leagues, were included in the new, five-division alignment.

Eastern bloc countries would approve of this form of socialism.


“Teams could finish 8-1 or 9-1 and if they didn’t win the league, there was no second chance,” remembered El Camino coach Herb Meyer. “That was bad, but so is having teams in with sub-.500 records which lose their first games, fifty to nothing,”  Meyer told Steve Brand of The San Diego Union.

Meyer pointed out that 21 of his 23 El Camino playoff teams won their first playoff games because he wouldn’t consider participating if he didn’t think his teams could at least win one game.

In 1998, when Meyer needed one victory for career number 300 the El Camino coach stunned the playoff committee by announcing he would not submit his 3-7 team for consideration.

Thirteen teams with 3 or fewer victories sought berths at this year’s playoff selection meeting.  Six were allowed in.

Playoffs this year  included first-round scores of 64-0, 50-14, and 56-26 in Division II, 42-14, in D-I, 47-14 in D-III, and 58-6 in D-IV.

Coronado, a D-IV squad with a 7-3 record, was whacked in the first round in another game that ended with a 58-6 score.  There  was a 48-0, D-V semifinal round blowout.

Westview, 3-7 in the regular season, made it to the second round and lost in D-III to Brawley 56-14 after trailing 35-0 at halftime.


Two of the four expansions of playoffs came when Kendall (Spider) Webb was San Diego Section commissioner.

“Those who wanted one true champion didn’t like it, but the majority felt it was an opportunity for more schools to compete,” said Webb, who  began running long-distance races after retirement.

Webb said one of the unexpected results of expansion was revenue.  “I can honestly say that I don’t remember potential expansion based on revenue,” he said.

Section commissioner Dennis Ackerman pointed out that “As football goes, the budget goes.  Because of football we were able to gross $500,000 last year.”


Mission Hills, a rising team in only its second season, forfeited four victories for using at least two players who were residentially ineligible.

The San Diego Section passed a rule at the end of the last school year that teams with three forfeits would automatically be disqualified from playoff consideration.

The Mission Hills principal lobbied for his team:  “These were extreme, extenuating circumstances and we feel our athletes should not be punished,” he said.

The Grizzlies finished with an adjusted,  4-6 record and did not get a playoff invite.


Ackerman and Metro Conference commissioner Carlton Hoggard were in agreement that Castle Park had used an ineligible player and would forfeit its Mesa League championship and berth  in the playoffs.

If the forfeits held up, Castle Park would go from an 8-2 record to 2-8.  The player originally had been at Castle Park, transferred to  Sweetwater, then returned to Castle Park.

Sweetwater officials took blame  for the paperwork goof and Castle Park thought it was clean, but the CIF found  Castle Park at fault for “not uncovering the eligibility concerns” and for allowing the player to participate in six games.

The player’s mother hired a lawyer, who went to court.  The issue dragged on the week of the playoffs’ first round before a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the player.

The Trojans sent Montgomery packing 48-14 in the D-III first round, then were upset by El Cajon Valley 56-32 in the quarterfinals.


A bracket of 14 teams was created for the II playoffs, but only 13 representatives of eligible squads showed for the playoff seeding meeting at the San Diego Section office.

Helix informed commissioner  Dennis Ackerman that it was not interested in being in the postseason after having been a participant  every year but one since 1977.

The Highlanders  took the playoffs seriously.  They felt unqualified after posting a 2-7-1 record.

Mar Vista (3-7) and  El Centro Southwest (3-7) also did not attend the seeding meeting.


Abraham (right) and Muhammad made their marks at El Cajon Valley

Abraham (right) and Muhammad left their marks at El Cajon Valley.

With Helix on hiatus, El Cajon Valley and Valhalla,  two unlikely neighbors from the foothills, rose up like some helmeted phoenix.

El  Cajon Valley, with 5 playoff appearances in 51 seasons, beat top-ranked Mira Mesa, 26-21, in the semifinals and a earned a meeting with Oceanside in the D-II championship.

Abraham Muheize, who quarterbacked the Braves from a spread formation and took the snap eight yards behind the center, set a Section passing record with 4,050 yards, a state record for  total offense, 5,203 yards (including 1,253 rushing), and  a section record with 591 total yards in one game.

The Braves’ 11-2 record entering the finals was best in school history, surpassing the 10-2 of the 1997 team, on which Muheize’s brother Muhammad, now a Braves assistant coach, was a member.

It was a great run, but the Braves fell short, 31-21 to Oceanside.  The Pirates’ Mario Gonzales rushed for 188 yards in 28 carries and coach John Carroll’s defense kept Muheize on the run all evening, limiting the plucky junior to 215 yards passing and minus 6 yards rushing in 8 attempts.

Demery was Section's leading scorer with 181 points.

Demery was Section’s leading scorer with 181 points.

Valhalla, three winning seasons in 31, averaged 41 points a game, many furnished by running back Garen Demery, and fashioned a 9-1-2 record.

The Norsemen reached the playoff quarterfinals before losing a  thriller to St. Augustine, when the Saints’  Chris Forcier passed for a touchdown on the final play of the game, then passed for a two-point conversion to win, 49-48.

Dons' Sumler ran for almost a mile in career but was slowed by Saints.

Dons’ Sumler ran for more than a mile in career but was slowed by Saints.

The Saints then won a D-III semifinal battle, 23-6 over arch rival Cathedral, shutting down, for the most part, the Dons’ Demetrius Sumler, who rushed for 81 yards in 17 carries but finished with the all-time San Diego Section career rushing record of 5,630 yards.

The Saints defeated Point Loma, 46-14, in the finals,  ending the Pointers’ winning streak at 12 in a row.


Carlsbad was in the process of a 17-3 victory over Cathedral when a thief  or thieves entered the Lancers’ coaching office and stole a $600 camera.

“I guess they knew we were all on the sidelines,” Lancers coach Bob McAllister told Terry Monahan of the North County Times.

The camera included tape from a junior varsity game earlier in the day.

“Maybe one of the doors didn’t lock when someone walked out,” said McAllister.  “Someone must have really wanted that  JV tape.”

McAllister jested that “somebody took their life in their own  hands, because no one touches anything on Rudolph’s desk, not even me.”

The camera disappeared from the working area of assistant coach Dave Rudolph.


Knock down North County football at its best was order of the week when Rancho Bernardo overcame Carlsbad, 24-21, in a battle of Top 10 teams.

Ryan Schmitz of the winning Broncos was involved in a play he’ll never forget. Schmitz struck a 42-yard field goal with six seconds left to deliver the victory for coach Ron Hamamoto’s Broncos.

Rancho Bernardo, remaining undefeated (5-0) and ranked No 1, trailed the Lancers (3-2), 21-0 in the second quarter.

Fast forward.

Bonita Vista's Starr Fuimano felt the force of North County power in Carlsbad's 34-0 win in semifinals.

Bonita Vista’s Starr Fuimano felt  force of North County power in Carlsbad’s 34-0 win in semifinals.

Rancho Bernardo finished the season with an 8-3 record, eliminated by Vista, 20-0, in the first round of the playoffs. Bob McAllister’s Lancers won their next eight, closing at 11-2 with a 12-6 victory over another North County heavyweight, Torrey Pines, in the D-1 finals.


The tables moved in another direction for Rancho Bernardo.

Trailing, 13-7, with 30 seconds remaining, Torrey Pines receiver Michael Lambesis lost the ball on the one-yard line when he tried to stretch into the end zone.

Connor Bird of the Falcons recovered Lambesis’ fumble in the endzone for a Torrey Pines touchdown  and Bill Bennett toed the extra point for a 14-13 victory, sending ‘Bernardo to its first loss after 5 victories.

“I knew I had to get his back,” Bird said of teammate Lambesis.  “I  knew I had to get in there and back him up.”

Burke endured many emotions during Torrey Pines' battle with Rancho Bernardo.

Burke endured many emotions during Torrey Pines’ battle with Rancho Bernardo.

As Falcons coach Ed Burke said to writer Kevin Gemmell:  “This was a gutsy win against a great Rancho Bernardo team.  “They hammered us all night, but in the clutch, clutch players make clutch plays.”


Mission Bay’s Kenny Mayfield appeared to many observers as having been stopped on the Madison goal line.  Officials ruled a touchdown.

Madison coach Rick Jackson got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for charging the field.  “Tell me I shouldn’t feel that way?” Jackson screamed at an official.  “I just want a fair game called.  You guys, that was just wrong.”

Jackson was quiet when the officials possibly erred in Madison’s favor in the fourth quarter, when the underdog Buccaneers were hanging in, trailing the Warhawks only 10-7.

Madison’s Brandon Grimsley took a handoff at his 34-yard line on third and eight with about seven minutes remaining in the game.

Grimsley did what he was taught to do.

Grimsley did what he was taught to do.

Grimsley ran laterally to  the Mission Bay sideline, where he was met by a host of defenders.

Despite appearing to be tackled, Grimsley did not hear a whistle and didn’t stop, racing  untouched for a 66-yard touchdown that pretty much iced the game.

“…one of the strangest plays I’ve ever seen,” Mission Bay coach Willie Matson  said to Jon Gold of The San  Diego Union.  “Running back comes up the sidelines, gets hit and the linebacker wraps his arms around him, but there’s no whistle.”

Matson told the reporter that a Buccaneers defender “hesitated, held up and let him go and there still was no whistle.  (Grimsley) took off running, like he should have.”

“Ever since Pop Warner,” said Grimsley, “I’ve been told to keep my feet moving, keep my feet moving.”


A pass interference penalty against Poway was pivotal in La Costa Canyon’s 27-25 victory, decided on Briton Forester’s 33-yard field goal with eight seconds left.

The infraction placed the ball on Poway’s 16-yard line.

“If there was something outrageous, I didn’t see it,” said Titans coach Damian Gonzalez. “I saw two kids going for the ball.  It’s heartbreaking when it comes down to an official and they take the game out of the hands of the kids.”

La Costa Canyon’s Cole Ducey quarterbacked the winning, 10-play, 80-yard drive with 5 pass completions in six attempts.


Calexico defeated San Diego 27-12 in the opening game.

The victory “avenged” a Bulldogs defeat…to San Diego’s 1916 “Wonder Team” that went 12-0.

Coach Clarence (Nibs) Price’s Hilltoppers defeated the Imperial Valley entry 55-0 in the Southern California playoffs, 89 years before.  The teams had not played since.

Pointers pointed for L.A. team.

Pointers pointed for L.A. team.

Point Loma coach Mike Hastings was in need of a game after an opponent pulled out.

Hastings hooked up with Los Angeles Jefferson, which opened in 1916 and  for decades boasted one of the country’s premier basketball and track and field programs.

Not football.

The Democrats made their first visit to San Diego and were sent home with a 48-7 defeat by Hastings’ Pointers, who advanced to the D-III finals before losing, 46-14, to St. Augustine and finishing with a 12-1 record.


The University of San Diego High, whose campus across Linda Vista Road from the University of San Diego almost seemed an afterthought for 48 years, was moving to a campus that colleges would envy.

The Dons became Cathedral Catholic High this year on 45 acres (compared to 7 at Uni) in Del Mar, with a gorgeous football stadium the focal point.

“It will be nice not having to take a bus ride,” said 11th-season coach Sean Doyle, referring to years of traveling to “home” and away games.  The Dons played mostly JV games at their old campus.

“If we want to run laps, we have a track,” said Doyle.  “If we want to run stairs, we have a stadium (capacity, 4,000).  We’ll leave the locker room and walk seventy yards to the field.  The home crowd will really be at home.”

The move didn’t reflect in the won-loss record.  The Dons were 10-2 and reached the Division III semifinals in 2004.  They were 8-4 this year, again advancing to the semifinal round.


La Jolla Country Day elevated from 8-man to 11-man, aligning in the Pacific League, which numbered the San Diego Section’s five smallest 11-man schools.

The Torreys went from 11-1 in the 8-man Citrus League to 10-2 in the 11-man Pacific, reaching the IV finals before losing to Christian, 35-0.

As an example of their aspirations, the Torreys unveiled an all-weather synthetic turf field. They had installed lights in time for the 2004 seaason.


Savage was headed for UCLA for football and track.

Savage was headed for UCLA for football and track.

At least 18 players weighed in at 300 pounds or more this season, distinguished by Morse’s 335-pound Darius Savage, an athletic senior who also won the state discus championship the previous spring and who has the County record at 212 feet, 1 inch, and is second with a 66-3 1/2 shot put,

Torrey Pines coach Ed Burke made a cogent observation:  “There are 300-pound football players and 300-pound students.

“There is no advantage if the 300-pounder doesn’t have quick feet,” added Burke, citing the most important separator between player and student.

Dustin Sill of Santana taxed the Toledo scale at 420 pounds.  Two others were over 340.


Helix was leading Mount Miguel 30-6 when a fight broke out and the game was called with 2:15 remaining.

Players from each bench entered the fray.  The game referee attempted to restrain a Helix player, who broke free from the grasp of the official, who threw a football that hit another player and a coach.

The referee was suspended for the remainder of the season and expressed regret, saying his action “…was significantly inappropriate.”

The Grossmont League then created  outrage at Helix by ruling a double forfeit, probably the first in the history of San Diego County football.

“It’s an atrocity!” shouted Highlanders coach Donnie Van Hook, who said tension began building before the kickoff when a Mount Miguel player jumped on the Helix logo at the 50-yard line.

A total of 18 players from both teams and a Mount Miguel assistant coach were suspended for at least one game.

Three Helix players stayed home when the Highlanders went to Eastlake, where they lost, 24-14.  A 17-year-old La Mesa youth was shot during the week and police and school officials decided the players should not attend the game because of possible gang action.

Van Hook stressed that the three players did not have gang affiliations.

QUICK KICKS Fallbrook returned 40 seniors from the 0-11 team of 2004 and improved to 5-6…El Camino returned 15 starters from the 2-8 squad of ’04 and went 2-8 again…an up-and-coming quarterback was Ryan Lindley at El Capitan…Lindley threw for almost 3,000 yards on the Vaqueros’ 8-2 junior varsity team in ‘04…Scripps Ranch’s 3-0 start was the best since the school opened in 1994…the Falcons went to 5-0 before losing…Santana, which started 5-0 in ’04, then flattened out to 6-4, went to 5-0 at the beginning of this season but sagged to 5-6…Brent Arthur, Rancho Buena Vista backup quarterback, sustained a compound fracture of his wrist and the game was called with eight minutes remaining, RBV leading Marian Catholic 42-14…Brawley served up a seventh consecutive shutout, tying a San Diego Section record, when it blanked Blythe Palo Verde, 47-0…Trailing, 7-3, after three quarters, Francis Parker finally wore down Christian and won the D-V title game, 16-7…”We weren’t playing Francis Parker football,” said tackle Tyler Mabry of Parker’s slow going…the Lancers finished 12-1…Hoover snapped a 10-game losing streak to Morse, dating to 1968…the 9-0 victory helped propel Mike Wright’s Cardinals to a 6-5 season, their first above .500 since 2000.


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