Sunday, December 7, 2014

2014 C.I.F.-Southern Section, Northern Division Football Championship Game

California High School Sports Background

Before getting into the meat of today's post, it would help the casual reader to get a better understanding as to how the State of California has structured high school sports.

The governing body for high school sports in the Golden State is the California Interscholastic Federation (C.I.F.).

The C.I.F. rules over the 1,552 high schools playing sports in our state. To make matters a bit simpler, the C.I.F. has divided the state into ten sections of vastly different sizes ranging from the smallest, the San Francisco Section with only 17 schools to the largest, the Southern Section with 576 schools.

The Southern Section conducts American football playoffs in 13 divisions for the 11-man game plus two more divisions for 8-man American football.

Our Newbury Park Panthers are part of the Southern Section and compete in the Section's Northern Division playoffs.

Now that you know the general set-up, let's talk football . . .

C.I.F. Southern Section
Northern Division
Championship Game

Newbury Park Panthers (11-2)
Camino League Champions
Paso Robles Bearcats (12-1)
PAC-5 League Tri-Champions

The road to the title game for the two teams broke down as follows in the playoffs.

Paso Robles, designated as the PAC-5 League's #2 team, was ranked #1 in the Division for most of the season until getting upset by Atascadero in the last game of the regular season. In the playoffs they had beaten Camino League #2 Royal 42-14, Golden League #1 Palmdale 49-16 and their PAC-5 League #3 rival Arroyo Grande 28-21.

The Panthers, the Camino League's #1 team, had parlayed victories over PAC-5 #4 Righetti 56-28, Los Padres League #2 St. Joseph 42-26 and PAC 5 League #1 Atascadero 49-48 to earn a berth in the championship contest.

Last Friday the Panthers left Newbury Park on three recliner busses at noon for the 175 mile drive north to Paso Robles.

After two hours touring California's Pacific Ocean Gold Coast, we stopped in Santa Maria for a meal at the Home Town Buffet. After replenishing our bodies, we drove the final hour to Paso Robles' Courtyard Marriott Hotel.

At the hotel we would change, tape and hold last minute meetings before the final ten minute drive to the stadium.

Paso Robles Courtyard Marriott
Conference Room

NPHS Trainers starting to tape

Replacing Zack Okun's short cleats
with new, longer 3/4 inch

Why the longer cleats you ask?

Well, first, we were playing on a grass field for only the second time all season and secondly, it had rained all week in Southern California.

Yes, it DOES rain in SoCal!

It had rained extremely hard up until about 30 minutes before kickoff.

Mike Contreras and 
Defensive Coordinator Jason Klein

Mike and Me

We all had to enjoy the moment, playing in a C.I.F. Championship game doesn't happen every year. For Newbury Park, the last title game appearance came in 1995.

For me personally, it was back in 1964, FIFTY YEARS ago as a player at St. Francis H.S.!

Dario Longhetto Warming Up

He would kick a 32 yard field goal to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.

Oregon bound OG Zach Okun
leading the Panthers onto the field

Introducing the Bearcats

Introducing the Panthers

Opening Kickoff

Panthers' Offensive Line

Hitting is still the
Name of the Game

Lots of Paso Robles
running game tonight

With an occasional Bearcat pass


Even though the field was wet and sloppy the Panthers did not fumble or throw an interception.

Paso Robles, on the other hand, fumbled the ball a whopping eight times and lost three of them. The Bearcats also did not throw an interception.


This 13 yard scoring pass from Daniel Prieto to Darick Holmes in the third quarter gave Newbury Park a 10-7 lead. 

 NP's Chucky Smith

Paso Robles' #34 Bailey Gaither
Difference Maker

He rushed for 206 yards on 30 carries, caught 3 passes for 22 yards and played Free Safety. Thus, he accounted for 228 of the Bearcats' 278 yards of Total Offense on the night.

A tough loss to say the least,
but on this night the Bearcats were
simply the better team

Still, the finality was stunning

An unidentified Bearcat
after the game

Brotherhood in Defeat

So, the season for the Panthers ended with a 13-10 loss to a very solid, old-school Paso Robles club that slugged their way to the C.I.F. crown.

The 13-1 Bearcats were chosen today to play in the Southern California Division III Regional Bowl Game against San Diego's 13-0 El Capitan H.S. next Saturday at El Capitan H.S.

The winner of that Bowl game will then play the winner of the Northern California Division III Regional Bowl Game (13-0 Sutter H.S. vs. 14-0 Campolindo H.S. at Acalanes H.S. on Saturday) the following weekend at the StubHub Center in Carson, California for the California State Division III Championship.   

With Gary McLean

Gary played for us at Westlake H.S. back in the late 1970s/early 1980s. He has spent his entire adult life living in Paso Robles while working in the local wine industry. His daughter is a good soccer player for the Bearcats.

It was good having some time to visit with him both before and after the game.

So, the 2014 NPHS season comes to a close with an 11-3 Varsity team that won a Camino League title along the way. Since both the Panther JV and Freshmen teams won their Camino League Championship as well, the future is bright for American football in Newbury Park, California.

For me, it is now on to Murcia, Spain to start training the Cobras for the 2015 Serie B season in the Spanish Liga Nacional de Fútbol Americano.

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