By Ray Hamill — The North Coast Section could have avoided this week’s mess but failed to do so, and the schools in the Bay Area have allowed them to get away with it.
Shame on all of them.
Because now the alternative starring all of us in the face is deciding a team’s playoff fate by a coin flip.
Yep, a coin flip.
Unless the CIF somehow decides to push the regional and state games back a week once again, the NCS will now have to choose which teams move on from the section by head-to-head record or a coin flip, instead of on the field of play.
And that’s simply ludicrous.
It’s a decision that affects four of the five local teams still playing, and one that could easily have been avoided. One that should have been avoided.
In Eureka’s case, if the No. 2 seeds in Division III win their semifinal game, which will now be played in two weeks, a coin toss will decide their fate after that, against any one of four teams they have not yet played, including No. 1 seed Cardinal Newman.
(It also potentially robs fans of what could have been the game of the season in the NCS, and a matchup many people here on the North Coast were happily anticipating.)
In Division IV, if the NCS championship includes either St. Bernard’s, Fortuna or Del Norte, each of whom has played each other this season, it could come down to head-to-head records deciding their playoff fate.
For example, The Crusaders’ fate could very well now come down to who wins a potential Fortuna/Del Norte semifinal matchup and not who they beat themselves.
Technically, we could see two local teams close out their season with a win and not advance.
There’s something very wrong with that picture, and it’s something the NCS allowed to happen.
NCS failed to act quickly enough
First, they failed to act quickly enough this week, and instead of being proactive like the Central Coastal Section was, they lingered on the decision making and left schools with little time to make any sort of travel plans, when we all knew the poor air quality was extremely likely to carry on through the weekend.
Second, they should have provided financial assistance to the schools involved. I have no idea what the section’s budget is like, but to have absolutely no funds set aside for an emergency such as this is worrisome on its own.
Even without the financial help, the schools who declined to travel should be ashamed of their decision making.
They should have found a way to make the trip. They should have wanted to play.
Are you seriously telling me the families and boosters of these teams could not find a way to make these trips happen in order to play the games?
Does football mean that little these days? Does high school sports mean that little?
I can assure you there’s not a team on the North Coast that wouldn’t make the reverse trip to play, and they would each do so without consideration.
The Hoopa Valley players literally spent more hours traveling to practice one week this season because of air conditions caused by fires, than any of these teams would have had to spend to play a playoff game.
The wrong lessons
As one local coach pointed out, this wouldn’t happen in Texas.
It wouldn’t happen in a lot of places.
It wouldn’t happen in a lot of sports.
And as another coach asked, what is this teaching the players?
That if you work really, really hard for something, it doesn’t mean anything, because it can all be taken away from you for ridiculous reasons you don’t have any control over, so why bother trying?
It’s not a matter of life and death, in the way the wildfires that caused these problems have been, and it’s important to remember that.
That, however, should not be used as excuse for taking away something every one of these teams has been working hard toward for the past year, and an opportunity some of these players have been working toward for much of their young lives.
“How did you close out your high school playing career?”
“Oh, we had one of the best teams the school has ever seen, but we lost a coin toss and we weren’t allowed to win anything.”
Once again, there’s something very wrong with that picture.
The sad part is there were alternatives. The sort of alternatives we’ve been shouting about here on the North Coast all week, as the NCS dragged its collective feet.
Taking the games out of the players’ hands goes against everything the NCS should stand for.
Yet here we are.