(UPDATED with news on schools refusing to travel)
By Ray Hamill — The North Coast Section is ready to move 13 playoff football games to Humboldt County, but unfortunately many of the section schools have refused to travel because they would have to do so at their own expense.
According to Eureka head coach Jason White, the Loggers were informed earlier today that they will be hosting a triple-header of action on Monday, along with Fortuna High and two other unconfirmed sites.
NCS commissioner Gil Lemon confirmed the NCS is working to move the games to the Eureka area in The Mercury News within the past hour.
According to several sources, however, many of the Bay Area schools are refusing to travel to Humboldt County, with the NCS unwilling to pay the expenses.
“We were ready to host as many games as necessary to get them played,” Fortuna head coach Mike Benbow said.
Benbow confirmed he has been told the games will now go ahead next weekend instead, bringing up the possibility of a tiebreaker instead of an NCS championship in four of the seven divisions to decide who gets to advance to the NorCal regional and possible state championship games.
“What’s really frustrating is we have playable field and it’s ready to go,” Benbow said.
The scheduling crisis has been caused by the ongoing wild fires and resulting poor air quality playing havoc with the games.
The NCS was forced to postpone 18 of 24 scheduled games last week, and with no improvement in the air quality throughout much of the section heading into this weekend, none of the games would be able to go ahead at their scheduled locations.
On Wednesday the NCS executive committee voted to use a coin flip as a last resort to decide which of this year’s NCS finalists would advance to the regional games if the scheduling problems persisted.
The decision was heavily criticized, and on Friday the NCS agreed the best option is moving the games to Humboldt County.
Most people agree a coin flip is a terrible way to decide a team’s playoff fate, especially for a squad like Eureka, which is fielding a once-in-a-generation squad of seniors viewed as legitimate state contenders in Division III.
“A complete joke,” is how White described the coin flip scenario. “The problem with that whole deal is the options they gave us were all bad. A coin flip to see who goes on? A higher seed to decide who goes? Or nobody goes?”
St. Bernard’s, Fortuna, Del Norte and Eureka are all affected by Friday’s news.
Fortuna and St. Bernard’s have yet to play their quarterfinal games.
Eureka and Del Norte were two of the few teams to get their scheduled games in last week and are waiting to see who they will meet in the semifinals, which will now be played in two weeks.
Even if they win, it may be the last game for either.
One other scenario is for the CIF to move the regional and state games back one more week.
It is understood the NCS will request this.
“I’m sure the NCS is going to petition the CIF,” Benbow said. “But I don’t foresee that happening.”
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