Credit the teams that played or the rain that fell throughout Saturday: CCS Championship weekend was dominated by the defenses.
No team scored more than 21 points in regulation across any of the five games. It would be hard to even credit the old adage of “offense wins games, defense wins championships” as the offenses didn’t win games; the defenses did.
Take Serra’s final touchdown, for example. The Padres became the first team to score more than 13 points against Valley Christian, and they only did so because of a two-yard touchdown set up by an interception. Both Serra and Los Gatos pitched shutouts to win the two highest divisions, while Santa Cruz held Leland’s high-powered offense to just seven points, a remarkable feat with a healthy Carson Yates taking snaps for the Chargers.
Reflections on first year of new format
It’s worth remembering that the first year of the new playoff format was introduced by the CCS not with some secret agenda to reward or punish certain teams, but to match the CIF’s new rules that only send section champions on to NorCal and state championship games. Under the new system, the teams expected to advance were the No. 1, 9, 17, 25 and 33 teams in the section, and save for one spoiler (34th-ranked Santa Cruz topping 33rd-ranked Leland), the system held completely true to form as the top seeds won across the board. That being said, the lower seeds were certainly competitive, as highlighted by Branham’s overtime battle with Milpitas in Division IV.
One of the biggest criticisms of the system was Milpitas’ inclusion in Division IV rather than in a field with a heavier presence of ‘A’ league teams, but considering that the Trojans won their title by taking a pair of overtime games and a 10-point win, it appears they were surrounded by the right competition.
Site choices come under fire
The section was roundly criticized by coaches and fans alike after playing three of its five games at Independence, most notably the Division I game. While the site was a logical one for Divisions IV and V, the same couldn’t be said about a game between Serra and Valley Christian, especially with the Padres as the higher seed. Additionally, King’s Academy and Terra Nova played at Westmont. The Warriors’ home is one of the nicer sites available, but it wasn’t a particularly convenient spot for either side. Sequoia, which has hosted games between PAL teams in the past, would have made much more sense.
When asked about the site selection, commissioner Duane Morgan explained, “It’s hard to get schools to give up their Thanksgiving weekend.”
The need for staffing is certainly a factor, and with Independence’s proximity to the CCS offices, getting personnel to the site certainly isn’t an issue. However, the abundance of parking and seating that Independence offers often isn’t needed. In fact, part of the parking lot was flooded on Saturday, and the stands were half-full at best. Even with crystal-clear skies and perfect weather, attendance would likely have not been enough to warrant Independence as a necessary site. With college sites like SJCC and Spartan Stadium phased out for costs, Independence has become the go-to site for the section.
In order for schools to host the games at more popular sites in the future, it’ll be a matter of participation from the potential host schools. Simply put, schools with proper amenities and central locations will need to offer their facilities and staffing in order to host the championship games. If those schools put in the effort, it’ll help give the players, teams and fans the atmosphere they deserve in a championship game.
As the NCS has shown, it can be done. It just requires a bit of participation from the section’s member schools, even if they need to put up some manpower to host a league rival. If the schools know that the favor will be returned when it’s their turn to play in a championship game, it will become a natural gesture for the teams around the section to get involved with. Some of the host schools in the NCS have taken the initiative to dress the sidelines of both teams up with their student leadership departments putting up signs, just as they do for home games. Bringing that sort of camaraderie into the CCS would be beneficial for all parties involved.
Speaking of atmosphere, the games largely felt like they were played at a mausoleum outside of Friday’s Division II game, courtesy of the Los Gatos band. For inexplicable reasons, the CCS has a moratorium on playing recorded music at section-wide events. This was likely introduced long ago after a school played music with profanity in it, but finding clean songs or instrumental versions requires minimal effort. Just generic pump-up music like Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400” or 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready For This” before kickoff would help create some energy at the games, as would constant music during halftime outside of when announcements are made. Just piping in a bit of Stevie Wonder through the sound system would dramatically improve the atmosphere and help the players enjoy the privilege of playing in a championship game.