FB: Terra Nova loss exposes CCS

Margaret Lie (far right), the niece of Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis, and her friends from Terra Nova showed up in force to support their team during game against Valley Christian.

Margaret Lie (far right), the niece of Cal-Hi Sports editor Mark Tennis, and her friends from Terra Nova showed up in force to support their team during game against Valley Christian.

Seeing a 10-0 team lose in the opening round of the playoffs isn’t unique, but the one witnessed on Friday night in Pacifica when host Terra Nova fell 24-7 to Valley Christian of San Jose had a sense of injustice attached to it.

Sure, credit should be given to the team at Valley Christian, which took control in the second half behind a powerful run game and beat an opponent on the road that had been averaging 45 points per game.

The Warriors (8-3) will now play Archbishop Mitty of San Jose (11-1) next week in one of two All-West Catholic Athletic League semifinals (provided heavily favored Serra of San Mateo beats Pioneer of San Jose on Saturday) in the CIF Central Coast Section Open Division.

The big joke in the CCS is calling its top playoff division an “open” division. There’s nothing “open” about it because if it were truly an Open Division then the top eight teams in the section regardless of league affiliation or enrollment would be in it.

No one questions the obvious dominance of the WCAL in the CCS. It just seems to be more pronounced now due to the decline of the program at Oak Grove of San Jose, which in some years could take on and beat WCAL teams.

If the CCS really had an open division, there would be five and perhaps six WCAL teams in it. Instead, there is an open division actually with automatic qualifiers and one of those is the champion of the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division, which is where Terra Nova comes in.

Terra Nova, which is a public school with an enrollment of 1,146, was that team last year and had to play at Bellarmine in a first-round “Open” Division game. The Tigers lost 33-14. This year, they had one of the best teams in school history and although they were competitive against Valley Christian it was a step up that just couldn’t be made.

Head coach Bill Gray, who’s been coaching at Terra Nova and previously at Oceana of Pacifica since the 1980s and is one of the winningest coaches in CCS history, said he feels his teams have been the “sacrificial lambs” for the Open Division. It’s fairly obvious that Pioneer was another “sacrificial lamb” this year as well.

Although Gray said he was honored to play Valley Christian and that his team gave it its best shot, it’s hard to explain to an outstanding group of seniors who just lost their first game why they had to play Valley Christian and teams like Burlingame, Aptos, Live Oak of Morgan Hill and others with similar or even bigger enrollments did not.

The way in which the CCS conducts its “Open” Division also effects the CIF Northern California regional bowl games. Because of the “sacrificial lambs” that are put into the “Open” Division, there are other WCAL teams that should be in the “Open” that are instead playing for enrollment-based divisional titles.

Valley Christian was, in fact, one of those teams last year and won the CCS Division III title after going 4-6 in the regular season. This year, St. Francis of Mountain View could win the CCS Division II title and become eligible for the NorCal D2 bowl game at 10-3.

Will the Lancers have a case to be chosen if they win out? Yes. Would it be fair, given the inequalities of the CCS “Open” Division, for essentially the No. 5 team from a power league to get into the state bowl games in a lower division? No. Other fifth-place teams from power leagues from around the state don’t have that chance (although maybe they will in San Diego’s new “Open” Division).

Looking ahead, Valley Christian’s win was impressive nonetheless. The Warriors fought back after giving up an early 54-yard touchdown pass from Terra Nova’s Anthony Gordon to Jaylen Jones. They won even though Kirk Johnson, one of the state’s top junior running backs, was out with an injury.

“That was the plan, to control the clock, finish some drives and wear them down,” said Valley Christian head coach Mike Machado. “Everybody thinks we can’t win without Kirk, but we had his brother back (sophomore receiver Collin Johnson) and we have beaten other good teams without him.”

The Warriors didn’t tie the score at 7-7 until the final play of the first half when junior running back Tre McCloud bulled into the end zone on a 1-yard run. They then took the second half kickoff and went on a 79-yard scoring drive to take the lead on another 1-yard plunge by McCloud.

Back-to-back sacks of Gordon then pushed Terra Nova back from a potential tying touchdown, which was followed by a 30-yard field goal by Valley Christian’s Kody Kroening.

The final two scores of the game were another 1-yard run by McCloud and a safety. Terra Nova only had the ball three times in the entire second half and one of those possessions was the one-play safety.

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  1. paul_johnson884
    Posted November 23, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    CCS Open is lame. Time for the SJS, NCS and CCS to put their heads together, drop their ego’s, and do something about the inequality at the top of Nor Cal football. A solution is there if they would show some leadership.

  2. FBAddict
    Posted November 23, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Good article – but I am a little bewildered by the sour grapes tone of it. I agree that Open in CCS is not really an “open” division partly because CCS officials keep adjusting it. The truth is that recently CCS augmented the CCS playoff power points to push more WCAL teams into Open. It also allowed more WCAL teams in other divisions. And this year, Terra Nova did have among the highest CCS playoff power points and they were also highly ranked in CCS by all ranking services. Those factors dictate Terra Nova be in the Open division – even in a true “open” division.

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted November 23, 2013 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      The playoff power points are another mess because it gives teams very little credit for taking on strong teams from very good leagues. I’ve just always been bewildered why we need open divisions at the section level anyway. The Sac-Joaquin I don’t think is ever going to have them. It would work in the CCS if Oak Grove was still good, if Palo Alto or Los Gatos or another De Anza League team was really good (like Paly has been a couple of times recently) and if Palma was playing like it was about 8-10 years ago. Unfortunately, it’s now all-WCAL all the time and I get it that they don’t want to have WCAL teams winning multiple divisional titles and they don’t want to have basically an all-WCAL Open Division. It’s probably going to be a mess with sacrificial lambs for almost anything they do. The public-private split that has been discussed in different places in the state wouldn’t get that much support in the Sac-Joaquin or Central Section, but in the CCS a lot of people would love it. Thanks for your contribution to this topic.

      • FBAddict
        Posted November 24, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

        What do you think of the new method of setting divisions in the San Diego Section? The system, on the surface, seems like a good way to better align divisions according to historical rankings. I can imagine all kinds of problems but I would be interested in your experienced opinion.

  3. It's Good!
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    How about if there were two sets of playoffs in the Bay Area- one for entrance into the State Bowl Games and the other more regional. Teams could opt in to whichever set of playoffs they choose.

    I don’t know if anyone would challenge DeLaSalle in the “Open Division” – but there would be some great matchups in the other divisions.

    How would Valley Christian or SI face up against Campolindo or Marin Catholic in an All Bay Area Division 3 matchup? (SI gave Marin Catholic their most competitive game of the season back in September).

    There would be no more wining about “sacrificial lambs” – you could choose to play for a spot in your enrollment division or choose to compete in a local sectional playoff. If you want to play for a state championship, you are going to have to face the best teams eventually.

    • bill
      Posted November 26, 2013 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      Good idea but if the regionals don’t feed into state maybe you wouldn’t need as the divisions. Just “big” & “little”.

      Do wonder what teams would choose the lesser competition. It would be like a college basketball team choosing the NIT over the NCAA.

  4. Bob Smith
    Posted November 27, 2013 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Why couldn’t the CCS not do a playoff system based off on enrollment?

    • Mark Tennis
      Posted November 28, 2013 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      It is based on enrollment for the divisions, but the Open Division and the way it is conducted pretty much screws that up.

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