It’s a big week for longtime Oceanside head coach John Carroll, who takes unbeaten team against Fresno Edison with spot in CIF Division I state final on the line in a stadium that became officially named in his honor.
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By Thomas Gutierrez
Special to CalHiSports.com
Prior to head coach John Carroll taking the Oceanside Pirate head coaching position in 1989, the program was less than stellar. Across town, the legendary Herb Meyer and the El Camino Wildcats were regarded as the preeminent team in the city of Oceanside. Meyer was even the state’s winningest coach ever at the time. The lines were already drawn, and you were Wildcat or a Pirate.
The Oceanside program was rich with talented players, but lacked the continuity and structure of the better programs in San Diego. In 1989, however, along with the coaching staff he assembled, Carroll immediately bridged that gap.
Through continual improvement each season, the apex of high school football was attained during the 1995 season with Carroll’s Pirate team winning its first CIF San Diego Section championship with a 31-20 victory over Mission Bay.
As the years have progressed, numerous championships were won, and several more legendary moments were created for the hearts, minds, and the legacy of Oceanside Pirate football.
Since 1989 and including last week’s CIF San Diego Section Open Division triumph over La Mesa Helix, Carroll has amassed 247 victories, 13 CIF section titles, and 2 CIF state bowl titles. The run also has included eight straight section titles at one point, an amazing 21 straight semifinal appearances that is ongoing and 11 consecutive section final appearances.The Coaching
Back in the day, many of the current Pirate players spent Friday nights as children watching family members suit up in the green and white. As a result, several of these young men became aware of Carroll years ago, and have always wanted to continue the legacy of Oceanside Pirate football.
Through Carroll and his staff, stellar coaching has become the foundation of the Oceanside program.
With high expectations set in place, precision and attention to detail in all aspects of the game have become an essential key. The thinking aspects, skill sets, and fundamentals of playing football are priorities of the Oceanside program, with in season weight training representing a less important place in their football schematic.
“Football is taught like an AP class,” says Carroll. “Many teams have talent, but you can not win consistently with just talent. You must make the average player play as well as the talented player. That is what we have been able to do.”
This process has once again been proven effective with this season’s team. With the loss of several elite players on varsity and a 2-8 JV team from the prior season, there was not as much expectation for success in 2014 as in other years. However, the Pirates have gone 13-0 so far, including a dramatic 20-13 comeback victory over Helix.
What makes this season more notable is that Carroll coached the team during games from the press box. He moved up there after a health scare that had him hospitalized last season.
“It is a tradeoff, I can see the field better for play calling, but lose the personal connection,” he says. “I don’t like it, but since we are 13-0 CIF champs, I guess it hasn’t impacted the kids. I have a great staff.”
Regardless if on field or in the press box, Carroll says it’s the days before that matter the most.
“The practice week is it,” he says. “Being prepared, and having a great staff and team with character.”The Week
Outstanding is not an uncommon word associated with Oceanside Pirate head coach John Carroll. This week has been beyond outstanding for the legendary coach.
First, there was that passionate comeback to defeat the San Diego powerhouse Helix Highlanders to win the school’s 15th CIF San Diego Section championship at the renovated Devore Stadium at Southwestern College.
Next, the christening of the OHS athletic facility renamed “Simcox Field at John Carroll Stadium.” If this was not enough, the Pirates also earned a CIF Southern California Division I bowl berth at home to face the Edison Tigers (12-1) of Fresno.
Even though his San Diego Open Bowl Champions are looking forward to this match up, Carroll admits, “Prep this week will be tough. Going from the high of a championship to the grind of preparing for another game will be tough. We will find a way to treat each day as special and re-set the attitude that this is the classic icing on the cake.”
The stands will be filled to capacity with family members, students, football fans and alumni. It will be a gathering of community spirit and Pirate football devotion. The D1 Central Section champions Edison Tigers (12-1) of Fresno will bring a talented team for a primetime clash with the Pirates. The winner will continue their season next week against the winner of the Grant (Sacramento) vs. Folsom game the following Friday in Carson.
It isn’t just speed and talent that Oceanside and Edison have in common. Both schools were established in 1906 and maintain a 2300-2500 student base.
As the Pirates walk on the gridiron, they will understand the importance of this elite matchup. Yet, the most significant part of Friday night will be the legions of former players and families who will go up to Carroll with simple words: “Thank you. We love you.”
It is very simple, “Because I thank and love them,” Carroll adds with emotion.
Thomas Gutierrez is a free-lance writer and teacher who lives in Oceanside and has been providing info on San Diego Section teams and players to CalHiSports.com this season. Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow Mark on the Cal-Hi Sports Twitter handle: @CalHiSports