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Football finals return to Qualcomm

09/01/2013, 2:13pm PDT
By John Maffei

High school championships in top three divisions back in Mission Valley.

Coach Troy Starr celebrates after Helix High won the San Diego Section Division II title game at Qualcomm Stadium in 2011.

December will be a busy month at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Chargers play four games, there are two college bowl games and the Aztecs could host the Mountain West championship game.

Now you can add three games in the CIF San Diego Section football championships.

After playing all five division title games at Escondido High last season, three of the six 2013 championship games - Open, Division I and Division II - will be in the stadium.

"It's a tight fit, but the coaches wanted me to explore getting the championship games back in Qualcomm," said San Diego Section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp.

"They asked me, short of playing on three days rest, to see what I could do."

The Chargers play the Bengals on Dec. 1 and Qualcomm officials plan to tear out the turf on Monday, Dec. 2, in anticipation of Chargers games on Dec. 8, 22 and 29, the Dec. 26 Poinsettia Bowl, the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl and a possible Dec. 16 Mountain West title game.

So Dec. 2 was one of the few dates available to the CIF.

Schniepp jumped at the chance to get the section's premier games back on the big stage.

In years past, Qualcomm hosted four CIF title games. A compromise move has only three games.

The Division V title game will be Saturday, Nov. 30 at San Diego Mesa College. The Division III and IV championships will be Saturday, Dec. 7, also at Mesa.

"Escondido did a fantastic job hosting last year's championships," Schniepp said. "But we had to bring in extra stands ... at a pretty hefty expense ... for the top three games.

"We won't have to do that we the divisions at Mesa.

"And I can't stress enough that the Chargers are totally onboard with this. It wouldn't have happened without their cooperation.

Start times for the Qualcomm games may be early - maybe 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

"That's so the ground crews can get to work on the turf as soon as possible," Schniepp said. "In the quadrupleheader days, the last game started at 8 p.m. and we didn't clear the field until after 11.

"That wasn't going to work, so we'll play early.

"If a school is playing in the title game, administrators will find a way to get their students to the stadium.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime deal for a lot of players and students."

There were other compromises, however.

The eight Open Division teams - Oceanside, Eastlake, Helix, Poway, La Costa Canyon, Mission Hills, Steele Canyon and Torrey Pines- were scheduled to have a first-round bye so that all the other 12-team brackets would end in time for a Dec. 6-7 title weekend.

Now, there is no Open Division bye. Instead, that division starts play Nov. 15 with other five divisions, which have 12 playoff teams.

Quarterfinals are on Friday, Nov. 22. The semifinals will be played Wednesday, Nov. 27 ... the day before Thanksgiving.

That's four days between games. The title games in Qualcomm will also be played on four days rest.

"Playing those semis on Friday was out of the question if we wanted to play in Qualcomm," Schniepp said.

"Practicing on Thanksgiving is a big deal for teams that are still alive, but playing games on Thanksgiving was out of the question.

"So we'll play Wednesday."

Most coaches are OK with that. But several who were interviewed were in favor of playing games on Thursday, Nov. 21 to give team more time to prepare for the semis.

Most coaches would like to have a rule that doesn't allow contact with players on Sunday waived before the title game.

"I'm good with everything except not being able to have access to my team the day before a championship game," one coach, who asked that his name not be used.

"Thanksgiving is a family day, so it's a quick film session, a little running, then we turn them loose.

"So we'd practice on Friday and Saturday.

"I'd be OK with any contact the commissioner allows us on Sunday ... 60-minute time limit, helmets and shorts only, even nothing on the field, but we can watch film and go over game plans.

"We'll ask and see what happens."

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