Commentary: Sacred Heart Cathedral vs. St. Ignatius, Part II belongs at Kezar Stadium
Update (Tuesday, 10:10 a.m.): According to the CCS website (http://cifccs.org/playoffs/results/11-12/FB-DIV3%2011-12.pdf) the game is no longer scheduled to be played at Terra Nova. Sacred Heart Cathedral athletic director Phil Freed has said Foothill College in Los Altos Hills and San Jose City College are possible candidates to host the game, but Kezar Stadium is officially out. Grounds crews began removing the sod this morning. There will likely be more to come on this story.
Update (Tuesday, 10:30 a.m.): We’ve been informed AT&T Park is also being discussed as a potential site.
Update (Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.): It’s official. The game will be played at AT&T Park on Saturday at 7 p.m. Working on the full story now.
By Jeremy Balan
In the afterglow of St. Ignatius’ shocking win over Valley Christian in the Central Coast Section semifinals on Saturday, there was a collective feeling of confusion from many who follow high school sports in San Francisco.
An unprecedented matchup of venerable City rivals Sacred Heart Cathedral and St. Ignatius in the Division III CCS championship will be played in . . . Pacifica?
The occasion and the teams participating screams for a rematch under the lights on the City’s biggest stage at Kezar Stadium, but instead it will be held at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica.
“We have our sites lined up in the north, south and central [parts of the section] well before the teams are decided,” said CCS commissioner Nancy Lazenby Blaser. “Generally speaking, it’s unusual to have two City schools [in a football championship]. We don’t wait until the last weekend to decide where to play these games.”
The CCS certainly has valid reasons for not selecting Kezar.
Terra Nova features a turf field, while the condition of Kezar’s grass field, especially in wet conditions, could be in question. The CCS also tries to play as many championships at high school sites as possible, due to lower costs for the facilities and easier-controlled security.
All of those reasons are perfectly acceptable if the game was a normal CCS championship matchup. This game, however, will be anything but normal.
The two teams have never played twice in a season or in any postseason play, even when they were both members of the Academic Athletic Association prior to moving to the West Catholic Athletic League.
During the annual regular-season game between the two teams, 5,000-7,000 fans are regularly in attendance, and although the crowd may not reach that number for the championship game, the 2,600 capacity at Terra Nova will likely be stretched to its limit. Kezar, on the other hand, can seat up to 10,000.
“The only concern I have is the enormity of the crowd and that Terra Nova won’t be able to handle it,” said Sacred Heart athletic director Phil Freed. “That is my concern as athletic director more than what goes on on the field. Here’s this great matchup with historical perspective and I’d hate to have it marred with the fact that we can’t have everyone who wants to see it be there.”
There are also issues with limited parking spaces at Terra Nova and in the surrounding neighborhood, especially since Serra and Menlo-Atherton will be playing in the Division I championship game at the same venue at 3 p.m. Lazenby Blaser also said that the stadium will not be cleared out in between games and that fans from the first game could stay for the second.
“We get 6,000-7,000 for a regular season game, now we’re playing for all the marbles,” Freed said. “People are going to come out of the woodwork. Six thousand people is a possibility and that’s not going to happen at Terra Nova.”
While Sacred Heart has pushed for the move, the St. Ignatius athletic department is resigned to play wherever the CCS designates the game to be played.
“We are going to go wherever the CCS tells us to play,” said St. Ignatius athletic director John Mulkerrins. “If the CCS tells us we are playing at Kezar Stadium, that’s where we’ll play. If they say we’re playing at Terra Nova, then we’ll go there. It’s uncharted waters and we’re at the mercy of the CCS. We’re just excited to be a part of the championship game.”
Freed contacted the CCS and made his case to move the game to Kezar, but the section held firm.
“We don’t ever want to turn people away,” Lazenby Blaser said. “We always encourage people to come early, but we may have to turn people away if the fire marshal says the facility is at capacity. They called and asked [to move the game to Kezar], but there’s a lot of logistics to moving the game.”
And if some of those people who might be turned away happen to be players’ family members, students or die-hard fans of the two teams, the CCS appears to be willing to live with that.
Freed had Kezar on hold for a Saturday game until noon Monday, but San Francisco Recreation and Parks could not hold the field further due to the field’s scheduled winter closure, in which they take out the field’s grass and replace it with new sod.
Lazenby Blaser said that the logistics of moving the game to Kezar would be difficult to deal with, but that will pale in comparison to the issues that could arise at Terra Nova.
As much as the crowd, logistics and other issues don’t make sense for the game to be played at Terra Nova, the resonating fact remains that an all-City football championship should be played in San Francisco and an opportunity to showcase what will be one of the City’s most important high school football games in history will be missed.
“I hope I’m wrong, because that would mean the game goes on without a hitch,” Freed said. “It will be a great way to wrap up the football season in San Francisco.”
The teams may be from San Francsico, but unfortunately football in San Francisco has already been wrapped up.