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High Schools | FOOTBALL REWIND

Coaches, Schools Provide Relief

November 03, 2003|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

Firestorms that whipped through Southern California were massive in scope and tragic in nature. From one end of the Southland to the other, there were signs of compassion and heroism.

Two San Clemente assistant football coaches, Eric Smith and Bob De La Puente, were involved in firefighting efforts and did not attend the team's game Friday against Mission Viejo, ranked No. 1 by The Times.

Both are full-time firefighters, Smith in San Onofre and De La Puente in El Segundo.

At San Clemente, donations were being accepted for the American Red Cross to aid fire victims. A similar donation was taken at the Valencia-Saugus game in Canyon Country. Proceeds from Baseline League games were donated to the Red Cross.

No doubt others around the Southland also contributed to the cause.

Schools in the Mountain View, Baseline and Sunkist leagues worked cooperatively to ensure every school plays all its games before the regular season ends Nov. 14 while still satisfying a state rule that prohibits teams playing more than two games in an eight-day span.

That means some schools that weren't directly affected by the fire altered their schedule to accommodate those that were.

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Los Angeles Unified School District, citing concerns over available practice time and air quality, postponed games scheduled on Friday until today at 2:15 p.m. However, school administrators had the option of playing on Saturday, which several did.

In the West Valley League, however, all three games will be played today, including Lake Balboa Birmingham at Woodland Hills El Camino Real and Woodland Hills Taft at Granada Hills.

Birmingham and Taft had hoped to play Saturday because they are scheduled to play each other Thursday in a rematch of last year's City Championship. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports West 2.

Though the City had previously expressed a concern about practice time, no school will be allowed to practice Tuesday because it is a staff development day.

El Camino Real Coach Rick Hayashida said he wanted to play Saturday, but was told by school administrators that there was a lack of available supervision.

Granada Hills administrators also cited a lack of available personnel.

"We have to have ticket-takers, sellers ... people who had plans for the weekend," Granada Hills Athletic Director Richard Hulse said. "And we wanted to have another practice day."

And though the decision of when to play falls on the host schools, all involved have to answer another question: Is it safe?

"I don't know," Birmingham Coach Ed Croson said. "It's not as safe as it could have been, and it's not as safe as it should have been. Does that mean we'll have a rash of injuries? We'll have to find out because everyone is in the same boat."

Said Jeff Halpern, assistant commissioner in charge of football for the City Section: "You couldn't insist [the host schools] play when it becomes a school issue and they have to provide supervision.

"You can't make other schools play on another day just because [Taft and Birmingham] had scheduled their game on a Thursday. If they think it's unsafe, they can move that game to Friday."

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The Halloween game of the night on Friday took place in Hemet, where all kinds of strange goings-on left Menifee Paloma Valley Coach Craig Lind shaking his head and playing under protest in his team's 15-14 loss.

According to Lind, Hemet West Valley called a timeout while on offense, and each team went to its respective side of the field. Officials called Paloma Valley back onto the field, but the Wildcats didn't come right away.

So, officials set the ball down and West Valley ran a play, gaining about 45 yards on a quarterback run before Vince Valdez was tackled from behind.

"I could see them calling a delay-of-game penalty or even an encroachment penalty," said Lind, noting that both those calls are dead-ball penalties.

That wasn't the only weird play, according to Lind.

On fourth and 11 at the Paloma Valley 34, Valdez passed to Marlon Cajina for an apparent 10-yard gain. Referees signaled a change of possession on downs, and the chains were reset.

With Paloma Valley's center over the ball, a second official called for a measurement and subsequently awarded West Valley a first down.

Lloyd Nixon, assignor and liaison to the section for the Inland Football Officials Assn., said he spoke afterward to the game's referee, Rich Robbins, who told him that though the chains had been reset, the clip at the five-yard marker had not been changed, which would allow an accurate measurement.

Lind contends the clip had already been removed because he saw it in the hand of one of the chain-gang members.

West Valley, given another chance, drove for its game-winning, 24-yard field goal by David Torres with 10:20 to play.

"Never in my career have I complained about officials because I feel you have to overcome bad decisions," Lind said, "but the administration of this game..."

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