Serra HS football coach and CCS unfairly rob players of future playoff hopes

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Serra HS football coach and CCS unfairly rob players of future playoff hopes

Pranav Iyer

On Nov. 22, 2014, the Serra Padres, the co-champions of the the West Catholic Athletic League, were the favorites to win a football CCS Open Division first round matchup against the Los Gatos Wildcats. However, to the surprise of just about everyone, they lost by an overwhelming score of 28-0. This was not the end to their season, as the CCS had installed a consolation bracket to the Open Division playoffs, the most prestigious playoff bracket in the CCS, starting this year.

In their first consolation game, the Padres were able to defeat the Palma Chieftains, winning comfortably 28-14. Up next were the mighty Milpitas Trojans, the team that most predicted to come out as champions. However, in the first round, they were absolutely stunned by Bellarmine HS in an overtime thriller.

The Padres coach, Patrick Walsh, allegedly didn’t want his players who played other sports or who were getting ready for college football to risk injury by playing against this giant-filled team, especially with no championship on the line.

And I completely understand why he would think his players would be at risk of injury. I had to suit up against them and boy, it was scary. It just wasn’t fair. They looked like an NFL team. But still, it was a David vs. Goliath matchup I was looking forward to playing.

I know that the Padres collectively are bigger than myself and the rest of the MVHS football team, but they were still outsized, especially in the trenches, as the Trojans had four lineman over 300 pounds.

Although Walsh didn’t want his players to participate in this game, he was informed by the CCS that if he withdrew his team, they would be faced with severe penalties. After much contemplation, Walsh decided to pull the plug on the game at around noon on Dec. 5, just hours before gametime.

“I stand behind my decision to this day and will never feel otherwise,” Walsh said in an email to San Jose Mercury News. “The decision was made in consultation with and [sic] the full support of the Serra administration. At the time of my decision, I only had the best interest of our players’ health in mind.”

SHS received a statement from CCS on Jan. 22 outlining the sanctions that will have to face. They had to pay over $6,000 for the expected revenue from the game and to pay the referees. In addition to this fine, SHS was banned from post-season play for two years. Yes, it may sound severe, but rules are rules and Walsh knowingly broke them.

It was extremely inconsiderate of Walsh to withdraw from a playoff game, especially a road game, with just a few hours of notice. The Trojans and their fans were likely excited for this matchup between two powerhouse schools. In addition, the Trojans, I assume, practiced the entire week just for this game, all for no use.

But, try to think about this from the SHS player’s perspective. How was Walsh okay with ending the season early for his players, especially the seniors, who were not given the opportunity to finish what they started their freshman year? For many of these seniors that will not be playing at the next level, this will likely leave a bitter memory in the back of their minds, especially because Serra HS is a school that is as invested in football as anyone.

 “If the only reason to play that game was for next year, then all of next year’s playoffs would be wrong,” Walsh told the San Jose Mercury News. “I understood the ramifications. Why I didn’t do it the minute after the [LGHS] game was because of what it meant for the 2015 team. If we’re not allowed to take part in the playoffs then the 2015 team is going to have to understand.”

The 2015 and 2016 teams are the ones who will be the most impacted, as the sophomores and juniors will never be able to experience a playoff game again. The goal for many of these players is to win a CCS championship. With that gone, there is not nearly as much for them to play for. Not only that, but the playoffs are a prime place for the players to attract attention of college scouts.

Walsh clearly made the wrong decision. I know he was trying to protect his team, which is what a coach is supposed to do, but at what cost? Ending football careers early for many of those that only know to live and breathe football? Ruin his players’ hopes of winning a CCS championship the next two years?

But even though I’ve excessively bashed Walsh’s decision, I firmly believe the CCS unfairly punished the players. It wasn’t the players that made the decision, it was the coach. And while the punishment should be put more on the coach, it is almost entirely placed on the players and the school. They could have fired the coach or suspended him for a specified team instead. The ruling is unfair to the players of the next two years as many of them had no part in this decision or were on junior varsity last season. 

Even though I play for MVHS, a team that very rarely makes CCS, it would be crushing for me to hear that our team was ban from the postseason. No matter what team athletes play for or the sport that they play, all of them dream of achieving the greatest prize in the sport. And in football in the Bay Area, the greatest prize for most teams is a CCS championship.

A CCS championship in football is something that the Padre players from the classes of 2016 and 2017 will not be able to have their place in their rafters, next to accomplishments of legendary Padre teams from the past.