MODESTO — So let's all jump in a big bus and play these bowl games.
Oh, if it were only that easy.
Before the football teams from Central Catholic and Oakdale high schools tee it up in this weekend's CIF state championship football bowl games in Carson, there are literally hundreds of details that must be addressed.
In addition to scouting and preparing a gameplan to go after the opponents, well beyond what is happening on the practice fields at David Patton Stadium and The Corral, school staffers are scurrying about to make sure their players, coaches and support staff are comfortably transported, adequately housed and well-fed while representing their schools and communities.
It's not easy, and it's certainly not cheap.
The CIF provides the school with a stipend to help offset the cost of sending a team to their most high-profile event, but that money falls far short of covering all school expenses.
So while the Raiders were celebrating their bid on Friday night and the Mustangs did the same on Saturday, both on the field at Stockton's Lincoln High, the administrators at those schools began to crunch the numbers.
Melissa Bengston, principal at Central Catholic, has been through this before. The Raiders became the first team to represent the Stanislaus District in a bowl game when they played for the Division 3 crown in 2007.
On Monday, she went back over those expenses from five years ago in an effort to estimate what this year's trip might cost.
"We spent $15,800," she said. "When I heard what the expenses were, I was shocked, but the CIF requires you to have 10 chaperones and four administrators at the game, and we have to pay for their travel, hotel and give them a per diem. Just that expense alone was $6,000 to $7,000."
The $15,800, she said, was not entirely offset by the CIF stipend and contributions from the Central Catholic community. An expense remained that had to be covered by the school.
"I think people would be shocked by the amount not covered by the CIF," she said, "You have to raise that money and you have a short amount of time to do that."
Despite the expense, Bengston wanted to make sure everyone knew that Central Catholic is honored and excited to be making a return trip to the game.
"We're happy to be a part of this," she said. "It's such an amazing experience for everybody involved. We've won a lot of section championships, but this team will be remembered as the first team to win a NorCal game."
Similar stories were relayed from Escalon, which won a Division 3 bowl in 2010, and from Modesto Christian, which became the first Stanislaus District team to win a bowl when it triumphed in the 2009 small schools bowl game.
"I think what was left for our school was something in the range of $3, 000 to 5,000," said Modesto Christian athletic director Greg Pearce. "We were fortunate that it wasn't money the school had to put out.
"We had tremendous support from the community and phenomenal donors who made sure our coaches and team were taken care of and that the school wasn't going to have to take care of them."
At Escalon, Mark Loureiro was put in a particularly tough bind. He's not only the football coach but also the athletic director, so he was involved with both preparing his team and handling logistics.
"We got the call last Sunday afternoon, and I was on a plane early Monday morning for meetings all day, then got back on the plane and was back at school by 7 p.m. too late for practice," Loureiro said. "It gets crazy, and that was just Monday.
"There were so many details, but I got tremendous help from the school administration. They did the legwork and the phone work and there were so many details. Finance-wise, the school chipped-in a little, but the district didn't get hit hard at all. I've heard a lot of schools tell horror stories."
The first time Central Catholic went to the bowl, the State CIF scheduled travel and arranged the major meals for the team and its support staff. That's no longer the case, so Bengston and her staff are trying to find a large hall in the Carson area for Thursday's team dinner.
Yes, it's the holiday season, so she's vying against hundreds of long-ago booked company parties in her efforts to find a large open space where roughly 70 people can sit-down for a meal.
"I prefer the CIF take care of it because it's a lot of work just to find a place to accommodate players and coaches. And getting your equipment down is something else. I don't know that everybody necessarily appreciates all that goes into just that," she said
But at 4 p.m. Friday, Central Catholic will be playing. Exactly 24 hours later it will be Oakdale's turn.
Everyone involved in these games in the past seems to agree that giving the kids this experience makes the expense and the effort worthwhile, win or lose.
"You chalk it up to one of those things where you go on a vacation with your family and you spend a lot of money, perhaps more than you intended," Pearce said. "Was it worth it? Absolutely."
"Everything is first-class for the kids," Loureiro said. "It's an experience that can't be matched."
FRIDAY Division 4 championship: Central Catholic vs. Santa Fe Christian, 4 p.m.
SATURDAY Division 2 championship: Oakdale vs. Serra, 4 p.m.
WHERE The Home Depot Center, Carson