CARSON — The last time the California State Football Championships entertained a home team in the way they did Saturday with Serra High, was three years ago, with Serra.
The Serra campus in Gardena is 5½ miles from the Home Depot Center, or 327 miles closer to the game site than Oakdale High.
So how did the rival crowds compare?
Well, it was the one area of the game in which the Mustangs prevailed. Oakdale's caravan landed in Southern California with about 1,300 fans, including the band, while the Serra faithful numbered about 1,000.
"Oakdale's amazing," said Mustangs coach Trent Merzon. "There's no other town in California like Oakdale. I'd rather lose at Oakdale than win anywhere else.
"I would have bet anybody any amount of money that we would outdraw Serra. There was no question in my mind. Our fans love our kids, and it's not because of winning or losing."
According to a Serra official, the Cavaliers generally draw 3,000 fans for games in their home stadium, and will take upward of 1,500 fans on the road for a game at nearby rival schools, such as Carson. That's a solid following for a school with an enrollment of about 600 students.
But Oakdale's fan showing, along with the 800 or so that Central Catholic brought to Friday's game and previous strong attendance in past years from the fans of Escalon, Modesto Christian and Le Grand, could help NorCal high school fans.
The CIF announced on Friday that it will be looking into alternating bowl game sites starting in 2015, following two more years at the Home Depot Center. If fan interest in Northern California continues to outshine that of southern fans, it will make the CIF's decision to move north that much easier.
WIDE LEFT Oakdale's deepest penetration in the first half of Saturday's game gained them a first-and-goal at the 10 with about three minutes left in the second quarter. A run lost four yards and two incomplete passes forced a 31-yard field goal try by Sean Harrity, which the senior missed wide left.
Amazingly enough, it was Oakdale's first field goal attempt of the season.
GAINING AN EDGE When Serra High played Folsom in the 2010 Division 2 bowl, it almost became one of the darker moments in bowl history.
It was the last year before the Home Depot began installing AstroTurf for the bowls, and rain had turned the playing surface into a bog.
Serra, seeking an edge, came out in three-quarter-inch spikes, longer than the one-half-inch spikes allowed by high school rules. The officials questioned the Serra coaches about the spikes and ordered them to change to conforming shoes or risk forfeit.
As reported by the Sacramento Bee's Joe Davidson, Serra initially told the game officials they didn't have conforming cleats, but when faced with the possibility of walking off the field with a forfeit loss the Cavaliers went back into the locker room and changed shoes.
Folsom won the game 48-20.
SECOND CHANCES Madison of San Diego edged Marin Catholic 38-35 in the Division 3 game, a battle of two programs that had been here before, and lost.
Marin Catholic was here in 2009, when it dropped a 24-20 Division 3 decision to Serra, while Madison's previous appearance came in 2019, when it lost 30-14 to Escalon, also in the Division 3 game.
The addition of divisions since the initial three games in 2006 have caused several teams to appear in games in multiple divisions.
As an example, Central Catholic lost in the Division 3 game in 2007, but the raising of the Division 4 enrollment threshold to 500 students (Central is at 410) pushed them down to Division 4 this year.
IN REMEMBRANCE The flags at the Home Depot Center, both American and California State, were flying at half-staff on Saturday to mark the Connecticut horror. On Friday the flags were at full staff and there was a moment of silence prior to the Granite Bay-Long Beach Poly Division 2 championship game.