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CC tie creates CIF headache

It was a decision the coaches had a moment to make.

The Central Catholic and Cardinal Newman High football teams had just completed regulation time in their game Saturday, and the score was tied.

The coaches met at midfield.

Cardinals coach Paul Cronin put out his hand to Raiders coach Mike Glines.

"That was a great game, coach," Cronin said. "In our section, it's over after this."

Glines thought about it for a second and agreed.

The final: 35-35.

"It just seemed fitting after such a great game," Glines said. "Sometimes, boxers fight to a draw, and that's what we did here. I had no problems with it."

Three years ago, nobody would have had a problem with it. But the Sac-Joaquin Section instituted an overtime rule in April 2006, a rule section Commissioner Pete Saco feels should have been followed.

The North Coast Section, in which Cardinal Newman plays, leaves the overtime decision to its leagues and has no language in its constitution concerning overtime in nonleague contests.

"I'm really disappointed in Mike Glines and Paul Cronin," Saco said. "Obviously, those guys are highly competitive individuals. It doesn't make any sense to me not to play that game out."

It's more than a win-lose issue to CIF officials like Saco.

The California Interscholastic Federation kicked off its state championship bowl game system last year. It isn't a playoff system. Instead, the 10 section commissioners from across the state meet and decide the representatives from the north and south for three enrollment-based divisions.

Central Catholic and Cardinal Newman are the consensus top two Division III teams in Northern California. And when they chose to keep that game a tie, it opened a large can of worms for the CIF.

What happens should these teams win the remainder of their games and enter that meeting undefeated, with a tie against the other? It's early in the season, but the teams have the potential to do it.

"If they're both on the docket (and undefeated), then the monkey's on our backs to make a decision," Saco said. "Both of those programs are sending the wrong message. They're putting the decision of who goes to state in the hands of eight other people."

Glines said that's fine.

"We get through the rest of the season and are considered, that would be a great honor," he said. "But our state bowl rankings isn't driving the entire season. We've got a lot of games to play.

"I like Pete Saco. I respect him. But he wasn't there. He didn't play a down in that game. It seemed fitting when we met at midfield (to end it). If the officials told us to play, we would have played and I'm pretty sure they would have, too. But they didn't know, either."

Saco said it's not the officials' job to make that call. But should these teams keep winning, a different set of officials will have a tough decision to make.

"It's safe to say if the scenario plays out where these two teams win the remainder of their games, we're looking at a coin flip," Saco said. "And if that happens, I'm not going to listen to anybody complaining about it, because they did it to themselves."

The Cardinals have two more games against Sac-Joaquin Section foes: Del Oro of Loomis and Oakdale. Saco said he made sure Del Oro and Cardinal Newman would play overtime if needed. Oakdale coach Trent Merzon was at Saturday's game. He met with Cronin outside the locker room afterward, and the two agreed to play overtime should it come to that.

The CIF at the state level must accept some responsibility for this mess. When it approved a state title game, it should have instituted a state-wide overtime rule as well.

It's simple: If you're going to have a state championship game where every team must follow the same overtime rule, shouldn't you have every team follow that rule during the regular season?

"The thought never came up that some out-of-section teams would play each other, end up tied and have different overtime rules," CIF Executive Director Marie Ishida said. "I'm certain it's an issue one of our section commissioners will be bringing up soon."

For this season, at least, the horse is already out of the barn on that one.

But one thing is for sure: The tie has put an extra spark in state title discussions ... and it's only September!

"It's going to make it more difficult for the section commissioners," Ishida said. "But I think it will also bring more light to the championship itself. People are talking about it, that's for sure."

While people are talking about it statewide, Glines is happy with the tie.

"What nobody can take away is, what an outstanding game it was," he said. "It was a great game, and I'm fine with the final result. We gave the people their money's worth."

In many ways, the result was fitting. It was an outstanding game with many great performances by players from two evenly-matched teams.

But that tie could come back and haunt one -- or both -- teams in the end.

Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at wdeboard@modbee.com, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.

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