Roger Blake delights in the reactions of student athletes who parade into football and basketball championship venue sites, eyes wide, jaws near their ankles.
Each reaction reinforces the CIF executive director’s point of capturing moving, milestone moments.
The CIF State Bowl football games have been held at the StubHub Center here since the event’s inception in 2006. The Northern California and state championship basketball events have been housed at Sleep Train Arena, home of the Kings, for the better part of 25 years. Blake has been overwhelmed by the positive feedback for the CIF’s two premier events. The CIF contract runs through 2014 in Carson and through this upcoming season at Sleep Train. The plan, Blake said Friday night, is to continue “the wow factor” for teams, win or lose, even if the locations may soon vary.
“Like Sleep Train, this is a first-class facility, world class, and the kids love it, and it’s great for spectators,” Blake said, eyeing the StubHub Center. “It is that wow factor. I’ll always remember (then-arena director) Mike Duncan at Sleep Train a few years ago, standing in the tunnel, and asking him why he was still here this late at night. He said, ‘I like watching the kids’ faces when they walk into an NBA arena. It’s really cool.’
“When they walk in here at Carson, it’s the same thing. We want them to have that lifetime experience. It’s why we do this.”
Blake said he and his Sacramento-based CIF staff will work on alternating state football and basketball when the current contracts expire. If football is played in the South, for example, basketball could be in the North, and vice versa. Regional venues expected to place bids for 2015 and beyond in football include Sacramento State, Hughes Stadium and UC Davis. Cal and Stanford, Blake said, are too cavernous seating-wise for such an event.
The San Jose Business Bureau also has talked of a soccer venue being constructed for the MLS’ Earthquakes, much like StubHub Center is used for the L.A. Galaxy.
“We get killed by Southern California (fans and coaches) who ask, ‘How come we don’t have state basketball down here,’ ” Blake said. “Well, we don’t have a venue that gives us a price like Sleep Train. The bottom line is two-phased. Our job is to give kids a great experience, the wow element. We also have a business, and we have to do it on a price tag the CIF can afford.”
Big vs. bigger – It’s being billed as the biggest game in state history, tonight’s Open showcase between national powerhouse programs De La Salle of Concord and St. John Bosco of Bellflower. De La Salle (14-0) is the four-time defending Open champion and is ranked fourth in the country by MaxPreps after starting the season No. 1 (it dropped in the poll because it wasn’t winning early games by enough). De La Salle finished No. 1 nationally last year, and Bosco (15-0) is the country’s top-ranked team now. Combined, the teams feature 23 Division I scholarship players.
At the end of Tuesday’s practice in Contra Costa County, De La Salle assistant coach Bob Ladouceur, who went 399-25-3 as the head coach, told the De La Salle players, “(Today) is the biggest state championship game in the nation. Seize the moment.”
Bosco coach Jason Negro told MaxPreps this week, “We see this as a game for the national championship.”
It’s also a showcase of some enormous linemen. De La Salle has five D-I recruit prospects in the trenches, including Larry Allen, son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Allen, a De La Salle line coach. Bosco’s defensive line is anchored by 6-foot-5, 353-pound Damien Mama.
The last time a high school football game included this much buildup and featured anywhere near this amount of recruit talent was in 2001, when national No. 1 De La Salle topped No. 2 Long Beach Poly 29-15 when the Spartans were in the midst of their all-levels record 151-game winning streak.
Raiders roll – The Sac-Joaquin Section moved to 4-2 in smaller-school state bowl games after Central Catholic of Modesto repeated as D-IV state champions Friday with a 36-23 victory over Bakersfield Christian.
Escalon won the 2010 D-III game and Modesto Christian won in D-IV in 2009.
With school rushing record-holder Matt Ringer (2,347 yards, 33 touchdowns) not in the lineup with a knee injury, freshman Montell Bland rushed for 103 yards and two touchdowns and senior brother Reggie Bland went for 88 and a score.