Padecky: Cardinal Newman proves itself worthy of one more game

By BOB PADECKY
PRESS DEMOCRAT SPORTS COLUMNIST

ROHNERT PARK — So now Cardinal Newman waits for Sunday and a phone call or text message or candy gram or a puff of smoke. Yep, come on down, play in the D3 state title game next week. Or, nope, thanks for winning the NCS Friday night and you had that nice year but, sorry, you can’t go. You lost three games. We have never invited a team with three defeats to play for the state football championship and we are not about to start now.

Cardinal Newman senior running back Joe Tiernan body surfs across Newman fans and his teammates after Newman beat Encinal 35-7 in the NCS Div. III Championship game on Friday night. Written on Tiernan’s arm are the initials of the teams Newman beat in the NCS playoffs, Campolindo, Bishop O’Dowd, Miramonte and Encinal. (KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

Of course that would be missing a point, one that Newman coach Paul Cronin was more than happy to point out.

“Our last three games,” Cronin said after the 35-7 waxing of Encinal, “we beat three one-loss teams, all conference champions, by at least 21 points.”

But, conventional wisdom says you can’t make an assessment by comparing scores.

Are you kidding?

“I used to be on seeding meetings for soccer,” Cronin said. “If I had a team that won 5-0 and another than won 1-0, yep, you bet I would be more impressed with that 5-0 score.”

So, for the record, a 56-35 score (Bishop O’Dowd) was followed by a 42-17 score (Miramonte) which was followed by Friday night’s 35-7.

That’s Discussion Point One. Here’s Discussion Point Two. Encinal was 12-1 and would have been the Northern representative for D3 if the Jets had beaten Newman. So should Newman go?

“Absolutely,” said Encinal coach Joe Tenorio. “If we were going, why shouldn’t they?”

Now for Discussion Point Three. This is the sticky point. This is the one that will do the most damage to Newman’s chances. On Sept. 4th, Newman beat Central Catholic of Modesto, 24-21, in its first game of the year. In the NCS playoffs, a 13-1 Escalon team beat Central Catholic, 28-0. So, the thinking goes, Escalon should represent D3 because it had a more convincing victory. This logic steams Cronin.

“When we played Central Catholic,” Cronin said, “we were a young team.”

Almost like a brand-new team, was Cronin’s reference. A lot of sophomores. Some untested juniors and seniors. That was not the same young team that was on Rancho’s field Friday night. Perspective, that’s what Cronin was offering. The fortunes of teams, especially ones at the high school level stocked with adolescents, are never a given, always an unknown, with the only worthwhile and accurate judgment coming at the end of a season, not the beginning.

Put another way, how can any sane person think that an adolescent football team defined its future in September, and not in December when the stakes are dramatically higher?

How can one, therefore, deny this significance: Newman beat a team by 28 points that had just beaten D3’s No. 1 seed, Marin Catholic, the week before. Shouldn’t that matter? It should but this is what I heard on Rancho’s field after the game Friday night.

Marin Catholic wasn’t really that good. Marin Catholic was overrated. Marin Catholic was a paper tiger. You can see where I am going with this.

Impressions, subjective value judgments, prejudices, they all come into play. Cronin said he was glad to go to state in 2008 but he admitted he really doesn’t understand how Newman was invited. If this sounds as messy and quirky as BCS rankings in NCAA football, you nailed the process correctly.

Maybe Marin Catholic wasn’t that good. Maybe Newman’s first game of the season wiped out the next 13 games. Maybe it’s just lazy thinking to hide behind “maybe.” Judge Judy, I prefer to see the hard evidence. Friday night I saw Newman score 28 points in the fourth quarter. I saw a 13-1 team gasping for air.

“We wore them down,” Cronin said.

Newman wore down a 13-1 team for the NCS Championship.

To me that reads like an impressive sentence.

And that may be the best sentence Newman will ever read about its 2010 NCS championship season.

“No matter what happens Sunday,” Cronin said, “that’s not going to take away from this memory.”

Cronin pointed to his team, gathered in a circle on the 50-yard line, surrounding running back Stephen Tomasin and the NCS Championship plaque. Players were jumping up and down, mugging for a television camera, screaming like their hair was on fire. Soon Newman students rushed the field, enlarging the scrum. It was a classic championship pose, one that had parents snapping photos. There was no hesitation here, no doubt what was happening. They scored more points than the other team, a lot more points, over a championship team. It was joyful. It was immediate. It will be remembered long past Sunday. And it will not be open to discussion or value judgment. Newman rocked. Period. That’s it. They did everything they needed to do, everything, except maybe beat a team in September by more than three points. Phrased like that, seems inconsequential, doesn’t it? It does. It very much does.

For more North Bay sports go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blog.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.