Newman passed over for state title bid

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cardinal Newman football coach Paul Cronin was sitting by his phone on Sunday waiting for the call that never came.
Sunday was the day the invitations for next weekend’s CIF State Championships would be announced and Cronin knew from experience, that if the Cardinals were selected to represent Northern California against a team from Southern California in the Division 3 title game, an NCS commissioner would be calling to issue the invitation.

Cronin was keeping one eye on the phone and one eye on the clock. When Newman was invited in 2006 and ’08, the phone call with good news came around noon.
Noon came and went Sunday without Cronin getting the call he had been hoping for.

At around 1 p.m., a friend told him he had it from a reliable source the committee had decided on Escalon to represent the North against Southern California’s Madison (San Diego).
Escalon captured the Sac-Joaquin Division 3 title on Dec. 3 with a 22-20 victory at Calaveras (San Andreas).
While he was disappointed the commissioners didn’t select Newman, Cronin wasn’t bitter.

“We had the better power ranking and strength of schedule,” Cronin pointed out. “Escalon had the better record. We were hoping the way we won our NCS division would sway the vote our way, but it didn’t.”

Newman finished 11-3, but defeated its four NCS opponents by an averaging of 25 points. The Cardinals took the title last Friday with a 35-7 win over Encinal. Escalon is 13-1 and captured the Trans Valley League.

Cronin elected to schedule games against strong Northern California schools Valley Christian (San Jose), Palma (Salinas) and Central Catholic (Modesto) to start the season, and the Cardinals lost two of those games.
It was pointed out to Cronin that had he elected to play smaller schools in the pre-conference, Newman’s record might’ve been 13-1 and good enough to earn a state title invitation.

“I have no regrets about scheduling tougher teams,” Cronin said. “That’s the way a team gets better. There’s no growth in scheduling pre-conference games against teams you know you can beat.

“We wanted to put kids in situations where they can learn. We won’t schedule down. If we hadn’t played such a tough schedule early, we wouldn’t have improved enough to win NCS.”
Cronin said the Newman teams in 2006 and ’08 were “slam dunks” to play for the state title.

“The team in 2008 was 13-0 when the selection committee met,” he said. “In 2006, we were 13-1 and won our three games against larger schools to start the season.
“This year the situation was different. I can’t fault the commissioners’ decision. They’re in a room looking over team statistics. They had to decide between two teams that were close and they went with Escalon.
“It’s hard to understand the criteria they used because I wasn’t in the room when they discussed which team to choose. That said, we understand the process and there’ll be no complaints from our end.”

Cronin said three of the teams Newman played were league champs and the Cardinals’ opponents had a combined record of 168-66.

“I’m disappointed for my kids,” the coach added. “It’ll take a day or two for this to sink in, but then for the rest of their lives they’ll be extremely proud of what they accomplished.
“To tell you the truth, this team surprised the coaches. We thought this would be a rebuilding year. We have a young team and thought that next season would be the year we could go all the way.”

Among the front-line players returning will be running back Stephen Tomasin, quarterback Matt Sullivan and defensive linemen Courtland Palmer and Phil Wright.
All five state title games will be played at The Home Depot Center in Carson. Escalon will meet Madison at noon on Saturday.

There will be two games on Friday: Brookside Christian vs. Bishop’s School (D-4 at 4 p.m.) and Palo Alto vs. Centennial (D-1 at 7:30 p.m.)

Two games will follow Escalon-Madison on Saturday: Folsom vs. Gardena Serra (D-2 at 3:30 p.m.) and De La Salle-Servite (open division at 7:30 p.m.).