It’s hard to imagine a high school football stadium in any city, in any state, with a more picturesque setting than Clairemont, with sweeping vistas from Point Loma to Mount Soledad, with the glistening waters of Mission Bay below and Pacific Ocean in the distance. On Friday nights, while the teams are warming up, you can gaze out at the auburn orb of the sun plunging into a hazy blue horizon.
The view below isn’t as pretty.
The Clairemont Chieftains, ahead of last Friday’s home game against Santana High, are massed in an inflatable blue tunnel with an orange spear on the side, then charge onto the field through a phalanx of 32 cheerleaders and their shimmering pom-poms.
Twenty-one players do.
That’s it. That’s all the Clairemont varsity has available. Two linemen are hurt. Two of the three tailbacks are out due to concussion protocol. They’re 0-3, outscored 125-20. The JV game scheduled for that afternoon was cancelled by mutual agreement because of short numbers. There is no freshman team.
That’s better than last season, when they suited up 17 for a varsity game at San Diego High (and somehow trailed only 17-14 at the half). Their sideline, once the game started, consisted of four coaches and six players.
The 21 suited up to face the 44-player Santana Sultans remove their helmets and line up for the national anthem. Standing in front, shoulders back, chin thrust high, jaw clenched, eyes closed, is head coach Manny Diaz. He grew up in… Read More
Originally featured in the San Diego Union Tribune by Mark Zeigler