SAN RAMON — The Cardinal Newman High School football team’s season likely has come to a close after the Cardinals came up on the losing end of a coin flip Sunday morning at the North Coast Section office.
The Cardinals’ choice of “tails” didn’t land, sending Eureka to the state regionals next weekend as the NCS Division 3 representative.
With NCS associate commissioner Bri Niemi and Eureka assistant football coach Leon Chalmers present, NCS commissioner Gil Lemmon flipped a coin after taking the “tails” call from Cardinal Newman officials, and it landed “heads,” sending Eureka to the state playoffs and ending the Cardinals’ 11-1 season. It was the first deciding coin flip in the section’s 105-year history.
Newman coach Paul Cronin and his seniors were aware of the risks when they decided that they were going to choose the coin flip if the Cardinals won their game against El Cerrito on Friday night, which they did by a 38-0 score. The teams had not played head-to-head this season, and the coin flip was the decided-upon tiebreaking method by NCS officials after weeks of cancellations due to smoke from the Camp fire.
“This team deserved to play for a state championship, and the only way to do that was to flip a coin when they changed the rules because of the fires,” Cronin said. “It is what it is. Knowing that, we chose to go to the coin flip, and we’re OK with living with the result.”
Cronin didn’t listen to coverage of the flip on the NCS Facebook page and listened to by Cardinal Newman officials via conference call. Chalmers drove all night from Eureka postgame — nearly 300 miles — and arrived in San Ramon around 30 minutes before the coin was flipped. Chalmers and the Eureka officials over the phone celebrated the school’s first entry into the state playoffs. Eureka beat Las Lomas in the semifinals and will host Menlo Atherton in a Division 3-AA NorCal regional Friday.
Had Newman decided to play a section title game, there would have been no coin flip and the championship game would have taken place next weekend, Lemmon said. Divisions 1, 2, 4 and 5 will play finals next weekend. The Open Division finished its games this weekend.