Southwest High will not play college football this year

The effects of COVID-19 still ripple as Southwest High in San Diego canceled its college football schedule on the eve of the 2021 season.

“I am fully responsible for this decision,” said head coach Domonic Cruz. “We will have a junior university. The pandemic wreaked havoc on us and we only had 31 football players. I didn’t want to get to the end of the first quarter against San Ysidro and have to stop the game because we couldn’t continue. It’s better to do it now.

Section Commissioner Joe Heinz approved the decision.

“I know the challenges facing Southwest,” said Heinz, former sports director of the Metro Conference. “They are primarily concerned with the health and safety of athletes. It’s better for the kids and the program – I commend them for keeping the program going.

Alex Estrada, the current sports director of Metro, agreed.

“We understand what Southwest is doing, we know they have the right people in place to build the program for the near future.”

Cruz said the numbers just don’t work for this year.

“We have nine seniors and they will be allowed to play, but we only had a few kids with college experience,” he said. “Injuries are part of the game and we couldn’t handle a lot of them. One of the players has been transferred, which we understand.

Probably the Metro coach who understands the situation at Southwest the best is Paco Silva, who was the Raiders head coach for four years and is currently at Castle Park.

“This is an extension of the problems caused by COVID-19,” he said. “It’s a tough sell, even at the best of times. I remember my first year school was planning to play 8-a-side football, but we decided to stick with 11 players.

“Domonic is a great coach, a great guy, and he comes from a school, Mater Dei Catholic, which has a great program. It’s very different in Southwest. I’m sure he sees it as a culture change. They used to bring kids across the border who knew about American football, but now more and more students are coming from deep in Mexico, where football is the only football that they know.

“We all knew this was going to happen.”

The Metro conference earlier decided on a seven-team South Bay league for 2021 and there will now be two six-team leagues.

Cruz said he thought long and hard about the situation before making the decision, which he said was overwhelmingly supported by all parties.

“When we told the players that none of them winced,” said Cruz. “Most of these kids have honestly never seen a football pitch (as a player). I think it’s important to be both a mentor and a coach. You don’t just teach football, you teach behavior and I just think building from the ground up will be more productive in the long run.

“I’ll be there for these guys. I want them to learn to face challenges and be successful. I will miss the Friday night lights. Right now we are going to be playing in schools like Hoover, Bonita Vista and Eastlake (JV teams) and we would like to add Cathedral Catholic because I want them to see how other programs are doing.

“It is only for a year, we will come back.

Brand is a freelance writer.

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