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Let me be the first to congratulate Oceanside High football coach John Carroll and his Pirates on their fourth straight CIF San Diego Section Division II title and a berth in the CIF State Bowl Division II championship game against Novato of Northern California.

Let me also say this may be Carroll’s best team, despite that season-opening loss against Helix.

“I think this might be John’s best overall team in terms of what his teams can do offensively and defensively,” said Willie Buchanon, the Oceanside alum and former Chargers and San Diego State cornerback.

But let me also say it’s easier to win a CIF football title now than in the past 10 to 20 years because of the steady decline of city football in the San Diego Unified School District. City football is at a nadir.

This was a year when Morse — a state power before John Shacklett retired — went winless in nine games. It used to Cathedral Catholic (formerly USDHS) would play a game at Morse and the Dons hoped to not get beat up for the rest of the year. Now, Cathedral coach Sean Doyle empties his bench as early as the second quarter.

This was a year when Crawford lost to Bishop’s, 49-8. Bishop’s is a small private school that certainly deserves credit for having raised its profile in football, but in the past Bishop’s wouldn’t dare schedule a school like Crawford.

I could go on and on with similar examples that would make Duane Maley, the late and legendary San Diego High coach who made the Cavers a state power in the 1950s, roll over in his grave.

It’s this simple: other school districts in San Diego County don’t support athletics and extra-curricular activities the way districts do in North County. City schools athletic director Bruce Ward does the best he can with limited resources the district makes available.

And before you accuse me of only caring about sports, let me point out that North County districts also provide more funding for the band and other extra-curricular activities.

When kids start spending two to three hours after school with their English teacher the way they do with coaches, well, then extra-curricular activities won’t be so necessary to a school environment.

North County districts have more coaches and more on-campus coaches. That means more kids out for sports and, conversely, more kids off the streets.

Gary Blevins at Mira Mesa and Mike Hastings at Point Loma have continued to build strong programs around community support, but outside of Mike Wright at Hoover and a few other coaches, it’s a game of musical chairs with football coaches in city schools.

Buchanon said something interesting to me when I asked him about how his son played at Oceanside High but many other sons of stars from Oceanside and El Camino have gone on to play at other North County high schools.

“We lose some great kids when people move out of Oceanside,” he said. “But the good thing about Oceanside parks and recreation is we have a lot of great people working with kids. The Oceanside Pop Warner coaches do a good job of working with the high school coaches. That helps build up athletic opportunities for kids.”

If you don’t get to kids to some kids by middle school, it’s too late. City schools have been too late for too long.

— TOM SHANAHAN

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