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Vinny Perretta and Mike Coughlin finally get to play a football game at Qualcomm Stadium.

They had hoped to take an easy route to Qualcomm by committing to San Diego State out of a San Diego high school. Perretta was a star at La Costa Canyon and Coughlin at Mira Mesa.

But they had to take a more roundabout route when the Aztecs, then coached by Tom Craft, never extended an invitation.

Instead, Perretta and Coughlin went to Boise State (12-0), where they play for the Western Athletic Conference champions ranked No. 9 in the nation and invited to play No. 11 TCU in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 23 at Qualcomm Stadium.

Perretta, a 5-10, 195-lb. senior wide receiver, is the son of former Chargers offensive lineman Ralph Perretta. Vinny is third on the team in receptions with 34 for 500 yards and two touchdowns. He’s also thrown a touchdown pass on an option play, which was nothing new.

As a sophomore when Boise State upset Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, he took a direct snap and threw the touchdown pass that set up game-winning two-point conversion.

When Perretta sought but didn’t receive an invitation to walk-on at SDSU, he ended up a walk-on at Boise State. How do you not encourage the son of a former Charger to walk-on?

“Vinny epitomizes what we’re all about,” Boise State head coach Chris Petersen said. “He was a walk-on that earned a scholarship. He’s been one of the most steady players and an unsung hero. If players were all like Vinny, coaching would be easy.”

Coughlin (6-5, 213), a red-shirted sophomore quarterback, is the backup for Kellen Moore, a second-team All-WAC pick. For the year, Coughlin completed 3-of-5 passes for one touchdown.

He wanted to stay home when he was putting together an All-CIF season as a senior at Mira Mesa in 2005. But when he never received a scholarship offer from SDSU, he accepted an early offer from Boise State.

Coughlin, by the way, is the great-grandson of Brick Mueller, the San Diego High legend who was the first All-American from the West when he played for California’s “Wonder Teams” from 1920-1922.

I recognize a coach can’t spot every kid out there. But I’ve been around high school football in San Diego long enough to know that you don’t turn away a kid like Perretta that was happy to walk-on or a talent like Coughlin that was fielding scholarship offers from a program such as Boise State that is far stronger than SDSU. Those kids should have been indentifield.

As Perretta and Coughlin take the field for Boise State, they should be cautionary tales for San Diego State’s next coach.

Despite all the top San Diego recruits that want to go to high-profile programs – and you can’t blame a kid for wanting to go to Stanford or USC — there are plenty of San Diego kids like Perretta and Coughlin that want to stay home and play for the Aztecs.

The next new coach needs an assistant on his staff that knows San Diego and can blanket every high school.

— TOM SHANAHAN

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