By Aram Tolegian
San Dimas High School football coach Bill Zernickow isn’t worried about much this week.
In theory, having a long road trip on a bus packed with players with full bellies from Thanksgiving festivities the day before would be cause for any coach trying to avoid a slugging start in such a critical game.
But not for Zernickow, whose Saints (11-1) take on top-seeded Paraclete (11-1) in the CIF-Southern Section Mid-Valley Division semifinals on Friday night at Antelope Valley College. Kickoff is 7:30p.m.
“I don’t think the road trip means much to us, we don’t care,” Zernickow said. “Our (team) just love bus trips and doing whatever they do. It’s just an opportunity for us as a football team to do something together.”
The Saints are one of two local teams still alive in the CIF-Southern Section playoffs and that means a team get-together on Thanksgiving Day before a long bus drive to Antelope Valley College on Friday.
Up until this season, Thanksgiving Day practice was a hallowed tradition and watermark of success for local football programs. But that all changed when CIF moved the football season schedule back a week, which means if you want to practice on Thanksgiving, it means making the semifinals. In previous years, it meant needing only to win a first-round game.
For San Dimas, which has become a shoe-in to the Mid-Valley semifinals in recent years, the beat goes on. The program will hold a Thanksgiving Day breakfast, during which parents serve pancakes to players and alumni.
“This was a blessing to get there,” Zernickow said of still being alive in the playoffs on Thanksgiving.
San Dimas will leave campus at 1:30p.m. Friday and head for Antelope Valley College with a stop for dinner in between. Whether the Saints can get off to a hot start and blunt any home-field edge the Spirits may have could go a long way in determining whether the bus ride home is a happy one.
“They have some dudes,” Zernickow said of Paraclete. “They have both athletes and big guys, and they’re well-coached. We’ve been friends with their staff for a while, so we know a lot about them because we’ve spent time with them.
“We know, but it’s hard to transfer that to your own kids.”