A 55-22 Ocean League victory over Rock Academy earlier this month ended with San Diego Jewish Academy football team celebrating on the field what they assumed was their qualifying for a playoff berth.
Not bad for a team that over the summer had to scramble to field a team at the small school, whose enrollment is below 200.
But their joy turned to disappointment the following week when they learned that the San Diego Section had dropped their power ranking below the fourth place threshold the team needed to be in to qualify for the playoffs.
The Lions finished the season with a 5-2 overall record and went 2-2 in the 8-man Ocean League. They were playing at their highest level at the end of the season and believed they’d be taking some momentum into the postseason.
They were removed from playoff consideration because they’d played just seven games (the San Diego Section requires teams to play nine games to make the playoffs).
The San Diego Section’s ruling was especially hard to swallow because two of the four teams in Division VI that made the playoffs didn’t play a full nine-game schedule.
Top-seeded Calvin Christian and No. 3 St. Josephs’ Academy both played just eight games.
The decision created a bit of an uproar, with parents and coaches reaching out to the San Diego Section expressing the view that it’s improper to apply standards for schools with enrollment in the thousands to schools in the low hundreds.
“I think initially we were so shocked and everybody was disappointed,” SDJA coach Skip Carpowich said.
Carpowich acknowledged that they shouldn’t have been.
“We knew the rules,” Carpowich said. “All the coaches and others felt that the best team didn’t get in, but as the week went by it became clear that we should have known that and expected that. We had a great season, we don’t want to sit around dwelling on it.”
Carpowich and the SDJA athletics department have asked that the San Diego Section reduce the number of required games from nine to eight in future years.
He said San Diego Section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp has responded to his request to accommodate SDJA’s football team, which like other faith-based schools, faces unique challenges.
SDJA has summer programs, including travels to Israel, that are integral to the cultural and religious experiences the school encourages.
“At the Division VI level, where the schools are smaller and there are a lot of faith-based schools, it’s very hard to do,” Carpowich said of playing a nine-game schedule.”
Carpowich believes his team could have made an impact in the playoffs. Quarterback Jordan Battaglia, who threw for 1,301 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed 801 yards and six touchdowns, was named the Ocean League’s Offensive Player of the Year.
SDJA’s Ilan Levy was named the league’s Kicker of the Year.
The Lions were also represented on the all-league team on the offensive side by wide receiver Cody Brown (first team), running back Sebastian Mayer (second team) and Jordan Moossazadeh (honorable mention), and on the defensive side by lineman Elliot Muller (first team), linebackers David Smith and Josh Nachassi (second team) and defensive lineman Brennan Rubin (honorable mention).
Several players with no experience playing organized football made contributions, too, in a year in which the sport’s popularity has grown on campus.
“There’s just a buzz about football,” Carpowich said.
Carpowich is hopeful that accommodations will enable future Lions teams to see their successful seasons rewarded with playoff berths that eluded this year’s team.
He is proud of what this year’s team accomplished.
“The fact that they put their teammates first, ahead of themselves, and that team unity that resulted I really think is what brought out that talent level and the results,” Carpowich said. “It reflects a determination of our seniors and our team captains, not only to say we will have a football team, but we’re going to have a really good football team and not just to play because it’s symbolic, but that we’re going to play and we’re going to show everybody that a Jewish high school football team can be one of the best in the county.”