The Golden Gate Bridge as seen from The Presidio is mired in smog as smoke from the Camp Fire in Northern California drifts down into the Bay Area on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Central Coast Section football playoff games rescheduled for a third time due to fires, air quality

The Sacred Heart Cathedral football team’s bus was just 20 minutes away from arriving in Morgan Hill on Monday afternoon when head coach Barry McLaughlin received a call.

His first-round Central Coast Section playoff game against Live Oak — scheduled for 6 p.m. — would not be happening. It was the third time the Fightin’ Irish’s game had been rescheduled, but none of the prior occurrences had come when the team had already been aboard buses for an hour.

Sacred Heart Cathedral will now play the Acorns on Friday at 7 p.m. — exactly one week after the initial scheduled start time. That game, along with most of the section’s 20 football quarterfinal games, was initially moved from Friday to Saturday and then again to Monday, because of ongoing air quality concerns related to the Camp fire in Butte County.

Smoke from the fire — nearly 200 miles north of Morgan Hill — has caused the air quality index in the Bay Area to top 125 for most of the past five days. The San Francisco Section — which coincides with the Academic Athletic Association — has a threshold of 125 for air quality index, above which they will not play games. The section cancelled last week’s slate of games and ended the regular season early. League semifinals are scheduled this week.

The Central Coast Section’s moves have been a bit more complicated, because of the fact that playoff games can’t simply be cancelled. Three other CCS games were postponed late in the day on Monday, including San Mateo-Serra at San Jose-Leland, but few had a team travel as far as Sacred Heart Cathedral did before receiving the news. Serra’s game — set to kick off at 4 p.m. — was canceled before 1.

At 5 p.m. on Monday, just an hour before Valley Christian and Christopher were scheduled to kick off in San Jose, that game was called off as well. The only four games that were played as-scheduled in the section were in Monterey County, with the other 16 set to be played a week later.

St. Ignatius also saw its game moved multiple times, first from Saturday to Monday, and then to next Saturday, back to the original 1 p.m. start time at Sacred Heart Prep. Unlike their rivals, the Wildcats weren’t 20 minutes away from arriving when their game was moved. By 11 a.m. on Monday, they knew that the 7 p.m. start time at neutral-site Sequoia would be scrapped.

While moving the bulk of the games by a week is the simple and straightforward solution, it didn’t come until the section had tried pushing games at least once, and half of them were moved twice. Additionally, there is now a logistical issue to be solved with the rest of the playoffs, as the domino effect has put state championships in jeopardy.

Originally scheduled for December 7 and 8, with the top five divisions at Cerritos College and the rest at host sites in Southern California, many — if not all — of those games may now need to be pushed back a week. The commissioners of the CIF’s 10 sections will be on a conference call on Tuesday morning to discuss these plans. A decision and announcement is expected around noon.

Updated CCS schedule:

Division II Quarterfinal: #5 Serra (6-4) @ #4 Leland (6-4), Friday, 7 p.m.

Division III Quarterfinal: #6 Sacred Heart Cathedral (5-5) @ #3 Live Oak (8-2), Friday, 7 p.m.

Division III Quarterfinal: #7 St. Ignatius (3-7) @ #2 Sacred Heart Prep (8-2), Saturday, 1 p.m.

Updated Academic Athletic Association schedule:

Quarterfinal 1: #3 Mission (5-4) @ #2 Galileo (7-2), Thursday at 2 p.m.

Quarterfinal 2: #4 Balboa (5-3) @ #1 Lincoln (9-0), Thursday at 2 p.m.

Updated North Coast Section schedule: 

Granada @ Marin Catholic on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m.

Ryan Gorcey contributed to this report.

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