The Coast News Group
Community Sports

Jay Paris: Prep football holds a special niche in every community

The Coach is ready for Friday night, how about you?

“Absolutely,’’ John Kentera said. “I enjoy a high school football game every bit as much as a pro or college one.’’

Kentera goes by “Coach” as a Mighty 1090 radio personality and that works for us. His knowledge of San Diego prep sports has few peers. He not only played at Torrey Pines in football, baseball and basketball, but won the first Falcon’s football game as a coach in 1987.

Surely you remember that 3-0 epic over Carlsbad, when Kentera’s freshman team was victorious in the first of a Torrey Pines-Carlsbad triple-header.

The JV team got beat, but the varsity won as well.

Many remember John Lynch — yep, the future All-Pro safety — getting the ball out of the veer on the varsity contest’s first play. Lynch hit the edge and lowered his powerful shoulder on an undersized and unsuspecting defensive back.

“Knocked him out cold,’’ Kentera said, and he wasn’t talking about Lynch.

We could chat all day with Kentera. The Solana Beach resident remembers scores and games as if one called up Google and typed in San Diego prep sports.

There’s something about high school football that gets Kentera’s gums moving fast and it’s easy to sense the joy in his voice. It grows with excitement as he recites days long gone by.

The results are keen but it’s the scene that he paints, with teenagers playing football with their buddies that can get anyone’s blood pumping. Not sure who is more hyped for the season: the players on the field or Kentera in the stands.

“Every year you see guys you only see once a year,’’ he said. “That comes from the alumni group and us telling stories from 15 to 20 years ago and every school has that.

“Then there’s the young kids, the guys playing Pop Warner, that are down near the field watching the players. I know because I was one of them when I was young and we used to go to the San Dieguito games.’’

Torrey Pines had yet to be built. But Kentera’s foundation was laid watching the Mustangs play and it lives inside him to this day.

“Playing high school football was where I learned most of my values,’’ Kentera, 57, said. “I played basketball and baseball, but there is something about football and relying on your teammates. Because if one guy does something wrong, it can alter everything.

“And just to be out in the middle of a football field; there’s dew on the field and maybe it’s a little foggy. And you look at either sideline and it looks like it is a million miles away.’’

But it’s the closeness that accompanies prep football that makes it special.

“It’s the local high school and everybody knows each other,’’ Kentera said. “Everyone goes to grammar school and junior high school together and then on Friday night, the football brings everyone together in the community. It’s a social outing that really can’t be duplicated anywhere else.’’

That portrait of Americana is on display starting Friday.

Carlsbad, led by the versatile Troy Cassidy, takes on Phoenix’s Brophy Prep at Cathedral Catholic.

El Camino, a surprise team last year, heads for Point Loma.

La Costa Canyon will showcase quarterback Tanner Clark against Phoenix’s Desert Vista. New Oceanside coach Dave Rodriguez makes his debut at San Marcos.

Torrey Pines, with massive defensive end Steven Mason, is at Steele Canyon.

If work allows, that’s where you’ll likely find Kentera.

“Everybody is close to the action,’’ Kentera said. “It’s just a bonding, social event for everybody in the community.’’

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.