Jeff Smith 6:35 p.m., June 27
With the regular season coming to a close last Friday, I have a confession to make: the best part about covering high school football is the food. While quality matchups whet my appetite week to week, it is the concession stands at high schools throughout San Diego that keep me coming back for more.
With that in mind, follow me on a regular season journey filled with happiness and heartburns adjacent to snack bars at stadiums around the section. These are my concession confessions:
On Sept. 3, the opening night of the 2009 season, my appetite for football was greater than my appetite for food. I purchased a water bottle at Mater Dei High which, along with gum, kept me full enough as I watched St. Augustine pull off a one-point win over Carlsbad.
The following night at Valhalla High, I showed up early and hungry. A cheeseburger, soda and bag of chips later, I was truly ready for the season to start. Unfortunately for the Norsemen, so was Our Lady of Good Counsel, visitors from Maryland that went home with a victory.
One of the games I circled on the calendar before the season was the clash between Lincoln and Eastlake on Sept. 11. The game lived up to its billing and so did a South Bay football treat – mini carne asada tacos. These made-to-order small corn tortillas with fresh cooked carne asada, cilantro, a touch of guacamole, and a squirt of lime (sin cebollas, por favor) are nearly peerless when it comes to a pre-game snack. I topped three of those off with a soda and could barely contain my grin as the game started.
One of my toughest concession decisions came Sept. 17 at Francis Parker, as I went back and forth between hamburger and hot dog – the latter of which were enormous. After a few minutes of consternation, I went with a cheeseburger and was not disappointed. But even as I write this, I wonder if it was the right decision.
The Game of the Week on Sept. 18 took me to Helix Charter, where I showed my concessions versatility by choosing nachos. There is just something about that pot of chemical cheese that I can’t say no to. Also my apologies to any Cathedral Catholic players I interviewed after their 41-17 win over the Highlanders if my breath was still offensive.
Before the Long Beach Poly-Oceanside game on Sept. 25, I made the “smart” decision to eat macaroni and cheese at home before the game. I hope I didn’t miss out on anything too delicious in Pirate Country as Oceanside beat Poly for one of the biggest victories in the history of the section.
The following week I got back on the horse at Escondido with some pizza before the Cougars hosted Rancho Bernardo on Oct. 2. The pizza was personal size with sauce, cheese and a modest amount of pepperoni. And on a cold, cloudy night, the extra dough that I initially frowned upon kept me warm throughout the game.
I arrived so early to the Mission Bay-Lincoln game on Oct. 9 that the snack bar was not even open. When it did open, I treated myself to a lukewarm hot dog (with mustard) and a bottle of water before the Bucs pulled off an impressive comeback win over the host Hornets.
After driving from Morse to Scripps Ranch on an unseasonably hot afternoon on Oct. 16, I was hungry. So hungry that I couldn’t wait long enough for my piping hot cheeseburger to cool down and burned my mouth. And so hungry that I needed corn nuts for the second half of St. Augustine’s 35-10 win over the Falcons.
I wasn’t feeling terrific headed to Santa Fe Christian on Oct. 24, but a cheeseburger meal helped a little bit. While a little pricey, the meal came with a burger, chips and a drink, enough food to help me stay calm when both my camera batteries had no charge.
If I had to point to one Friday as my crowning concession moment of the season, it might have to be Oct. 30, when I completed the grill doubleheader at two different venues. That afternoon I settled my stomach with a cheeseburger at Point Loma High and I capped the snack bar feat a few hours later with a hot dog at Escondido High prior to the Game of the Week between Escondido and La Costa Canyon. I was one order of nachos away from the concessions cycle – which I completed the next day at Santa Fe Christian. The nachos topped with chili found at the Eagles Nest rival any in the section and completed the trifecta.
Thanks to the time change, the past two weeks I have had extra time between afternoon and night games. As a result, I have opted for fast food, spurning concession stands at Steele Canyon and Eastlake for fried chicken and roast beef. Let’s just say I hope I don’t have that much time to kill again.
As Thanksgiving and Christmas – the two major food holidays – creep closer, there is no doubt some people are already talking turkey. But with still a month of high school football left, I’m talking tacos, and burgers, and hot dogs. And if all goes to plan during the playoffs, my mouth will be too full to say much of anything.