Organizing a CIF championship football game is no small task. Neither is putting together a citywide parade.
However, Santa Maria High School's athletic administration and the Parade of Lights organizing committee is charging full-steam ahead, intent on getting Saturday's title game to run smoothly alongside the city's holiday parade.
Santa Maria is scheduled to play in the first CIF Southern Section championship game held on the Santa Maria High campus Saturday night. The Saints are making their first title game appearance since 1988. They've never won a CIF championship on the gridiron and were runners-up in 1927, 1972, 1984 and 1988.
This is new territory for just about all of the Santa Maria administrators and coaching staff. Of course, there's also a big wrench thrown in for good measure.
The Parade of Lights, Santa Maria's 23rd annual procession of floats and just about everything else, is also scheduled to be held Saturday night.
To help ease congestion on central Santa Maria streets, the kickoff for the championship game against Big Bear has been moved back 45 minutes, from 7 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. Saturday. The parade is scheduled to start at 5:20 p.m.
Brian Wallace, Santa Maria High's athletic director, is urging Santa Marians to park for and attend the parade and then walk over to Ralph Baldiviez Stadium for the football game.
"I highly encourage everyone to come watch the parade and then watch the game," Wallace said Monday. "Come watch the parade and then get into the game. That would be much easier than trying to park near the stadium for the game."
Mike Gibson, the Parade of Lights co-chair who's helped organize the procession for 23 years, is hopeful everything goes smoothly Saturday night.
"I think it’s going to be a challenge, but we have a good game-plan in place and we have people who are going to try and make things work out," Gibson said Monday night.
Gibson is urging parents of children participating in the parade to drop them off early on Depot Street via Morrison Avenue, adding that moving the start time of the game to 7:45 p.m. should also ease congestion.
"Everyone just needs to be patient and take a little extra time and it should work out," Gibson said. "I’m hopeful that it all works out great. We'll have 20,000 to 25,000 people lined up on Broadway watching the parade and 3,000 people in the parade itself. That's a lot of people and to put the football game on top of it is a challenge.
"But I'm totally excited for the school and it's great that they're in the championship game. It's awesome. It's just a shame it couldn't have been held the night before."
The CIF Southern Section determined when the championship game would be held.
Those who are intent on attempting to drive near the stadium should travel down Morrison Avenue from Blosser Road, or any other cross-street west of Depot Street to access the game.
The school will have ticket booths on Thornburg Street and Stowell Road. Santa Maria High is pre-selling tickets for the game starting Tuesday morning. Tickets can be purchased starting at 8 a.m. at the school's business office and must be purchased in person. Tickets for the championship game are $12 for adults and $5 for students, with school ID. Admission for children ages 5 to 13 is $5 and children under the age of 4 will be admitted for free.
The school is also planning a pep rally to help cheer on the Saints, who are riding a seven-game win streak, Friday at 1 p.m. at the football stadium.
Fox Sports has elected to make the game part of its Prep Zone series of online-only broadcasts. Dennis Ackerman will provide the play-by-play and former NFL player Brock Vereen will add the color commentary.