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Community spirit defines region's college bowl games Phillip Brents | Fri, Jan 13 2012 01:52 PM

The NCAA major college bowl schedule — all 35 games — wrapped up with Monday’s national championship game. For the record, the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the No. 1-ranked LSU Tigers, 21-0, to capture the 2012 national Division I-A football title.

The San Diego region is represented by two bowl games produced by the San Diego Bowl Association: the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl and the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl.

Both games are played in late December at Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

The college football contests serve to bring nationally ranked teams to the area for the enjoyment of fans via the bowl game experience. The games also serve to help fill hotel rooms throughout the region during the holiday season.

It is the latter reason (filling hotel rooms during the week prior to Christmas) that gave birth to the Poinsettia Bowl seven years ago after long-term success with the Holiday Bowl.

The 34th Holiday Bowl took place Dec. 28, with the Texas Longhorns defeating the Cal-Berkeley Bears, 21-10, in front of a crowd of 56,313.

The 2011 Poinsettia Bowl took place Dec. 21, with the No. 16 TCU Horned Frogs topping the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, 31-24, in front of 24,607 fans.

The two bowl games are also jam-packed with community spirit — and recognition for deserving regional charities.

The Poinsettia Bowl once again designated the Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Diego as its beneficiary, with one dollar from every ticket sold donated to the foundation. The bowl game donated $53,000 to the foundation following its 2010 game.

More than 500 members of “wish families,” including wish children, their parents and siblings and dedicated volunteers attend the Poinsettia Bowl as special guests. Everyone is invited to participate in inspirational pre-game ceremonies.

The foundation’s mission is to grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. During the on-field ceremony,  the wish kids (some in wheelchairs) line up behind giant placards that individually read “joy,” “strength” and “hope” — appropriately themed words.

Individual wishes are surprisingly rather non fantastic. After all, they are kids — and want to be kids like everybody else.

Six wish kids were selected for special duties.

The two team “wish” captains for December’s bowl game included a pair of 17-year-olds — Christian from Chula Vista and Tyeler from El Cajon (last names are withheld for privacy reasons).

Christian represented Louisiana Tech during the pre-game festivities. His wish is to attend the NFL Pro Bowl game later this month in Hawaii. He suffers from histiocytosis, a disease somewhat similar to cancer. Treatment often involves radiation and chemotherapy.

Tyeler (who represented TCU) suffers from chronic granulomatous (a genetically heterogeneous group of immunodeficiencies). His wish is to have a personal basketball coach.

Other wish kids involved in the Poinsettia Bowl festivities included 9-year-old Emma from Coronado (coin toss), 8-year-old Aidan from Vista (tee fetching), 16-year-old Darren from San Carlos (luncheon speaker) and 16-year-old Tina from Scripps Ranch (anthem singer).

Emma suffers from pulmonary hypertension. Her wish is to have a Rapunzel-themed playhouse.
Aidan suffers from cancer (neuroblastoma). His wish is for a Disney cruise.

Darren and Tina both suffer from lymphoma. Darren’s wish is to have new football uniforms for his high school.

They all wore smiles on game day.

Earlier in the week, the six wish kids were visited by players from Louisiana Tech in a special meet-and-greet. It left members of the Western Athletic Conference champion Bulldogs humbled. “These kids are truly inspirational to me,” starter Adrien Cole said. “I train. I sweat. I bleed. But this is something I haven’t experienced. They wake up knowing this might be their last day, but they keep on pushing anyway.”

Prep stars
The Holiday Bowl annually selects a $10,000 scholarship recipient as well as a most inspirational high school football player.

Both 2011 award-winners hailed from the South Bay: Sweetwater High School senior Luis Venegas and Bonita Vista High School senior Mailyn Nishiguchi.

Venegas, a tight end/linebacker/punter for the Red Devils, was chosen as the Dr. Pepper TEN most inspirational football player.

Venegas has excelled despite a turbulent family background. His father was deported when he was 11 and his mother is disabled and cannot work. Despite these rather severe obstacles, he has maintained hope and faith for a brighter future.

Venegas, who also runs track during the spring, was nominated for the award by SuHi football coach Jose Mendoza.

“It feels great knowing that I was able to overcome all that I had to overcome,” Venegas said.
He said he would like to attend Southern Utah to pursue his academic goals, which are to major either in business or criminal justice.

Nishiguchi, a field hockey and girls lacrosse player at Bonita Vista High School, received the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl scholarship. The award is presented to a high school senior from San Diego County who has excelled academically and within his or her community.

Citizenship and leadership in extracurricular activities are particularly important selection criteria.

Nishiguchi, who earned athletic honors as the 2011 Metro Conference Player of the Year for the Barons’ league championship field hockey team, carries a 4.34 grade-point average and participates in such on campus activities as academic decathlon, academic league, the science and engineering club and science fair while also dedicating her time to the school’s intensive International Baccalaureate program.

Nishiguchi has volunteered at Scripps Mercy Hospital for the past three years. She has committed to Syracuse University to play field hockey and plans to study pre-medicine with a major in biology.

She used the word “amazing” to describe both receiving the award and being recognized on the field.  

The San Diego bowl games also serve as holiday homecomings for local players suited up for the respective teams. The Cal Bears featured seven San Diego County players on their roster, including Eastlake’s Alex Crosthwaite, a 2010 graduate of Cathedral Catholic High School and a member of the Dons’ 14-0 2008 state football championship bowl team.

Crosthwaite (6-4, 290) is a redshirt freshman offensive lineman.

College realignment
SDSU participated in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl, defeating Navy, 35-14, in front of a record crowd of 48,049.

With the Aztecs’ recent announcement that they will shift membership from the Mountain West Conference to the Big East in 2013, primarily for increased financial windfall, the San Diego Bowl Association faces some upcoming decisions on affiliation.

The Poinsettia Bowl is currently tied to a representative team from the MWC (through 2014). That won’t change in the near future, according to Bruce Binkowski, the bowl game’s executive director and a South County resident.

“Our mission statement is to impact the local economy,” Binkowski said. “In the long term, we’ll look at our relationship with the Mountain West and see where it goes. We’d like to see SDSU play in the Poinsettia Bowl every few years, but this bowl game wasn’t created exclusively for SDSU.” BYU is slated to play an MWC opponent in 2012 while Army will visit in 2013, providing that both teams are bowl eligi

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