News, notes and observations from the Sac-Joaquin Section office in Lodi today...
* A three-year deal in principle is in the works for Sacramento State to host the section championship football games in Divisions I, II, III, much like last season (a booming success highlighted by the overflow crowd of 22,000 for Folsom-Grant). The unsung mover and shaker here has been Sac State stadium operations manager Steve Tebbs, who used pepper section bosses Pete Saco and John Williams during prep basketall Arco Arena events about getting such events at Sac State.
Saco and Williams said a field turf would surely help the cause - prep coaches don't want to slug it out in the mud - and once Sac State installed an all-weather field, things heated up.
* Section basketball playoff games will remain at Power Balance Pavilion as long as the Kings are in town. Saco and Williams have long maintained that the Kings owners - the Maloofs - have been terrific to work with. Saco and Williams cracked that if the Kings leave for Anaheim, so will the prep playoffs. And Saco, "If they move to the rail yards in Sacramento, you'll see 'Saco' on one of the cars and we'll be there, too."
* The new mercy football rule - statewide - is indeed in effect. It stipulates that if a team is ahead by 35 or more points in the fourth quarter, a running clock will immediately be put into effect. It's happened already this season, with Central Catholic crushing Brookside Christian of Stockton 72-0. In fact, the running clock started at halftime, as agreed by both coaches.
* There are three new high schools competing in the section this fall - and no more on the horizon, meaning the growth has finally stopped. The next high school on the horizon is Mather High, to open in 2014 at the very earliest. There also might be a new school in Merced.
The newbies this fall are Pachecho of Los Banos, American Canyon in the Napa District and Gregori of Modesto, the seventh in that city.
* Due to renovations, Hughes Stadium will not host the Masters Track and Field Championships next spring. The 2012 Masters will be held at Elk Grove High. Hughes also wanted to be in the running for Section title football games but Saco said the Section could not wait on a contract. Hughes will get a new field turf installed at the conclusion of this season.
Hughes last hosted a prep playoff game in 2005, a Division I semifinal between Grant and Nevada Union in a swampy, muddy mess, prompting Saco and company to pull up stakes and look elsewhere.
* On any argument that 15 or 16 games is too many for a prep football team with the introduction of the Northern California Regional playoffs next fall to advance a NorCal champion against a Southern California foe, Saco said, "the general public would like to see a state-championship football game. What do you do? Eliminate earlier games? Some states play eight games. If I had my druthers, I'd go from 10 games (in the regular season) to nine, but schools don't want to do that. They want those games and the gate."
And this: Only the true survivors would reach even 13, 14, 15 or 16 games.
* It took some work and some convincing to get the regional playoff football format into place (and neutral games sites are still in the works). It was voted down the first time and the Southern Section and North Coast Section have not been in favor of expansion from the start.
* Any football team that wins or shares a league championship will host a playoff game. Del Oro last fall tied Granite Bay for the Sierra Foothill League championship and even beat Granite Bay but still drew a low seed for its 6-4 regular season mark and had to travel the first two weeks in the postseason. That scenario won't happen again. Unlike other sections, this one is not afraid of tinkering, fine tuning and adjusting playoff ideas out of common sense and fairness.
* The Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame - a terrific success in Year One last year in large part due to the tireless efforts of Will DeBoard - will thin out a list of dozens of candidates in the coming months. The section will induct coaches and athletes of note every other year. Former athletes have to be 35 years old to be considered.
* On the idea of a state playoff for softball and/or baseball, Saco said there simply isn't enough time in the academic year, given the graduations, senior trips and off-season competition with club teams. Sections would have to agree to shorten the season, and no one is in favor of that. One bonus for this section: only the San Diego Section has a double-elimination format in those sports.
* Don't expect to see an all one-town league such as an all-Elk Grove Unified School District league...ever.
Yes, the travel would be wonderfully short for the nine schools in the EGUSD, but Saco and Williams countered that the section has to have the best interest of all 194 of their schools, not nine of them in one city. They call it a shared-travel rule. How does the section explain an all-EGUSD league to Ponderosa in Shingle Springs or Davis in Yolo County, schools who would have to travel even farther if not linked to an Elk Grove-based league.
"You have to have consideration for the other schools," Saco said.
Saco and Williams added that they hear about travel concerns every year, and then roll their eyes when they look at non-league schedules with trips to San Diego, Los Angeles, Idaho, Las Vegas or across the country.
* Basketball teams that win 15 games out of a 27-game contact schedule will make the playoffs, if the plan gains approval in the October Board of Manager's meeting. The Ponderosa girls won 17 games last winter and did not reach the post season based on the Power Ratings formula.
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