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Earlier start one of several changes for 2010-11

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Strength and conditioning coach Scott Sacuskie, far left, whips the East Union High varsity football team into shape during the first official day of practice Monday


POSTED August 10, 2010 2:01 a.m.
Never mind that the school year begins next Monday, Aug. 16.

Class is already in session for Manteca Unified student-athletes.

On-campus athletic fields were abuzz Monday as teams in the Sac-Joaquin Section kicked off the 2010-11 school year with the first official day of practices for the fall sports season, which includes cross country, football, girls golf, boys soccer, girls tennis, girls volleyball and water polo.

Ripon High got a head start to the school year, with classes beginning last Thursday. School begins next Wednesday, Aug. 18 for Ripon Christian.

Fall sports teams were allowed to hold summer programs, which consisted of conditioning, full-contact practices and scrimmages, until the SJS-imposed Dead Period from July 25-Aug. 8.

After two days of preconditioning, area football teams will hold full-contact sessions with helmets and pads starting Wednesday.

The first scrimmage date for all sports is Saturday, Aug. 21, and first non-league contests are Aug. 27.

Changes, both big and small, have been made section-wide for the 2010-11 season.

The most notable change is the long anticipated realignment of leagues within the section, which mostly affects Ripon Christian among the seven area schools. Ripon Christian will leave crosstown rival Ripon and the Trans Valley League to compete in the Southern League against schools closer to its comparatively smaller size.

The five Manteca Unified schools — East Union, Manteca, Sierra, Lathrop and Weston Ranch — remain in the Valley Oak League along with longtime members Oakdale and Sonora. With Ceres and Central Valley moving into the Western Athletic Conference, first-year varsity Kimball of Tracy completes the VOL.

Another major change is the earlier start date to the high school sports season, due in large part to the addition of “Week 0” in football. In years past, practices for fall sports started in mid-August with non-league football games beginning on the second Friday (or Thursday or Saturday in few cases) of September.

Week 0 football games were staged more prominently in other sections within the California Interscholastic Federation, but in the SJS schools needed permission to have Zero Weeks. Teams are still limited to playing 10 regular-season games, so those participating in Week 0 must have a bye week scheduled.

Sierra (vs. Enochs), Ripon (at Ceres) and Ripon Christian (at Big Valley Christian) will all play Week 0 contests. Sierra scheduled its bye week in Week 3, giving the Timberwolves extra time to prepare for its VOL opener against Oakdale. Sierra and Oakdale shared the conference championship in 2009.

Ripon will make a big splash this fall as it unveils its first water polo team led by Erik Zador, supplementing the school’s fledgling swim program that will enter its second year in the VOL this spring.

The water polo team will play an independent schedule before joining the Modesto-based Central California Conference next year.

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