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Restraining order opens door to postseason for Ripon Christian
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Ripon Christian running back Grant Sonke evades Mariposa's Apollos Powell (2) during a Southern Athletic League game on Oct. 15. - photo by GARY JENSEN/

Ripon Christian’s victory off the football field may have paved the way for more victories on it.

Administrators confirmed in a memo sent to the Manteca Bulletin on Thursday that RC has been granted a temporary restraining order against the Sac-Joaquin Section, which had levied a two-year postseason ban to three of its member schools on July 29 for their involvement in a full-contact club football league during the state-mandated coronavirus lockdown last spring. The TRO prevents the Section from enforcing the ban.

The Knights are 6-3 going into their Southern Athletic League regular-season finale this Friday against visiting Delhi. A win would assuredly lock up a top-two seed in the SJS Division VII playoffs for Ripon Christian. The SJS will announce postseason brackets on Sunday with its annual selection show streamed live on the NFHS Network. Playoff games begin on Nov. 5.

“We are thankful for the outcome and look forward to the opportunity to further prove that RCHS has not violated CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) bylaws,” Ripon Christian administration stated in the memo signed off by Superintendent Eric Segaar, Athletic Director Kevin Tameling and head football coach Phil Grams.

San Joaquin County Superior Court granted the restraining order on Tuesday. The court will allow the SJS and its lawyers to dispute the preliminary injunction on Nov. 4, one day before the postseason kicks off.

Ripon Christian, Capital Christian of Sacramento and Stone Ridge Christian of Merced were all punished by the Section this summer for participating in the California Association of Private Sports (CAPS) club football season, which lasted five weeks starting in mid-February before CIF-sanctioned contests took place.

Sanctions for all three schools were as follows:

·        Two-year postseason ban for football

·        Three-year probation for football

·        One-year probation for the athletic program

Vacaville Christian was also inspected by the Section for possible wrongdoing but only received a one-year probation for the football team.

Grams has maintained that his club team — Knights Outdoor Fitness & Skillz, consisting mostly of Ripon Christian athletes — operated as a separate entity from the school and could therefore participate in events not sanctioned by the CIF. At the time, CIF sports were limited to low-contact, outdoor sports, and the state’s governing body for interscholastic athletics urged its members to adhere to California Department of Public Health mandates.

The SJS determined that three of its schools ignored guidance from the state while violating CIF bylaws. CAPS was made up for 14 club teams across five Northern California counties, but no other schools were punished.

Capital Christian filed a lawsuit in Sacramento Supreme Court on Aug. 20, according to the Sacramento Bee, and was granted its restraining order against the Section on Oct. 15. Ripon Christian appealed the Section’s ban but was denied two weeks ago.

“We're not done fighting for our kids,” Grams told the Manteca Bulletin following Ripon Christian’s 14-7 win over Mariposa on Oct. 15. “We feel like we did the right thing for the kids that first week when kids were playing, and 700 kids played when no other kids were playing in the state of California.

“Without CAPS, there probably wouldn't have been football last season. We did the right thing for kids, and because of politics we are being punished. ... We are not done fighting for kids and we will never be done fighting for kids.”