Some prep football programs are scrambling to fill vacancies in their schedules after the California Interscholastic Federation revised its sports calendar for the 20020-21 academic year.
So far, Manteca and Sierra are the only teams locally to have had to find new opponents since the change.
On July 20, the governing body for high school sports unveiled later dates for its regional and state championship events. Nine of its 10 sections — including the Sac-Joaquin Section — lined up their schedules to match the CIF’s. Here in the SJS, the football season kicks off with week-zero contests on Jan. 8, while winter sports were pushed back to spring.
The Northern Section, covering a vast region from Sutter County up to the Oregon border, strayed from the pack and decided to move forward with a more-traditional fall-winter-spring set-up. This has already affected one team from the area and can potentially force two others to find replacements.
Reigning SJS Division IV champion Sierra was scheduled to meet longtime NS power Paradise on Aug. 28. The Bobcats, however, plan on following most of the rest of their section in getting their season in during the fall, if county health officials allow it.
“We were excited to travel up there,” Sierra coach Chris Johnson said. “They’re one of the top teams from the Northern Section and it would have been a good game. We were looking for an out-of-section game to upgrade our schedule and get us ready for the VOL (Valley Oak League).”
Paradise finished 12-1 last year, losing to Sutter 20-7 in the NS Division III final. The city rallied around its high school football team one year after it was devastated by the Camp Fire.
Sierra also added Del Campo and Stagg to its revamped schedule, keeping Pacheco. The Timberwolves are not picky in replacing Paradise.
“I’m sure there are other people looking (for opponents),” Johnson said. “At this point it’s just about filling the schedule. We’re keeping our fingers crossed hoping to get 10 games in.”
Ripon coach Chris Musseman and Ripon Christian athletic director Kevin Tameling confirmed Wednesday that their teams remain penciled in as opponents for East Nicolaus, a premier small-school squad out of the Northern Section. East Nic is based in Sutter County, which is on the state’s coronavirus watch list and may be one of the few schools from the North State that may have to wait until January to play football.
On Monday, SJS Division III champion Manteca unveiled a new season-opening opponent with a social-media post. The Buffaloes are heading to coach Mark Varnum’s hometown of Brentwood to face North Coast Section juggernaut Liberty — the Lions claimed the CIF State Division 1A title two years ago.
“That should be fun,” Varnum said. “It’s two miles from the house and I can see the lights of the stadium from my front yard.”
Manteca originally had Bear Creek pegged for Week Zero. Varnum said miscommunication was the cause for the change, not CIF’s calendar shift. It took a day for him to get a replacement.
His Buffaloes already had a challenging non-league schedule with Cosumnes Oaks, Patterson and Turlock in their crosshairs as new opponents.
“The bottom line is we’re really trying to get to that next step and get over the NorCal hump,” Varnum said, referring to Manteca’s 0-4 record in CIF Regional Bowl Games. “If we’re going to play teams like McClymonds and St. Francis, we’re going to have to get ready. Our league is tough as it is, but when you can get that kind of competition you have to go after it.”