Valley Oak League (Division III)
Central Catholic, East Union, Manteca, Mountain House (WAC), Oakdale, Patterson (CCC), Sierra.
Western Athletic Conference (Division IV)
Beyer, Ceres, Central Valley (CCC), Grace Davis, Johansen, Lathrop, Livingston (TVL), Pacheco
Trans Valley League (Division V)
Escalon, Hilmar, Hughson, Modesto Christian (football only), Orestimba (SAL), Ripon, Ripon Christian (SAL), Sonora (MLL)
Manteca is staying in the Valley Oak League, after all.
And Ripon Christian remains on course to rejoin its next-door rival Ripon in a stacked Trans-Valley League.
The Sac-Joaquin Section held the last of its five public meetings for league realignment Tuesday at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton. Next month, the Section’s near-200 member schools will vote on the final realignment proposal. If it passes with a simple majority, the SJS Board of Managers will vote on April 26. The next realignment cycle begins in August of 2024.
The realignment committee’s original plan had two local schools on the move — Manteca from the Division III VOL to the Division-I Tri-City Athletic League, and Ripon Christian from the Southern Athletic League (D-VI) to the TVL (D-V).
MHS Athletic Director Neil MacDannald lobbied for his school to stay in the VOL instead of making the two-division jump up to the TCAL, where large-school powers such as St. Mary’s and Lincoln reign in most sports.
Manteca was tabled for the TCAL in the first three proposals. In the March 7 meeting, the realignment committee revealed a new proposal that keeps the Buffaloes in the VOL with intra-city adversaries East Union and Sierra. Historic rival Oakdale and Central Catholic are also staying put.
On the way out is Kimball, which joins fellow Tracy Unified schools Tracy High and Merrill West in the TCAL for the first time. Kimball has been in the VOL since the school opened in 2009.
Replacing Kimball and Weston Ranch (which left for the San Joaquin Athletic Association after last school year) in the VOL are Mountain House from the Western Athletic Conference and Patterson from the Central California Conference.
MacDannald had said throughout that the VOL is the best fit for Manteca, based on the SJS’ three criteria for realignment: Enrollment, competitive equity and scope of sports.
“We’re very fortunate and grateful that the committee did what we feel is the right thing and kept us in the VOL,” MacDannald said. “We feel like it’s super appropriate for us. We compete pretty well in most sports in the VOL, and there are also some natural rivalries that have lasted decades get to be maintained. A girls soccer game on a Tuesday night against Sierra is going to be well attended. That wouldn’t be the case for us in the TCAL.”
Meanwhile, the strongest small-schools league in the state is set up to get even stronger.
SAL foe Orestimba is joining Ripon Christian in the TVL, as is Mother Lode kingpin Sonora. They bolster a vaunted lineup of recent football state champions, Escalon, Hilmar, Hughson and Ripon. In fact, Ripon Christian lost a heartbreaker to Hughson 31-28 this past fall in the Division V-AA NorCal Regional Bowl Game.
Riverbank will leave the TVL for the Mother Lode League, while Modesto Christian heads for the SAL. Modesto Christian is staying in the TVL for football and TCAL for basketball.
In earlier meetings, Ripon Christian administrators expressed concerns over its lack of depth on the football program compared to the deeper rosters in the TVL, but they have not fought against the proposal since.
They see the reduced travel for league games as a big plus, and the Knights should still be competitive in most sports. The boys and girls basketball teams have remained in the TVL all these years since the rest of Ripon Christian’s athletic programs were shipped to the SAL in 2010 and have won multiple Section championships.
“Definitely looking forward to the challenge. I think it’s great for our school in most sports,” RC Assistant Athletic Director and football coach Phil Grams said. “It’s a step up in level of play. It’s going to be a pretty incredible league for football.”
The WAC is also being tweaked with the expected departures of Mountain House and Los Banos, the latter of which is headed to the CCC. Lathrop is still in the WAC but loses its Week 10 football rival in Mountain House. Newcomers Central Valley of Ceres (CCC) and Livingston (TVL) round out the Division IV conference that already includes Beyer, Ceres, Grace Davis, Johansen and Pacheco.
First-year River Islands is currently in the VOL with freshman-only teams. The Riptide is penciled in for two Division VI leagues — the MLL for football, and the Central California Athletic Alliance for all other sports.