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SJS: Prep sports starting week earlier in 2018
PREPS--SJS Media Day file pic
Weston Ranchs Jaelen Ragsdale makes a pass during the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game against Manteca at Sleep Train Arena in March. In 2017, the section finals will take place at Spanos Center at the University of the Pacific. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

LODI — Get ready for high school football practice in July.

That was just one of the major changes announced Thursday at the Annual Sac-Joaquin Section Media Day Luncheon at the SJS office.

Beginning in 2018, the annual athletic calendar moves up a week, so Week Zero games will be played mid-August instead of the end of the month. Conversely, SJS spring sports playoffs will wrap up a week earlier in May, meaning that the annual decision for some athletes of going to their graduation or to their championship event will shift to their senior trip or their championship event.

There will be plenty of change before 2018. For the first time in 30 years – 17 for the girls – the SJS basketball championship games will not be at Sleep Train Arena in 2017. While there was thought to be an agreement in place for the new Capital 1 Arena in downtown Sacramento, a concert has since been booked so the championships have been moved to Spanos Center at the University of the Pacific.

This year, boys soccer moves from the fall to the winter and girls soccer from the spring to the winter, bringing the SJS in line with the rest of the state and setting the foundation for state playoffs in the not-too-distant future.

In sports where playoff seeding is primarily determined by enrollment – football, volleyball, soccer, water polo, wrestling (team duals), and softball, the San Joaquin Athletic Association has been bumped from Division I to Division III. If last year’s football playoff seeding was to use the CBEDS enrollment figures used for this year and this year’s league realignment, both McNair-Stockton and Sierra would have been in Division III and Placer in Division IV.

In 2015, McNair was one-and-done in the Division II football playoffs, Placer won two playoff games before being eliminated by eventual SJS Division III and state champion Central Catholic-Modesto and Sierra ran the table in Division IV, bringing home a state championship.

There will be a new Division III football champion this year. Due the SJS continued-success rule, since Central Catholic has won three section titles in a row, it is now compelled to compete in Division II. Should the small-school powerhouse win at Division II, the following season will result in a bump to Division I.

Once a team has been advanced due to continued success, the only way for it to be bumped back down is to miss the playoffs once or the semifinals two years in a row.

Prior success brings benefits at the league level. The Top 9 leagues with the most recent success in volleyball, soccer, baseball and softball – the Top 7 in football – are rewarded with one extra automatic playoff berth. The Valley Oak League earned those extra slots this year in boys and girls soccer, softball and football; the Trans-Valley League in football, volleyball and softball and the Southern League in baseball and softball.

While baseball has always had a 10-inning limit per-week for a pitcher, that rule will now be expanded to include a maximum of three appearances per week, a maximum pitch count per week along with a minimum rest period depending on the amount of pitches thrown, much like Little League has done for years. The exact mechanics of the new rule have yet to be worked out.

The 2018 SJS realignment process began this week with the distribution of the school-results forms at the SJS Administrators Workshop. These forms highlight the individual schools’ wants and concerns and will be returned to league commissioners by late September and to the SJS office by Monday, Oct. 3.

The SJS realignment committee begins a series of five public meetings at The Reserve in Stockton on Wednesday, Dec. 14 with the final meeting on Thursday, March 9, 2017. The ratification process will conclude April 5, 2017 with realignment commencing August, 2018. Further details on these and other SJS business can be found at