With the CIF overhauling its State Bowl system, here are the potential impacts on Stanislaus District schools:
DIVISION 1 BOWL
Merced: The only team in the district with the pedigree — and the schedule — to compete against Bay Area private-school powers such as De La Salle of Concord and Bellarmine of San Jose, or even Grant of Sacramento. Merced controls its destiny by virtue of its schedule: Grant, Paradise, Clovis West, Edison of Fresno and Los Banos to open the season. Among the top schedules in Northern California, the Bears are going to a bowl game if they run the table on the way to a Sac-Joaquin Section crown. Only section winners can go bowling, though, and Merced's last title was in 1990 — also the last time any section team won a D-1 title.
Modesto Metro Conference: If an MMC team puts together a perfect regular season, it needs to win the section and hope its schedule will impress a selection committee of section commissioners. There's not a lot of strength in the regular-season schedules, and many of the section's top teams — Grant, St. Mary's, Del Oro, etc. — will likely be in the D-2 or D-3 section tournament.
Central California Conference: Aside from Merced, the CCC is in the same boat as the MMC — no history of success against NorCal powers and no section title in 20 years. It would be a longshot to see one of these teams advance.
Oakdale: A finalist for the D-2 game in 2007, an early season loss to Cardinal Newman kept the Mustangs home. If not for playing such a potent foe, however, Oakdale would not have been in the conversation. Defending Small School Bowl champ Modesto Christian and mighty Granite Bay highlight the 2010 schedule.
Manteca: Tracy is the only non-league game of note, and it lacks star power. Not a big deal, though, because winning the section means Manteca would likely have to beat state power Del Oro and others with respected pedigrees.
Los Banos: The opening of the city's second high school (Pacheco) means enrollment will decline and drop the Tigers to D-2 — or perhaps even D-3, where they would face Valley Oak League schools. An impressive non-league slate (Los Banos' foes were 43-18 a year ago) and playing in a league with Central Catholic helps, too.
Escalon: Before considering the possibility of being in a bowl, Escalon and any other district team at this level first has to win a section tournament loaded with talented schools — and enrollments topping 1,300 kids. The Cougars have the reputation to be considered for the bowl, and the improved TVL would also be a factor in that decision.
Sonora: The 'Cats fell in the section D-4 semifinals last year, and should be a routine threat as most of their playoff foes have lower enrollments. Sonora benefits from playing in the ultra-competitive VOL.
Central Catholic: Central is a big winner, with its enrollment dropping it from D-3 to the Small School Bowl — and enhancing its opportunity to advance if it wins the section. It's difficult to imagine a scenario where Central wins the section and isn't the NorCal entry. Of course, winning the section means beating out Escalon, Hilmar, Placer, Sonora and maybe even Whitney.
Modesto Christian: MC won this bowl a year ago, becoming the first district team to win a state title and the first NorCal team to go 15-0. There was some debate whether MC should have been elevated to D-3 based on its talent — even though its enrollment said it should be in this bowl. That's no longer an issue, as schools with 500 or fewer kids are no longer eligible to go up.
Ripon Christian: Moving to the smaller Southern League, it would be in the section D-6 bracket — a six-team field. Winning a section title would put RC in a group of perhaps four or five schools eligible to be selected for the bowl game.
— RICHARD T. ESTRADA