Will DeBoard: Section preparing for a new look

STOCKTON — Could we see Oakdale High playing Central Catholic in a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff baseball game in the near future?

How about the Los Banos and Patterson football teams playing for a league championship?

Or even Ripon Christian and Mariposa facing off for the Southern League soccer title?

That would be yes, yes and yes, if the section has its way.

Section officials released their league realignment suggestions for 2010-2014 to a meeting room at Elkhorn Country Club filled to the rim with school administrators Wednesday morning.

The proposal is now in the hands of the section realignment committee. It will meet four or five times over the next three months, finalizing the proposal using three criteria: competitive equity, scope of program and school enrollment.

The realignment committee's final proposal will be voted on by the section board of managers in April, and if approved, will become concrete in 2010.

Locally, most of the drastic changes appear to be coming in the small-school leagues. Here are some highlights from Wednesday's meeting:

PERHAPS THE MOST interesting snippet from the southern half of the section is the Western Athletic Conference's moving up to Division IV, also the realm of the Valley Oak League.

So we could see area baseball powers Oakdale and Central Catholic facing off for a section baseball championship. But it sounds like we won't see a similar postseason matchup on the football field.

Section commissioner Pete Saco dropped several hints that the section football playoff system would "dramatically" change.

"You can't look at this proposal with regards to football," he said. "The football plan will take care of all that."

Several sources have said there will be some sort of enrollment-based aspect to the new football playoff system, if approved.

Several administrators started mumbling when Division I stalwart Nevada Union was placed in the Division II Sierra Foothill League. But Saco responded: "The playoff plan will resolve the Nevada Union issues for football."

The Modesto Metro Conference's only change is the addition of new school Gregori High. This makes the MMC a seven-team, Division I league.

Los Banos is out of the Central California Conference, making the area's other Division I league six teams consisting of the two schools each from Turlock, Atwater and Merced.

The Valley Oak League has been split between itself and the Western Athletic Conference. The five Manteca schools join Oakdale, Sonora and new school Kimball High of Tracy. The longtime VOL rival league Pioneer Valley League has been moved up a division, to Division III, so it appears the classic VOL-PVL matchups over the last four years may be gone.

Several changes are coming to the WAC. Three of its original members — Central Catholic, Livingston and Patterson — join with Ceres and Central Valley as well as Los Banos and Pacheco High, a new school set to open in 2010 in Los Banos.

Saco said Ceres and Central Valley were to be moved because of travel concerns while Los Banos would lose a lot of students after Pacheco opens next year.

The Trans-Valley League becomes a seven-team league, losing Ripon Christian and gaining Hilmar and Orestimba. The TVL remains a Division V league, and will compete with the Mother Lode League — one of the few leagues that didn't change — and the Golden Empire League from the north.

Competitive equity is the reason the Southern League grows from six to eight teams. The SL retains its six current members, adding Ripon Christian from the TVL and Gustine from the WAC.

THE SMALLEST FOOTBALL-PLAYING schools would move to the Harvest Christian League, while the smallest non-football schools would become part of the Mountain Valley League.

In the north, the section moved state football champion Grant from Division II to the Division I Delta Valley Conference. ... The new Sierra Foothill League becomes a highly talented, highly competitive football league. Its new lineup: Del Oro, Granite Bay, Nevada Union, Rocklin, Roseville and Woodcreek.

Will DeBoard's high schools column appears Thursdays. E-mail him at, write him at P.O. Box 5256, Modesto, CA 95352-5256, call 578-2300 or fax 238-4551.