TURLOCK — Trying to make sure the crosstown rivalry between Turlock and Pitman high schools stays on the football field tonight, officials are changing the way fans will watch the game.
Bulldog and Pride fans will be directed to enter different gates for tonight's annual Harvest Bowl and won't be permitted to cross to the other team's side. Anyone younger than a high school student must be accompanied by a parent, and tickets were sold in advance.
The changes came after taunting and scuffles during last year's game. Someone displayed a sign referring to Pitman High teacher Carl Kubicek, who had recently been charged with having a sexual relationship with a student.
Turlock High assistant principal Isaias Rumayor said the bigger problems were rumor and innuendo.
"Most of the confrontations weren't between students," he said. But people thought that they were.
Tickets have been available for pre-sale since last week. They will be limited to Joe Debely Stadium's seating capacity of less than 5,000. That's another change from last year, when hundreds of fans stood around the stadium and in the south end zone; that area will be cordoned off as a "dead zone," Rumayor said.
"There's not going to be any standing this time," Turlock Unified School District Superintendent Sonny DaMarto said. "That caused some of the difficulties last time."
Any tickets not sold by gametime will be available at the gate. Officials believed the game would sell out quickly, but sales slowed this week when the weather turned nasty, Rumayor said.
To deal with any potential poster problems, homemade signs won't be allowed. Students came up with poster designs that were submitted to their schools in advance, and the booster clubs paid to have vinyl posters made with approved slogans.
"That way, they can use them year after year," DaMarto said.
Though the security setup is a first for Turlock, other schools have implemented similar rules. Students at the Atwater-Buhach Colony game, another crosstown rivalry, are instructed to use separate gates and stay on opposite sides of the field.
"It's a crowd control issue," DaMarto said. "If people all enter the same gate they start to mingle and talk, then it becomes a crowd control problem."
All fans welcome
Rumayor said nobody would be turned away from the gate, but fans have to sit on the side of the field where they enter.
"We'll ask you where you plan to sit, and let you know that there's no crossing over," he said.
Additional bathrooms will be brought in for the visitors' side, and staff and volunteers will man roped-off areas.
DaMarto said school officials decided to make the changes to stave off potential confrontations.
Officials hope their new measures will keep the attention, and the action, on the field. Turlock and Pitman have been playing since 2004; the Pride won every game except last year.
"It's a big show in town. People want to see the game," Rumayor said. "The vast majority of the people who attend the game are there to see the show."
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2343.