Bigger is not always better, and that's particularly true in the Sac-Joaquin Section this season.
While the biggest schools will be in the Division 1 bracket, many of the best high school football teams will be in divisions 2, 3 and 4 with smaller schools.
That has to concern Downey, a D2 team that could go 9-1 in the regular season and be as low as No. 7 seed in a 16-team bracket.
You go 9-1, have to face a tough team in the first round, and then must drive to play a powerhouse team from Folsom or Elk Grove? That's a tough trip to the playoffs.
Division 2 could have three or four unbeaten teams, as well as three or four one-loss teams. With strength of schedule the deciding factor to break ties, it could drop the Knights lower in the seedings. Their wins are not going to carry as much weight many of their foes will be below .500. The section seeding committee sanctioned Pitman and Beyer for their weak schedules a year ago denying them advantageous spots in the bracket and the possibility of playing a quarterfinal at home.
Few of these D2 teams are paper tigers, not when the list is topped by Elk Grove, Folsom, Vacaville, Grant. Let's not forget Buhach Colony, a section semifinalist each of the last two years, or Del Oro which won D3 the last two years and was forced to move up.
Enochs, which is 3-3 but heavily favored to win three of its last four games, is going to have an easier path should it secure one of the two playoff berths. The D1 field is dominated by a pair of big reputations Nevada Union and Franklin of Elk Grove. It's a thin field once you get past those two.
That's why Pitman is a threat to do damage this fall. The Pride ran into a buzzsaw in Pleasant Grove last year, but it's 5-0 and could get a top-2 seed by beating Buhach Colony Friday and finishing 10-0.
That would assure the Pride of home games in the second and third round if it gets that far. If Pitman does succeed, it could see a familiar face: Pitman beat Enochs 35-31 in Week Zero, and a rematch would be the last week for one.
Sam Young doesn't teach in Modesto City Schools and doesn't coach any of its seven high schools in the Modesto Metro Conference, but Modesto JC's football coach knows all too well the athletic troubles in the city.
His roster is comprised of Stanislaus County kids, for the most part, but he's got a few from Manteca, Atwater and other nearby cities. He has just three from outside the state, however, so Modesto the largest city in his sphere of influence needs to serve as his recruiting base.
Young, like the city's high school football coaches, says something must be done and it must be done quickly.
"It's a real shame our high school district isn't doing a better job helping athletes succeed," Young said. "It's immoral to make them play in this situation. If you look around, you see how it's done correctly. My concern, if the district continues this direction, is safety because of what the players aren't getting."
That was a hot topic at the Modesto Quarterback Club meeting Monday at Coach's Corner, with the city's high school coaches and Young addressing it.
Young says players would benefit from seventh-period PE/sports, a class that puts them on the field for the last class of the day. The class is popular at many schools in the area, particularly those with successful programs.
"Some kids learn better as they walk through, like 3-D, but others learn better in a class setting, seeing it on the board," said Young, who has a similar class for his MJC players. "If you can increase the time a coach and player spend together, that's good. The practice starts in a class and moves to the field."
Young says weight lifting must form the foundation for any plan the district adopts in a bid to improve its athletes' ability to be successful. The district wants its seven schools to remain in the MMC, but the shift to an all-Modesto conference is behind the city's inability to compete with other schools.
The other option is to split in two conferences: Biggies Modesto (2,468) and Enochs (2,470) and Gregori with its rich athletic base in one, Downey, Davis, Beyer and Johansen in another. That would put the city's smallest schools in a conference their own size those four range from 1,465 to 2,022 kids.
Bee staff writer Richard T. Estrada can be reached at (209) 578-2300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.