MODESTO — Conference races get under way Friday night for five of the Stanislaus District's eight leagues. Coaches hope that the lessons learned during the preseason will pay dividends as their teams take aim at league championships.
One team that, hopefully, has learned a lesson during non-league play is Ceres' Central Valley High School.
The Hawks defeated Madera South 46-14 last week, but some might consider it a loss.
Late in Friday's game, a fight broke out during an extra-point attempt and two players were ejected from the contest. However, upon further review a thorough review of the game film by school administrators Central Valley has suspended 12 additional players.
According to Sac-Joaquin Section rule 302.3, any player who leaves the sideline during an on-field fracas will be ineligible to play the following game.
"We just feel like the integrity of the athletic program and the school is most important here," said CV's first-year athletic director Greg Magni, who, along with principal Amy Peterman, talked with The Bee on Wednesday via conference call. "The players all understand that and, to a man, they've all apologized."
Magni believes that most of the players who left the sideline were merely attempting to restore order.
But rules are rules. And 12 players five of them starters will sit out Friday night's Western Athletic Conference opener against Pacheco (Los Banos). Though Central Catholic was the overwhelming choice in a preseason coaches poll to win the WAC, the Hawks and Panthers were tabbed to be key players in the race. So the suspensions might play a role in determining the Hawks' playoff fate.
On top of all that, the suspended players can't even attend Friday's game, which happens to be Central Valley's homecoming.
"Central Valley should be praised for what they're doing," said Pacheco head coach David Snapp. "This is a big game for both of us. But it's a football game, and there are bigger things than football. This is going to teach their players way more than they'd learn playing a football game."
The CIF's Central Section uses the same rule as the Sac-Joaquin Section. However, Madera South has suspended just one player.
"We use an end zone camera that shuts off at the whistle, so our cameras didn't pick up the fight," said Madera South athletic director Marty Bitter. "Greg has been awesome through all of this. He's handled this extremely well with the utmost professionalism. If our kids acted inappropriately, then we need to take care of business. But his football coach needs to send the video to mine, and we haven't received anything yet.
"We definitely don't want to gain a reputation as 'that renegade program from Madera.' "
Central Valley's game film, naturally, more closely follows Central Valley players. So, according to Magni and Peterman, it's hard to determine which, if any, Madera South players might have left the sideline. But that's for Madera South's administration to worry about. And it's not the point here.
The point is this: Central Valley players broke a section rule. And the Central Valley administration took swift and proper action.
In this day and age, you can't be certain every program would have acted similarly.
"This just goes to show you that Greg is doing things the right way," said Pacheco AD Charlie Pikas. "This was a great gesture on their part."
Some might consider it a loss. I say it's a clear win for Central Valley.