The football doubleheader – Manteca vs. Wilcox (Santa Clara) and Jesuit (Carmichael) vs. De La Salle (Concord) – that was to open the high school season at Levi’s Stadium on Aug. 29 has been canceled due to the problems with the new stadium’s turf.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the four teams slated to play in the inaugural Friday Night Lights at the 49ers’ new stadium in Santa Clara will get to host conference games in October. And that seems to be even better news for Oakdale, which gets to tag along with Valley Oak League rival Manteca for the Oct. 11 game at Levi’s Stadium.
“I am pleasantly surprised, and I don’t think if it were our home game we’d do it,” said Oakdale athletic director Dave Bacigalupi, who noted the league contest will kick off at noon. “My opinion is always that you want to play the biggest games of the season on your home field.
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“I think that the Oakdale players, families and the entire community will go crazy over this. If nothing else, this will be a chance for our fans to see Levi’s Stadium without having to play $200 for a ticket.”
Manteca coach Eric Reis concedes his Buffaloes are giving up an edge on their rival by playing at a neutral site, but he thinks it’s worth it.
“This is such a special opportunity,” said Reis, who has guided Manteca to three Sac-Joaquin Section championships. “We do lose the home field (advantage), but how can you say no to playing Oakdale in that atmosphere? This already is a great game, but we’re turning it into a special occasion.
“(Levi’s Stadium officials) approached us ... and said they were going to try to work something out so we still could play there. They came back a few hours later with some dates. Once we saw we could play Oakdale there, we decided we had to do this.”
Two years ago, when the Mustangs played Serra of Gardena for the CIF Division II state championship in Carson, about 3,500 fans made the six-hour drive to Southern California for the game. For a game just two hours away, the entire city of Oakdale might make the trip.
“I think we’ll be sending a lot of fans,” Bacigalupi said. “This is the Manteca game. People always talk about the Oakdale-Sonora game, but that’s more of a friendly rivalry. I played football at Oakdale, and I know that through the years Manteca always has been the team we’ve wanted to beat the most.”
After winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship and earning that trip to the 2012 state championship game, the Mustangs were dethroned 35-20 last season by a Manteca team en route to the Division III section title and a trip to the NorCal Regional playoffs.
Both are again contenders for the conference crown, and they’ll be pushed by a conference newcomer, two-time defending state champ Central Catholic, making the VOL one of the toughest conferences in the state.
Wilcox, which beat Manteca 28-27 last season when the Buffs failed to convert a two-point conversion attempt, will host De Anza League rival Santa Clara on Oct. 10 at Levi’s Stadium. Jesuit hosts Elk Grove in a Delta Valley Conference matchup in the second game. A day later, it’s the VOL rivals joining De La Salle and James Logan of Union City on the docket.