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VOL: And Lathrop makes nine

STOCKTON -- For the next two years, the Valley Oak League is going to be a nine-school conference for every sport, save football.

The Sac-Joaquin Section Board of Managers held its fall meeting Wednesday at Elkhorn Country Club, and Commissioner Pete Saco said Lathrop -- the fifth Manteca Unified School District high school -- will join the VOL for the other 15 sports.

"This is the third year of our (four-year) realignment cycle," Saco said. "Sometimes, it can get tough placing new schools."

But the section realignment committee appears to have come up with a sound solution.

Lathrop High will open next fall with only freshmen and sophomores and will compete in the VOL at the junior varsity level.

In football, where it's difficult to schedule only JV and freshman games, the section is giving leeway by allowing any opponent of Lathrop, Antelope (Roseville) or Cosumnes Oaks (Elk Grove) to schedule two JV games in one week. It has imposed a six-quarter limit on each player for those double JV games.

For example, should Oakdale have a Week 3 game on a Saturday against Cardinal Newman, the section is allowing the Mustangs to schedule a second JV game against Lathrop.

"This is going to allow the new schools to get games, and it's going to allow other teams to let all their JV and freshman players to get playing time," Saco said.

Some schools play a "fifth quarter" in freshman games to allow everyone a chance to participate. The section is taking this one step further. It's a good step.

For 2009, the final year of the current realignment cycle, Lathrop will compete in the VOL for every non-football sport. For football, Lathrop, Antelope and Cosumnes Oaks will play each other twice that season, eschewing regular league play until 2010.

Saco also received approval to proceed with planning for the Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame.

He said he hopes to induct the first class at Arco Arena in October 2009.

"We're hoping to have a couple of large classes at the beginning," Saco said. "We as an organization have seen a lot of great athletes come through."

The categories include: players, coaches, administrators, officials and other contributors. All inductees must be at least 35 years old.

Candidates will be judged on high school accomplishments only, so that probably rules out a guy like Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Brian Fuentes, who blossomed after he attended Merced High.

But how about two-time section girls tennis champion Lynn Henderson of Davis? Basketball players who immediately come to mind are Merced's Gerald Madkins and East Union's Scott Brooks. In football, it would be tough to go against Merced running back Jhay Roland, who saw his Bears teams go 41-1 and win two section titles during his varsity career.

The Stanislaus District athlete who could be considered a lock for the Hall is Downey's Suzy Powell, who won three state discus titles and still holds the national high school record.

And we haven't even mentioned the wrestlers. ...

Do you have a suggestion for the section Hall of Fame? Weigh in on the topic on our online message boards at forums.modbee.com, under the high school football topic.

The board of managers closed its session midway through the meeting and discussed the section's recent investigation and subsequent penalty handed down to the football program at Franklin High in Stockton.

With extra chairs set in the back of the room and section attorney Scott Donald in the room at the beginning of the meeting, there appeared to be some anticipation that protesters from Franklin would show up.

But other than section president Rick Spears thanking Saco for his role in the investigation and penalty ruling, all was quiet on the Yellowjackets front.

"We should all thank Pete for defending the schools who are doing right," said Spears, the principal at Colfax High. "It's ridiculous to question his integrity."

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

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