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DeBoard: District's innovative concepts mostly right on the mark

It could be a high school soccer game on turf and under the lights. Or maybe it's a varsity football game on a Thursday.

There are some pretty good ideas flowing through the Stanislaus District.

And as the playoffs loom -- as early as two Mondays away for girls golf -- it's time to shine a light on some of those concepts.

THE THURSDAY MMC football games are a positive, and a necessity.

With only two stadiums for the six-team Modesto Metro Conference, one game wasn't going to be played on a Friday night.

So for the next five weeks, we'll see a Thursday night game at Chuck Hughes Stadium at Downey High. The field has artificial turf, so it won't be any worse for the wear.

These games usually have a pretty good atmosphere. You'll see players from the other four MMC schools scouting their next opponents. And there's usually a pretty good crowd.

Those Thursday night games kick off tonight with Downey and Davis meeting at Downey High.

WE KNOW the Sac-Joaquin Section is looking into changing its playoff structure.

One potential change includes the seeding of teams in the postseason brackets. This is an idea that is overdue.

That way, you won't have a situation like we have in Divisions IV and V, where more deserving teams are left out.

In the Trans-Valley League, it looks like Escalon, Modesto Christian and Ripon will battle it out for two berths. Meanwhile, the Mother Lode League receives three. The TVL is 9-3 against the MLL with those top three teams a combined 8-1.

The Valley Oak League is an eight-team league receiving two berths, while the six-team Capital Valley Conference receives three.

A seeding system -- whether it's a computer formula or an actual committee -- would allow the most deserving teams to play in the postseason.

FOR THE SECOND time this season, all six MMC boys soccer teams assembled for a tripleheader at Chuck Hughes Stadium. Soccer is a faster game on the artificial turf, and fans from around the city assemble.

Tuesday night, Johansen beat Modesto 1-0 in the nightcap in a game that had all the intensity of a playoff game. A small but vocal crowd stayed to the end.

"The atmosphere is great," Modesto coach Matt Mendes said. "I really enjoy coming here, and the kids love it, too."

Plus, the MMC has three playoff-caliber teams in Downey, Johansen and Modesto. So it's pretty good soccer, too.

THE REALLY BIG football rivalries need to go to Week 10.

We saw Atwater beat Buhach Colony in the Bloss Bowl last Friday, and we'll see Turlock face Pitman in the Harvest Bowl this Friday night.

But many of the Stanislaus District's other key rivalries are played in Week 10. In that final week, we have Central Valley-Ceres, East Union-Manteca, Oakdale-Sonora, Gustine-Orestimba, and all three Mother Lode League games are big rivalries.

We should have all the big rivalries that week. What better way to close out your year than with the regular-season game that matters most?

THE CIF HAS expanded the divisions in its state championship bowl system from three to five. But a closer look shows the same three divisions, plus two special divisions. One special division is an open division, which takes the top team, regardless of enrollment.

There is potential for an ugly blowout in the small-schools division, because Southern California has some quality teams at that enrollment level.

How will the bowl games change? Look for them to eventually expand to two weeks, with NorCal and SoCal regional championships in one week with the winners meeting the following week.

California is too large to ever have a true state championship, but it looks like it will continue to grow.

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