Big On Zero

Prep Football Teams Taking Advantage Of Early Openers
By: Mike Ray, Gold Country News Services
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Changes are forthcoming in 2010 for high school football teams in regards to new league realignments, the qualifying format for the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs and the new selection process for the state championship bowl games. But another new aspect to the prep football scene that will change - perhaps forever how and when the high school grid season starts - it’s two words you had better get used to hearing: “Zero Week”. While “Zero Week” – which is the term used to describe the week of play prior to the usual starting Week 1 date - has been previously used around the state by schools mostly in the Central and North Sections, the CIF Sac-Joaquin had been hesitant to allow its schools to begin before the regular posted starting date. In past years, only CIF Sac-Joaquin teams that were having problems finding Week 1 opponents or were playing in special showcase games were granted permission to begin its practices earlier than the rest of the section and play “Zero Week” games. But now that has all changed. Thanks to the CIF State Bowl games now being solidly in place, and the need to bring the state’s nine sections into the same parameters for scheduling purposes, the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section announced last spring that “Zero Week” games would be available for the first time for all of its schools. In essence, schools now have 11 weeks to play its 10-game schedule. Any school playing in “Zero Week” must take a bye somewhere during its non-league season. And, for the most part, “Zero Week” games have been openly received by the majority of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section schools has about 80 per cent of the section’s schools that play football will tee it up the opening weekend of Aug. 27-28. Colfax coach Tony Martello is one coach who likes the new plan. “First, it gives teams an earlier starting date to begin practices,” said Martello. “The CIF extended the dead period this year (July 25-Aug. 9) because some schools already had off-season things scheduled. We could be going this week but we gave our kids the week off because a lot of families had planned vacations.” Conditioning for teams playing in “Zero Week” starts the first week of August with pad practices allowed to begin on Aug. 9. Because no games may be played before Aug. 27, most schools scheduling frosh games are doing so as tripleheaders with the JVs and Varsity on Aug. 27. Because of the new “Zero Week”, area fans should be in for a treat with regards to some interesting match ups that have come about to fill teams’ openings. In the Pioneer Valley League, all six PVL teams will play on Aug. 27. The opening line-up includes Colfax at El Camino, Cordova playing at Bear River, Placer hosting Vallejo, Lincoln on the road at Woodcreek, Foothill hosting El Dorado and Center venturing to West Sacramento to play River City. Every Sierra Foothill League school except Roseville will play either Aug. 27-28 including Del Oro which will trek to Las Vegas to test a highly-touted Bishop Gorman squad which is the defending Nevada large school champion and returns a host of Div. I scholarship players. Other opening SFL “Zero Week” games have Nevada Union hosting McQueen of Reno, Granite Bay entertaining Reed of Sparks, Rocklin making the long trip to Los Banos and the aforementioned Woodcreek hosting Lincoln. Some other interesting Aug. 27-28 contests have Folsom hosting Grant in a rematch of last year’s playoff classic, defending Div. IV section champ Modesto Christian traveling to Oakdale, Sutter High of the North Section jaunting to Bethel of Vallejo and Foothill of Palo Cedro and the North Section playing at Dixon. Colfax will follow its Aug. 27 opener with El Camino by playing Durham at the Sept. 3 at “Showdown at the Capital” at Del Oro and then follow with a game Sept. 10 at Union Mine. The Falcons will then take their “bye” on Sept. 17 in what is Week 3. Colfax then resumes its slate on Sept. 24 by hosting Davis. “I like where our bye is,” said Martello. “Basically it’s a month after our first scrimmage. After the bye we have another practice game and then league.”