In November 2014, the Elliot Christian High varsity football team played fellow Central California Athletic Alliance foe Brookside Christian for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII title at the Grape Bowl.
Now almost two years later, Elliot won’t be fielding a team.
According to Jason Hitt, Elliot’s athletic director, only seven players signed up when the school put out a sign-up list earlier this year. The players who signed up are returning from last season’s squad, Hitt noted.
It’s the second year that Elliot has been in this position. Last spring, Hitt declared to the CCAA athletic directors that his school would not field a varsity football team. The league includes Big Valley Christian, Brookside Christian, Millennium, Sierra Ridge/Rite of Passage, Stone Ridge Christian, Turlock Christian and Venture Academy. Elliot and Venture are the only CCAA schools not fielding a varsity football team this season.
When Elliot starts the 2016-17 school year on Aug. 1, Hitt said another sign-up attempt would be offered. But if Elliot has enough signs-ups — Hitt has a target number of 15 or greater — they would field a junior varsity football team that would play an independent schedule.
“I’m not going to put a group of guys on the field to get manhandled; it’s just not a good situation,” Hitt said. “We would love to have a football team. But to field a decent one, you need about 20 guys.”
Elliot, which according to the section’s Website had an enrollment of 139 students last year, fielded a squad of freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors that posted an 0-4 record in non-league games; three in October and the last one in early November. After Delta posted a 42-0 win, Elliot displayed plenty of offense in losses to Esparto (70-26), Valley Christian of Roseville (40-26) and the season finale to Sierra Ridge/Rite of Passage, 52-36.
“It’s a numbers game,” Hitt said. “I would love to have a football team.”
Tom Spadafore, who was Elliot’s principal until the end of this past school year, was the Eagles’ football coach last season. Hitt would have a new Eagles coach would be in place if the school fields a JV squad this fall.
“I know three or four who would coach right now,” Hitt said.
Should one or some of the seven Eagle football players who signed up earlier this year want to play football this upcoming season, and are upperclassmen, they could transfer to a public high school without consequences and without going through the section’s 30-day sit out period.
Last year, Kade Piazza, who played on the 2014 Elliot Christian football squad, transferred to Lodi High at the start of the 2015-16 school year after Elliot originally announced it wouldn’t field a varsity football team. He contributed at running back and defensive line on the Flames’ squad. Piazza graduated from Lodi High last month, and was one of the North players who competed in the annual Lions All-Star Football Game at Tracy High.
This fall sports season, Elliot will field volleyball and boys/girls cross-country teams, Hitt said.
This winter, he hopes to field boys and girls basketball teams. Two years ago, the section voted to move boys and girls soccer to the winter season. In years past, the boys have played in the fall and girls in the winter. The move is geared toward the California Interscholastic Federation to conducting state championships for both genders in upcoming years.
If there isn’t enough boys and girls signed up to field separate squads, Hitt said the school plans to field a co-ed squad. He noted some of the CCAA schools are planning to field co-ed soccer teams this winter.
Three of the four area prep football teams will kick off the season on Aug. 26, all non-league games. Tokay will host Heritage of Brentwood at the Grape Bowl; Liberty Ranch entertains River City of West Sacramento at Warrior Stadium and Galt plays at Kennedy of Richmond.
Lodi will start its season, also a non-league contest, at Sonora on Sept. 2. Lodi, like Tokay, Liberty Ranch and Galt, play five non-league games each before the start of league play in early October.
Lodi Academy, which has a smaller enrollment than Elliot at 88 students, does not field a football program.
Contact reporter Mike Bush at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.