This fall sports season made for an historic one full of highlights and championships in a variety of girls and boys sports. From the Tokay-Lodi water polo matches under the lights to the grand reopening of the Grape Bowl to the passing of a legendary coaching icon, this fall will be one to remember.
Here are the five picks as the Richies most memorable moments this fall:
Grand reopening of the Grape Bowl — After all the delays, blame game and fingerpointing, everything was almost instantly forgotten when the 1940’s-era stadium reopened on Nov. 17 when it played host to the first high school football game when the Lodi Flames beat McNair 48-16 in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs before an estimated 3,000 fans. With its gorgeous all-weather FieldTurf, poured concrete ramps and modern lighting, the reborn Grape Bowl will be the new crown jewel of the city’s sports facilities when construction is complete.
2010 Lodi High football team — This team went farther into the playoffs than any other Flames football team ever did except for one and this team did it the hard way by playing all but one of its games on the road while the Grape Bowl was under construction. Lodi head coach Todd Dillon, this season’s San Joaquin Athletic Association Coach of the Year, guided the team to a 9-4 record, a second-place finish in the SJAA and a pair of playoff wins before losing in the semifinals to top-seeded Pleasant Grove.
Lodi-Tokay water polo matches under the lights — Sparked by an idea from the Tokay Aquatics Boosters Club, an estimated 500 people attended a match at the Tokay pool under the glare of portable lights on Sept. 22 to watch the Lodi Flames sweep the Tokay Tigers in the boys and girls varsity matches. It was the first time in over a decade or so that the matches were played at night in hopes of raising community awareness of prep water polo and by all accounts, a major success.
The Grape Bowl Trophy rediscovered — Lodi Football Boosters Club member Bob Tigert helped spearhead the effort to restore the trophy, which had languished in a corner of the Flames football weight room for 26 years. The two-foot tall trophy with a wooden base adorned with red and purple tin plates on which sits a metal bowl showcasing a football player in a Heisman Trophy-like pose, is awarded annually to the winner of the Lodi-Tokay football game, a tradition that last happened in 1984.
Don Womble — The long-time cross country and track and field coach was a beloved fixture in the Lodi sports community for nearly 60 years. Womble, who passed away from leukemia at age 84 on Nov. 23, was adored and revered by athletes, students, parents, coaches and administrators alike. Naming the track and field grounds Womble Field at Lodi High is a great idea as well as an annual Don Womble Cross Country Classic at Lodi Lake.
The common bond that unites all of these picks is a sense of family, school, individual and community involvement throughout the season. And for that, a special “Richie” award goes out to the area’s citizens for their support of our local prep athletic programs all year.
This was evident in the attendance at those “home” football games on the road, at the water-polo matches under the lights, at the grand reopening of the renovated Grape Bowl and even the Flames football section playoff semifinal loss to Pleasant Grove at Elk Grove in which Lodi fans easily outnumbered the Eagles fans.
All of these are shining examples of our local community coming together in the best and worst of times. Thanks for your support and we look for more of the same from now into the New Year.
Contact reporter Richard Banas II at firstname.lastname@example.org.