Galt forfeits home opener

Published: Saturday, Sep. 1, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6C

Galt High School forfeited Friday night's home opener against Argonaut – a first since Galt started playing football in 1924 – because of low player numbers and safety concerns.

The Warriors are down to 13 healthy players after a rash of injuries sustained in a 38-7 opening-night loss last week to Orestimba and during practice this week.

In consulting with the school administration, Warriors first-year coach J.J. Woodward begrudgingly agreed to sacrifice a game to regroup and heal for a Sept. 7 nonleague contest at Amador.

The 30-man Galt junior varsity played Argonaut on Friday. Galt administrators and coaches didn't want to thin the junior varsity roster to fill the varsity's need out of concern that some 15-year-olds may not be ready for a jump in competition.

At Galt, where the community has supported the football program for decades, the forfeiture was a blow on many layers, including a loss of thousands of dollars in gate receipts and concession sales that are vital for any high school's athletic programs.

Woodward played high school sports in Half Moon Bay, a community big on athletics, 20 years ago.

He said community support attracted him to Galt after recent coaching seasons in Stockton.

"Football matters here, big time – people can't wait for Friday nights," Woodward said. "Not playing a game hurts a lot of people, but at the same time, we have to be smart about this. We'll be back. We have a good group that won't fold."

Programs hindered by small rosters is a growing concern around the state.

Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Pete Saco said last week that he fears varsity programs will fold in "deciding that the fight just isn't worth it anymore."

Also Friday, Skyline of Oakland, coming off a 7-4 season, forfeited its game at Acalanes in Lafayette because of insufficient numbers.

The Galt forfeit also brings up a brewing debate as to whether a second high school should have opened in a town where housing growth has stalled.

Nearby Liberty Ranch, coming off a 9-4 playoff season with its first senior class, has 1,300 students with 39 varsity football players and 71 on the JV. Galt's enrollment has dipped to 985 this academic year.

The Warriors last fielded a winning team in 2005 under famed coach Erv Hatzenbuhler, in his second tour back with the program after success in the 1970s and '80s. Galt has gone 16-45 since.

Liberty Ranch and Galt share the latter's stadium, and the programs aspire for a decades-long rivalry.

"I feel for Galt and for any program low in numbers," Liberty Ranch coach Bryan Golder said. "Galt has lost a lot of students, and some are coming to Liberty Ranch, not just athletes.

"It happens when new schools open, and it can make it hard on the old school."

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