You can accuse Franklin High School football of many things this fall, but boring?
Not a chance.
The Yellowjackets of Stockton, and particularly coach Tom Verner, are chin-strap deep in controversy, all well chronicled in The Bee in recent weeks. Undue influence, illegal recruiting, cries of racism, finger pointing.
As it stands now, early Friday afternoon, Franklin is in deep trouble but still putting up a whale of a fight. The Sac-Joaquin Section levied serious sanctions on the program: 19 forfeited victories over recent seasons, including five this season entering tonight's action against Chavez. There's also a 5-year playoff ban.
But Verner can't stand to lose in anything. He's hired a lawyer to fight the accusations laid forth by the section, never mind the mountain of overwhelming evidence. He's promised to shell out any number of dollars - his own - to soldier on. He wants due process, his day in court.
Now the next whopper: And as of this afternoon, Verner plans to play the three players on his roster that were deemed ineligible, the three seniors from America Samoa. That's an unprecedented move - anywhere, any era.
"I don't think anyone in the country has ever thumbed their nose at the governing body of high school sports like that," said Mark Tennis of Cal-Hi Sports, a prep guru of sorts for more than 30 years. "Knowingly sending your players out there is a violation, too. It's hard to believe. I would hope at some point, someone says, 'Stop. What's the point?"'
Tennis said Franklin, if it continues to push the envelope, could "get kicked out of the CIF - the entire school."
"There are expulsion rules, too, where the CIF says, 'You are no longer a member,"' Tennis said. "I don't know how far Franklin is willing to take it. They've decided to take on the CIF. It's crazy."
- Joe Davidson