The Sac-Joaquin Section is the second largest of the 10 in California, so imagine the number of athletes and coaches to ponder for a Hall of Fame.
Behind the tireless efforts of assistant commissioner Will DeBoard, the section boiled down a list of 12 inductees into its hall, which inducts “the best and brightest athletes, coaches, administrators, officials and media members to ever grace a field within the Central Valley.”
The ceremony is Oct. 21 at the Hyatt Regency in Sacramento and will honor those who went on to win national championships, earn Pro Bowl honors and compete for World Series championship teams.
Lance Briggs, Elk Grove football — The Bee’s Player of the Year in 1998 as the focal point for one of the section’s greatest teams, Briggs was a running back and linebacker for Elk Grove’s 14-0 juggernaut. He earned three All-Pro honors and was named to seven Pro Bowls with the Chicago Bears.
J.P. Howell, Jesuit baseball — The Bee’s Player of the Year in 2001, Howell went 10-0 as a senior in 2001 with an 0.09 ERA. He set section strikeout records in the playoffs and powered the Marauders to a Division I section title. He went 25-4 in two seasons at Texas and played for four teams in the major leagues.
Chaniqua Ross, Laguna Creek track and field — Ross won section titles in the shot put and discus four times, the only person in section history to do so. She twice won state crowns in the discus (1996 and ‘97), then excelled at UCLA, winning an NCAA championship in the discus in 2002.
John Vuckovich, Amador football, basketball, baseball — The late Vuckovich is the most storied athlete to come out of the school, dominating in three sports in the early 1960s, earning Cal-Hi Sports honors. He played 12 years in the major leagues, winning World Series rings with the 1975 Cincinnati Reds and 1980 Philadelphia Phillies.
Joe Debely, Turlock football — The late Debely coached football from the 1930s to early ’50s, including 10-0 teams in 1948 and ’49. He also came up with the name “Sac-Joaquin” in the section’s formative years.
Ron Pucci, Colfax basketball — Over three stints, Pucci coached the Falcons for 19 years, winning 371 games, seven league and three section titles, all while doing so with class and dignity.
Mark Speckman, Livingston/Merced/Golden Valley football — The powerfully inspirational Speckman, who was born without hands, led some of the section’s greatest teams while at Merced from 1986-93 and his 1990 team finishing state-ranked No. 1 by Cal-Hi Sports. He is now coaching at UC Davis.
The two officials to be inducted are Monty Muller, a star wrestler at since-closed La Sierra High who worked 18 state championships, and the late Dennis Wallace, who officiated football for 25 years. A Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputy, he was killed in the line of duty in 2016.
The media member is Mike Ray, the Colfax Athlete of the Year in 1968-69 who has been sports editor at the Colfax Record since 1970 (with a four-year break while at the Grass Valley Union) and has chronicled some of the best small-school athletes and teams in section history.
The administrators and benefactors are Rich Cathcart, who was a coach and athletic director at Bret Harte, leading title teams in basketball and golf; and John Williams, the section’s first assistant commissioner in playing a paramount role in developing the current playoff formats in addition to remarkable work for the section’s history and record books.
Football showdowns — Top-ranked Folsom plays at Cal-Hi Sports state-ranked Chaminade of West Hills on Friday.
Chaminade is 2-1 with state-championship pedigree. Folsom also has pedigree with three CIF State crowns this decade.
This marks Folsom’s third monstrous outing against state-ranked competition this season. It started with a 14-0 loss at national power De La Salle, then continued with a 51-14 rout of Jesuit.
▪ Cosumnes Oaks plays at No. 6 Monterey Trail in a matchup of elite playmakers.
Jacob Trach of Cosumnes Oaks is coming off of a school-record 384-yard, six-touchdown effort against River City.
Monterey Trail is led by quarterback/defensive back Zach Larrier, one of the state’s fastest players, and running back Jehiel Budgett, who has rushed for 392 yards and seven touchdowns during a 3-0 start.
▪ Saturday’s Holy Bowl at Hughes Stadium expects to draw another crowd in excess of 15,000 when Jesuit plays Christian Brothers. This remains one of the section’s most spirited rivalries, right on into the stands where student rooting sections are also worth a peek.
The Bee’s Top 20
With last week’s ranking in parentheses.
1. Folsom (1) 2-1
2. Oak Ridge (2) 3-0
3. Del Oro (3) 3-0
4. Placer (4) 3-0
5. Inderkum (5) 3-0
6. Monterey Trail (6) 3-0
7. Capital Christian (8) 3-0
8. Granite Bay (12) 1-2
9. Jesuit (7) 0-2
10. Antelope (10) 2-1
11. Rocklin (11) 1-2
12. Sheldon (13) 2-1
13. River Valley (14) 3-0
14. Bear River (17) 3-0
15. Grant (9) 1-2
16. Elk Grove (15) 0-2
17. Casa Roble (19) 3-0
18. Lincoln (20) 1-1
19. Christian Brothers (16) 2-1
20. Ponderosa (-) 3-0
Dropped out — Sacramento
Bubble teams (in alphabetical order) — Bradshaw Christian (2-0), Center (3-0), Colfax (2-0), Cosumnes Oaks (2-1), Foothill (2-0), Oakmont (2-1), Rio Linda (2-1), Rosemont (3-0), Roseville (2-1), Vista del Lago (1-2), Winters (2-0), Woodcreek (3-0), Yuba City (2-1).
This week’s schedule
All kickoffs start between 7-7:30 p.m. Friday, unless noted.
No. 1 Folsom at Chaminade
Sacramento at No. 3 Del Oro
Vista del Lago at No. 4 Placer
Cosumnes Oaks at No. 6 Monterey Trail
No. 10 Antelope at No. 7 Capital Christian
Vacaville at No. 8 Granite Bay
No. 9 Jesuit vs. No. 19 Christian Brothers at Hughes Stadium, 7 p.m. Saturday
No. 11 Rocklin at Liberty
Turlock at No. 12 Sheldon
No. 14 Bear River at Liberty Ranch
No. 15 Grant at Franklin
Shasta at No. 16 Elk Grove
No. 20 Ponderosa at No. 17 Casa Roble
Whitney at No. 18 Lincoln
Byes: No. 2 Oak Ridge, No. 5 Inderkum, No. 13 River Valley
Amador at Union Mine
Burbank at Del Campo
Center at El Camino
Chico at Yuba City
Colfax at Colusa
East Nicolaus at Bradshaw Christian
Cordova at Rosemont
Delta at San Juan
Davis at Pioneer
Foresthill at Vacaville Christian
Dixon at Armijo
Las Plumas at Lindhurst
Kennedy at Bear Creek
Natomas at Foothill
River City at Escalon
Pleasant Grove at Woodcreek
Roseville at Rio Linda
Western Sierra vs. Esparto at Mahaney Park
Mesa Verde at Encina, 11 a.m. Saturday
Valley Christian vs. Turlock Christian, 7 p.m. Saturday