Central Catholic football coach Roger Canepa ponders what might have been after a 20-17 loss to Del Oro in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champinsip game at Sacramento State on Dec. 1, 2018 (Front Row Preps/Joe Cortez)

Del Oro stripped of Division II football title ... is Central Catholic the champ?

Joe Cortez

The Del Oro High School football team used an ineligible junior varsity player during the the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II football playoffs and will be forced to vacate the title it won on the field, 20-17, over Central Catholic on Dec. 1 at Sacramento State.

For historical purposes, there will be no Division II champion for the 2018 fall season in the section record book.

“Central Catholic is not the D-II champ,” said assistant section commissioner Will DeBoard. “They will be listed as the runner-up and the champion will remain vacant.”

But Raiders coach Roger Canepa questions why the title is being vacated and not given to Central Catholic.

“I don’t know what happened here,” said Canepa. “They won the game, I was there. They won, I know that. But I don’t understand how you play somebody, they forfeit, and you’re not declared the winner.”

Basically, the heart of Canepa’s argument sounds like something from the Watergate caper, come 45 years ago: What did Del Oro know and when did they know it?

Jesuit (Carmichael) had to forfeit to Del Oro in the semifinals, also for using an ineligible JV player. The parochial power self-reported the infraction to the section office, but was told it would have to forfeit its upcoming game against Del Oro, giving the Golden Eagles a free pass into the final against the Raiders.

Del Oro used the ineligible player in its first playoff game, a 36-7 win over Tracy, on Nov. 9. 

If Del Oro knew it had committed a violation before the game against Central Catholic, then — like the Jesuit case — the infraction should have been reported and Del Oro should have been forced to forfeit, Canepa reasoned.

But according to DeBoard, it's not that simple. Jesuit had played two games with the ineligible player, while Del Oro played just one. In any event, had Del Oro self-reported before Dec. 1, Tracy would've been been awarded a victory over Del Oro and a date with Central Catholic in the final.

Section rules stipulate that when a player transfers into another school, that player must sit out for 50 percent of the varsity season … or that player can play 100 percent of the junior varsity season but be ineligible for any varsity postseason call-up duties.

Del Oro went on to beat St. Francis 14-13 in the CIF Northern California regional before losing Grace Brethren (Simi Valley) 21-14 in the CIF state bowl game.