When looking at success on the football field over the past six years, it’s evident that those Elk Grove Unified School District teams who have had the best records during that period of time are the ones who have an artificial turf stadium on their campus where they practice virtually every day after school.
And, it’s evident that those without a stadium, who practice on grass (or in the case of this year’s drought, what’s left of the grass) and only see artificial turf when it’s game time are the ones who do the most poorly in the won/loss columns.
Even though all EGUSD football teams play games at school district stadiums which have artificial turf, installed by the Mondo Corporation during the spring and summer of 2009, a look at the winning percentage of those who still practice on grass at their school sites versus those who have a turf field either at or next to their campus on which to practice is a stark contrast of those with and those without.
In the six seasons since the new turf was put in the local stadiums, plus the first eight weeks of the 2015 schedule, the teams who have a stadium or facility with artificial turf at or next to their site, like Franklin High School, have a .621 winning percentage (115-70) in their home games.
Those who don’t are 62-91 (.405 winning percentage) in home games played during that same time span.
“We practice on rock hard dirt,” Laguna Creek head coach Dave Morton remarked recently when asked about the practice facility behind his high school. “The drought has really cut back on watering and there isn’t much grass.”
The other issue Morton and his counterparts at Valley, Florin and Pleasant Grove high schools must deal with is the height of the grass they do have, plus the need to keep the fields lined for practice purposes.
“They cut the grass at three-and-a half inches and cleats don’t work with grass that tall,” Morton said. “That becomes a safety issue.”
|Valley's team practicing on a chewed up field while most EGUSD||clubs are on artificial turf|
He says he and his assistants come out on their own time to cut the grass closer and they also line the fields themselves.
Of those four schools, though, Pleasant Grove has done relatively well traveling two miles to the north and playing home football games at Sheldon High School.
Since turf was installed at Sheldon/Pleasant Grove Community Stadium, the Eagles were an EGUSD-best 31-3 at home from 2009 through 2013 under coach Joe Cattolico. They have dropped to a 3-6 since Cattolico’s departure.
Cattolico says despite his team’s excellent home record, not having the football stadium on campus or an artificial turf facility on which to practice on site was still a challenge.
“It’s difficult to practice on a different surface than one you play on,” Cattolico said. “Footballs, as we know, do interesting things. It’s different recovering fumbles and fielding kickoffs. Plus, it’s a different bounce on a turf field as opposed to a grass field. Significantly different.”
Cattolico likens it to a basketball team practicing on blacktop outside, then playing indoors on a wooden court.
“With grass you’re going to wear it down after 15 minutes on it,” he continued. “When it rains, you’re practicing on mud where with a turf field, it’s not near as bad.”
Morton says unless each high school gets the same or similar facilities as the other schools in the district, things won’t be getting better for the schools suffering on the gridiron.
“With open enrollment and you’re an incoming ninth grader are you going to play at a school that practices in a pasture, isn’t winning many games and doesn’t have a stadium?” he asked. “No, you’re going to a school that’s winning games and has a field.”
This issue isn’t just with football.
When the EGUSD stadiums at Elk Grove, Monterey Trail, Cosumnes Oaks and Sheldon were renovated a state-of-the art track surface was installed, too.
Since 2009, the track and field programs at those four schools have really been elevated. Cosumnes Oaks’ girls has won four consecutive Division IV championships. Monterey Trail’s girls won the Section’s Division I championship in 2012.
Individually, Sheldon’s Tavon Johnson won the D-I championship in the 200 meters in 2014. Monterey Trail’s Evan Favors took the Division I championship in the 400 meters in 2010. Teammate Delvonte Johnson took the Masters’ championship in the same event the next year.
Sheldon’s Cameron Stone won both the D-I and the Masters’ championships in the 400 meters in 2014.
In 2011, Elk Grove’s Nick Martinez won both the D-I and Masters’ title in the 110 meter and the 300 meter hurdles.
|Elk Grove H.S. is now a regular site for the SJS Masters meet because of the Mondo track surface|
In the 4x400 meter relay, Sheldon’s boys has won the last two Masters championships in the event. Cosumnes Oaks’ boys won the Div IV championship in that event, too.
There were plenty of outstanding girls on the tracks at those school, too, the past few years.
Esther Higgwe won the Division I and Masters title for Monterey Trail in the 100 meters in 2012. Natsumi Mcgee took the Division IV championship the next year in the same event.
Higgwe also won the Division I 200 meter championship in 2012 while teammate A’jah Love took the Masters title later that season. Love also took the 400 meters in 2012.
The Monterey Trail 4x100 meter relay squad took championships in 2012, too.
Jasmine Smith of Elk Grove won the 400 meter championship at last year’s Masters meet.
Of the five schools without a Mondo track, the only two local track and field athletes went on to win a Section or divisional title. One was Laguna Creek’s Deondre Batson, the 100 meter champion in both meets in 2009. Their 4x100 meter relay team won at the Masters’, too, with Batson running the anchor leg.
Batson went on to win 200 meters in 2014 at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships running for the University of Alabama.
In the girls’ events, Pleasant Grove’s Kashae Knox won the Division I championship in the 100 meters in both 2009 and 2010. She also was first in the 200 meters at the Masters meet in 2009 and won the Division I championship in 2010.
Despite the lack of a track surface on campus, Franklin’s girls, who practice on the dirt at their school, have won both the Division I and the Masters’ championships in the 4x100 meters in 2013 and 2014.