From the high school gridiron to local recreation ball fields, Benicia has plenty of sports activities for players and spectators alike during fall.
After a month’s practice, Benicia High School’s Panther football season opened Aug. 30, says Craig Holden, the athletic director and varsity football coach for 19 years. The Panthers have accumulated a strong record, making the playoffs annually for 15 years and winning three league championships in five years. “We’ve been relatively successful,” Holden says, “We should have a good group this year.” Before training started, Holden completed safety classes designed to reduce player injuries, especially concussions. Unfortunately, injuries happen in sports. Holden’s players wear $450 helmets and protective padding. They’re trained in the safer “heads-up” tackling. Referees penalize hard hits and unsafe techniques. Scrimmaging times are reduced, and students spend just 45 minutes a week in full contact practice. “There’s a huge change – a much needed change – in trying to make the sport safer,” Holden says. Education and training for both players and coaches make those changes work, he said. Holden is certified in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, concussion prevention training and national-level heads-up tackling training.
Panther football is popular with spectators, drawing about 3,000. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for students. Junior varsity games start at 5 p.m. and varsity games start at 7:30 p.m. Fridays at the school, 1101 Military West.
Want to play, not sit?
Benicia Parks and Community Services’ new “Mini, Modified Softball League” lets adults finish fall on a fun note, says Recreation Supervisor, Wendy Stratton Monahan. Open to adults 18 and older and out of high school, these games last five innings or 40 minutes. Play can go fast. Each player gets three pitches. If no fair ball is hit, the batter is out. No more than five runs can be scored each inning, except for the final one. Registration, due Oct. 16, is $225 per team, plus $15 more for nonresidents. Teams may register online at https://www.ci.benicia.ca.us/pcs or in person at the department’s building, 370 East L St. Recreation Supervisor, Wendy Stratton Monahan, can be reached at 707-746-4306. The men’s season is Oct. 23 to Nov. 13, and the coed teams play Oct. 25 to Nov. 15. Games are played either at Benicia Community Park, 540 Rose Drive, or Benicia Middle School, 1100 Southampton Road. Admission is free.
In its 13th season, Benicia Bocce League playoffs run from Sept. 4 though Sept. 15 at the courts at 151 East K. St., with weekday games starting at 6 p.m. President, Matt DeClaire said the league started in 2007 with just 16 teams, and it’s grown to 63 teams and 627 players. A lot of that expansion happened after the league and the city worked in 2017 to add two new playing courts. “We’re now at capacity again, and we had to turn away some interest during this year’s registration,” DeClaire says. “So, we’re working to find ways to accommodate more players.”
– Men’s full length softball games start at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through Oct. 9. Coed fall softball games, that start at 6:30 p.m. Fridays, through Oct. 11, are at either Benicia Community Park or Benicia Middle School.
– Registration is available for two-person, coed indoor volleyball. Game times are at 6:45 p.m., 7:45 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Mondays, starting Nov. 18 at the City Gym, 180 East L St.