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East Union

The BulleTin-Thursday, August 19, 2021


QB competition adds twist to new coach’s installation of offense AT A GLANCE EAST UNION LANCERS uHead coach: Mike Kuhnlenz (first year) uStaff: Nick Ortiz (DC), Barry Keith (OL/DL), Corey Norwood (RB/S), Dakota Anderson (WR), Louis Smith (CB), Don Duenas (LB), Mike Barber (JV head coach), Ted Anderson (JV assistant), Curtiss May (JV assistant), Trinidad Diaz (JV assistant), Eleazar Salcedo (JV assistant), Jake Serrato (freshman head coach), Dylan Afoa (frosh assistant). uKEY RETURNERS: QB/ FS Luke Weaver (12), Dylan Lee QB/LB (11), OL/LB Zane Salgado (12). uKEY NEWCOMERS: RB/LB Davis Flores (11), TE/LB Nickolas Luna (11), WR/DB Jacob Toste (12). By JONAMAR JACINTO The Bulletin

East Union coach Mike Kuhnlenz should have a starting quarterback named by now — the 2021 season is about to kick off, after all. He was hoping to have this settled a week ago, but Dylan Lee and Luke Weaver have made it difficult for their new coach. Kuhnlenz did make it clear at the start that he wasn’t going to base his evaluation of returning personnel on stats and game film from last season, so every spot on the field has been up for grabs. “It pushes both of us to be better, and if we push each other it just makes the team better as a whole,” Weaver said. He’s the incumbent senior starter who shined in the spring under the previous regime’s hybrid Wing-T, completing 44 of 66 passes (69.7%) for 681 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. It’s a good problem to have for a young head coach looking to re-establish himself as an up-and-comer in the area. Just hours before the coronavirus-shortened spring season opened last March, Tracy Unified School District decided not to renew its contract with Kuhnlenz, who was then head coach for Kimball High. The Jaguars went into Kuhnlenz’s third season armed with one of the most exciting offenses in the region and finished 3-2, averaging 39.2 points while going toe-to-toe in losses to Valley Oak League heavyweight Manteca and Hughson of the Trans-Valley League. He’d love to replicate that type of production with East Union right away but realizes it will take some time. “We haven’t installed everything yet and I don’t think we will by Week 1,” Kuhnlenz said. “It’s going to be a process going from a runbased offense to a pass-based offense. As each week goes, we’ll just build on top of what we’re doing. There has


East Union quarterback Luke Weaver throws a screen pass during a drill.


Johntae Maggard works on his moves with running backs coach Corey Norwood.



Julien Ortega reaches for the ball while defended by Marques Callahan.

definitely been some growing pains, but we’re working extremely hard.” Lee has been on board with the changes so far, even if his positon in the offense had been undecided up until this point. If Weaver wins the starting spot behind center, Lee is likely to return to a receiver spot where he played in his varsity debut as a sophomore last spring. “The offense, I think, fits our team very well,” Lee said. “We’re picking it up, we just have to make sure we continue to work hard and try and get better each day. I think

the transition is going well. I like the way (Kuhnlenz) runs practices. He’s a great coach who pushes us to the limit and expects great things for us. All of our coaches put in extra time and put us in the right spots.” Kuhnlenz said both players are going to play defense — Lee at linebacker, Weaver at free safety — regardless of who is QB1. Weaver is experienced, a refined passer and has the ideal size at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds. Lee, a basketball standout who has started on the varsity team since his freshman year, also has a big

arm and isn’t exactly small at 6-1, but he offers more as a playmaker on the run. What they do have in common is between the ears. Kuhnlenz lauds their football IQ and adaptability, so they are too valuable to keep off the field. On top of learning a new offense, Weaver is also getting back into the groove defensively. “I haven’t played much defense in a while, but it has been fun,” Weaver said. “It’s been good so far. Obviously, change takes time but we’re working to make it as smooth as possible. Every day is a

Aug. 20 at Ripon Aug. 27 vs. Windsor Sept. 3 vs. McNair Sept. 10 vs. Atwater Sept. 17 at Oakdale Sept. 24 vs. Sierra Oct. 1 at Manteca Oct. 8 BYE Oct. 15 at W. Ranch Oct. 22 vs. C. Catholic Oct. 29 vs. Kimball learning experience.” One of the few players on the team to have a starting spot locked up is a bit of a surprise — first-year senior receiver Jacob Toste, one of the school’s top baseball players. Kuhnlenz said he has stood out with his route running, pass catching and downfield blocking. Returning leading rusher Johntae Maggard (451 yards, 8.4 per carry, six TDs) is trying to hold off David Flores for running back spot. Linebacker Zane Salgado, lineman Xavier Mendez and cornerback Kainoa Ontai are among

the leaders for defensive coordinator Nick Ortiz’s unit. The Lancers were competitive in the spring, finishing 2-2 with blowout wins over Ripon and Weston Ranch and singledigit losses to Kimball and Oakdale. They didn’t get to play their season finale against Manteca because of COVID19 health and safety protocols. With an expected full season ahead, East Union is hoping this is the start of a new trend for football at the school. The Lancers have not won a Valley Oak League title since 1989 and made three postseason appearances in the past 27 years. “You look just in this city, and the other two schools (Manteca, Sierra) both won section championships the last year we had a regular season,” Kuhnlenz said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it’s going to take some time, but if we keep building and working one day at a time eventually the pieces will fall into place. What better league to see if you can make it happen than in the VOL?”

“Running a football team is not different from running any other kind of organization - an army, a political party, a business. The principles are the same, the object is to win - to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately so is losing. Remember, a student athlete is not a right - it’s a privilege. You have the honor to represent your school, your community, your family and yourself.”

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The BulleTin-Thursday, August 19, 2021



Manteca reloads for another shot at state berth after promising spring By JONAMAR JACINTO The Bulletin

For a team that returned just one starting player from the 2019 Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship team, fourth-year head coach Mark Varnum thought Manteca’s pandemic-shortened spring season was a resounding success. His young and unproven Buffaloes, including three two-way sophomores and incoming transfers at key positions, were tested weekly en route to a 4-1 finish culminating in a 34-14 loss to Oakland juggernaut McClymonds. “The whole (spring) was about finding a way to take the next step, and we feel real good about the experience and talent coming back,” Varnum said. “It was better for us to have to battle back and come from behind for three of our wins, and finishing the year with a team like McClymonds — you learn more from those types of games than from blowouts and runaways. The way the spring season set up, we showed a lot of character and showed that they know how to fight. Hopefully, we can take it to the next level.” Seven starters return on offense and eight on defense. Lyon Colon is expected once again to be impactful on both sides of scrimmage. Coming from Central Catholic, the 5-foot-8, 165-pound running back/cornerback flashed his game-breaking ability in the spring and led the Buffs with 726 rushing yards (9.9 per carry) and 11 touchdowns. “I can’t wait to see what he can do in a full season,” Varnum said. “He’s one of the most explosive athletes we’ve had on campus. With a full summer to get ready and a full slate of games, the sky is the limit for that kid. The thing about us is it’s not just him, we have a lot of weapons that will make us tough do defend.” Manteca has enough talent to make up for the loss of Khalid Robinson, the team’s second-leading rusher who has transferred to James Logan in Union City. Other two-way standouts such as second-year juniors Alijah Cota and Blake Nichelson are fit to break out along with receivers Trey Moreland and Zion Allen, the Valley Oak League’s reigning track and field champion in the sprint events.

SCHEDULE Aug. 20 vs. Downey Aug. 27 vs. Patterson Sept. 3 vs. Cosumnes Oaks Sept. 10 at Turlock Sept. 17 at Sierra Sept. 24 BYE Oct. 1 vs. East Union Oct. 8 vs. W. Ranch Oct. 15 at C. Catholic Oct. 22 vs. Kimball Oct. 29 at Oakdale

AT A GLANCE MANTECA BUFFALOES uHead coach: Mark Varnum (fourth year) uStaff: Rick James (DC), Brian Rohles (OC), Dan Eavenson (OL), Ken Menasco (DL), Jason Dukes (QB), Paul Camara (DB), Daniel Johnson (LB/ RB), Roman Penerian (WR/DB), Joe Eavenson (OL), Todd Feliz (QC) (quality control. uKEY RETURNERS: RB/ DB Lyon Colon (12), S/ WR Trey Moreland (12), FB/LB Alijah Cota (11), WR/OLB Blake Nicholsen (11), OL/DL Jose Rios (12), OL/DL Justin Beglau (12). uKEY NEWCOMERS: QB Hudson Wyatt (11), DB/ WR James Dennis (11), LB/FB Tommy Perea (10), QB/TE Garrison Reis (10). At 6-3, 240 pounds, Cota is bigger than most linemen his age but has played out of the backfield as a fullback. This season, he’ll also be used at tight end. “We have a good offense that can run the ball or pass the ball,” Cota said. “There’s really nothing we can’t do. Coach (offensive coordinator Brian) Rohles has a good scheme for us.” With a large and experience offensive line, the pieces are in place for the Buffs to run their plowing Power-I. Seniors Justin Beglau (6-2, 275) and Jose Rios (6-0, 245) are paving the way along with junior Dylan Gulseth (6-2, 290), Jordan Dorsey (6-2, 320) and center Robert LeRoy (5-6, 190). “We have some big boys, and they understand that we go as far as the line takes us,” Varnum said. “This group in particular has a chance to be real, real special.” Manteca will be able to chuck it around the field, too. Junior quarterback Hudson Wyatt has transferred in from Downey where he split time behind center in the spring. His ability to deliver deep balls from the pocket unlocks another dimension to Man-


Lyon Colon seeks out the a ball carrier during a tackling drill.



Manteca linebacker Alijah Cota gets ready to tackle the ball carrier as defensive coordinator Rick James leads the drill.

Quarterback Hudson Wyatt looks to throw under pressure provided by assistant coach Jason Dukes.

teca’s attack. “Hudson being back there is going to help a lot, especially on deep balls,” Nichelson said. “It just overall changes how our team works. That has basically been the missing piece.” As of press time, he had not yet been cleared by the Section to compete for Manteca following his transfer. If Wyatt can’t start for the opener, sophomore Garrison Reis — son of former head coach Eric Reis — will get the nod. Reis (6-1, 220) would oth-

erwise get reps at tight end. “Whoever is behind center, we’ll be ready,” Varnum said. The 6-3, 205-pound Nichelson will get his share of touches with his size and 4.5-second, 40-yard speed, but it’s on defense where he is getting attention from NCAA Division I programs. Rated a three-star linebacker by 247Sports, he earned scholarship offers from Fresno State and Oregon State following strong camp showings over the summer. Overall, the 3-4 front

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has a stout rotation of 300pound linemen with a fearsome linebacking corps headed by Cota, who captains the defense. “We have playmakers all over the defense,” Cota said. “We have a lot of big hitters and our linemen are massive.” If there is a concern for the Buffaloes, it’s that their standouts are going to play almost every snap from scrimmage, as long as they’re healthy. Allen and Moreland are among the iron-man contributors, joining Colon in the ball-

hawking defensive backfield. Avoiding the injury bug will be key as they navigate a challenging schedule that the Buffaloes hope prepare them for a run to an eighth SJS title and an elusive berth to a California Interscholastic Federation State Bowl Game. Manteca is 0-4 in NorCal Regional Bowls. “We have the talent to go to Sections, but we won’t be satisfied with Sections this year,” Cota said. “We want to go all the way to State.”

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The BulleTin-Thursday, August 19, 2021


Underdog T’wolves not discouraged despite inexperience, late start AT A GLANCE SIERRA TIMBERWOLVES uHead coach: Chris Johnson (fifth year) uStaff: Jeff Abrew (OC), Nick Hardenbrook (RB), Loren Johnson (OL), Mike James (DC), Tony Jimenez (ILB), Frankie Vela (OLB), Matt Tate (DB), Willie Juarez (DL). (WR/DL). uKEY RETURNERS: RB/ DB Ryan Torres (12), OL/ DL Christian Moore (12) uTOP NEWCOMERS: QB Tyler Looney (11). By JONAMAR JACINTO The Bulletin

Ryan Torres has a positive outlook on the upcoming season for Sierra, even if some may have their doubts. Long gone are the key contributors to the 2019 SacJoaquin Section Division IV championship, including the school’s all-time leading rusher in Kimoni Stanley. A midseason injury to the explosive running back was deflating for the Timberwolves this past spring, and they finished the pandemicshortened campaign with a 1-4 record. Torres was among the few sophomores two years ago who were called up to the varsity for the SJS title run and is one of the very few fourth-year players within the program. The 2021 team is a relative unknown to the outsider, and Torres is alright with that. “Especially with Kimoni gone, I think people already look down on Sierra,” Torres said. “We might shock some people this year if we just keep practicing the way we are. “For me, it helps (being part of the 2019 postseason team) because I know what it’s going to take to lead us there again. That team had a lot of skilled players but it wasn’t all just because of that. We have skilled players, too, but what they had was they worked hard every day. I always tell my team we don’t have to have all the talent in the world, but if we can work hard and play together we can go places like they did two years ago.” Fifth-year coach Chris Johnson loves the attitude of his players and enjoys coaching them up, but there is a steep learning curve for a team lacking varsity experience. There are only three players returning who started on offense in the spring and two on defense, and players with no prior football experience are expected to get reps. “They are still learning a lot of the basic football skills, but it’s a tough-minded group of kids,” Johnson said. “They are not going to back down. We’re very pleased with what we’ve seen so far under the circumstances we are in.


Sierra quarterback Tyler Looney hands off to Ben Wheeler in an offensive drill.

SCHEDULE Aug. 20 at Hughson Aug. 28 vs. Acalanes Sept. 3 vs. Pacheco Sept. 10 vs. Stagg Sept. 17 vs. Manteca Sept. 24 at East Union Oct. 1 at W. Ranch Oct. 8 vs. Oakdale Oct. 15 at Kimball Oct. 22 BYE Oct. 29 vs. C. Catholic “It’s like I tell the (assistant) coaches, what a great opportunity for us to have a bunch of new kids to really work with from scratch. We have the opportunity to rebuild this thing from the ground up.” What has made things harder for Sierra is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Multiple players have self-reported positive tests in recent weeks, forcing the junior varsity and varsity teams to begin official practices one week later than everyone else in the SJS. One of them is a two-way starter who is missing the zero-week opener at Hughson because he won’t have the minimum required practices to participate in games. “With the setback, I feel like that actually helped us a little bit,” Torres said. “It gave us a sense of urgency


Noel Ruezga carries the ball into the open field in a drill for the defensive backfield.

to work harder and be on top of things more than usual. We have to push harder than other teams because we know they didn’t have to wait a week (to practice).” Torres is an unquestioned team leader on both sides of scrimmage along with Christian Moore. Torres starts at one of the slotback spots in the triple-option flexbone offense and is the free safety on defense. Moore plays on the line with the imposing Sean Brink, a center/defensive lineman who is 6 foot 4, 320 pounds.

Tyler Looney has taken over the quarterback position after getting some varsity experience as a sophomore last spring. Johnson thinks Looney’s size and natural athleticism can make him a weapon from behind center, but the team will always look to its fullback and slots to establish the run game first. “The one thing we do have is size,” Johnson said. “I’m an old school guy and a believer that you have to be able to execute and run the ball in order to set everything else up. In our league (Val-


Defensive coordinator Mike James looks on as Sierra linemen do work on the tackling dummies.

ley Oak League), when you look at the Oakdales, Central Catholics and Mantecas they come at you. Not everyone is going to be able to play their style of football, but this is the VOL and that’s what this league is about. It is really an old school league.” Tyler Nunes, Victor Serna and first-year player Joey Obrochta are other threats from the slots, while Maximus Morales and Ben Wheeler carry the load at fullback. While he appreciates the character of his players, Johnson won’t know what type

of football team he has until after it gets through its four pre-league contests. “It’s a very team-oriented group,” Johnson said. “Watching them on film, they all look same to me. The backfield is all the same cookie-cutter guys and there’s a really good energy around them. They may not have a lot of football experience but they are super coachable, they work real hard and ask good questions. As far as having an identity, we’ll know more about this team in three or four weeks.”




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The BulleTin-Thursday, August 19, 2021


RIPON INDIANS BLAZING THEIR OWN TRAIL Ripon seniors draw inspiration from 2019 state title team


Ripon’s defense works on pursuing the ball carrier in practice. By JONAMAR JACINTO The Bulletin

The remnants of Ripon’s 2019 Division IV-AA state championship team would like to bring back some of the magic that helped those Indians mount their incredible run. There is much work ahead for the likes of Caleb Johnston and Collin Speed, however. They were two key members of that team as sophomores, but this year’s group lacks the experience and camaraderie of its predecessor. “How selfless that team was, and the atmosphere that team brought to Friday nights,” Johnston said when asked what he remembered most fondly about the 2019 squad. “We can sort of bring that to this team, and hopefully we can have the same kind of success we did our sophomore year.” The state champions overcame midseason injuries and lack of depth with their strong core of senior leadership headed by star quarterback Nico Ilardi, who essentially grew up with his classmates on the team on and off the field since their youth. “I really looked up to Nico Ilardi because he took control and was a great leader for that team,” said Dylan DeGraff, Ripon’s current senior QB. He started behind center for the JV team in 2019 and was called up to the varsity late in the season but was sustained a seasonending injury shortly after. “I hope that I can really prove myself,” DeGraff added. “I’m ready for this opportunity to take it and run with it. I want to be a leader for this team. I really want to be that guy and show everyone we came here to play and win as a team.” There just hasn’t been much time for the Indians to develop what the 2019ers had two years ago. In the spring, they had two of their five games cancelled by coronavirus health and safety protocols. The games they did get to play ended in defeat. “We’re young and inexperienced in a sense because of the shortened season last year,” Ripon coach Chris Musseman said. “We do have a lot of kids coming back who

AT A GLANCE RIPON INDIANS uHead coach: Chris Musseman (sixth year). uStaff: Cole Williams (DC), Jorge Velasco (DC), Mike Merchant (OL/ OC), Robert Kissee (RB), Joseph Trout (WR), Brian Wood (DB/WR), Justin Johnson (DL). uKEY RETURNERS: OLB/FB Caleb Johnston (12), OL/DL Colin Speed (12), RB/DB Jack Manning (12), TE/DL Bronson Burrow (12), WR/OLB Nolan Young (12), OL/DL Cesar Castellanos (12), QB/DB Dylan DeGraff (12). uKEY NEWCOMERS: FB/OLB Daniel Espinoza (12), ATH Xavier Clark (10), OL/DL Emiliano Acosta (11), OL/DL Camryn Arriola (11). played varsity football in the spring but it was not a real season.” Musseman sees promise with the projected starters on both sides of scrimmage. The issue is depth, and most starters are playing both ways. And to make things more interesting for Musseman, the majority of players in his 26-man roster are linemen. “The depth in the backfield and skill positions is not good,” Musseman said. “We’re an injury or two away from being in a lot of trouble. It’s tough for us to get through entire games with these guys because almost all of them play (offense and defense), so we’re having to change the way we do things on both sides of the ball to adjust to that.” One of those changes involves Johnston, an offensive guard and inside linebacker two years ago. He has since moved to the backfield to help fill needs at fullback and wing. “Caleb will be put in different spots for different reasons, because he’s such a good football player and we have to get him involved,” Musseman said. Johnston and his burly 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame should help other players coming out of the backfield, including tailback Jack Manning. “Jack could be a special, the problem we have is that he only played part of one game in the spring last


Ethan Day carries the ball through the gauntlet machine.

year and the year before he was a sophomore moved up to varsity and he didn’t get a ton of experience because he was in a backup role behind so many good players,” Musseman said. Manning got hurt in the team’s spring opener against East Union, and illnesses kept him out of the other two contests. Ripon likely won’t by gun shy in the passing game with two tall receivers standing out in the hybrid Wing-T. Second-year player Bronson Burrow, a 6-7, 235-pound tight end, is drawing interest from Division I programs — “You can’t coach 6-7, 235 pounds that can run,” Musseman said — while the more refined Nolan Young (6-4, 185) is flying under the radar. “It’s great throwing to big targets,” DeGraff said. “Bronson, Nolan and I have a great connection and we work every day after practice. That is definitely going to be a strength of ours this year.” How they perform will be contingent on the play up front where the 6-0, 295pound Speed serves as the

SCHEDULE Aug. 20 vs. East Union Aug. 27 at Sonora Sept. 3 at East Nicolaus Sept. 10 vs. Calaveras Sept. 17 at Modesto Ch. Sept. 24 vs. Hilmar Oct. 1 vs. Riverbank Oct. 8 at Livingston Oct. 15 BYE Oct. 22 at Escalon Oct. 29 vs. Hughson anchor. He is flanked by fellow senior Cesar Castellanos and juniors Emiliano Acosta and Camryn Arriola. They, along with Johnston behind them, are also featured in Ripon’s stout 3-3 defensive front. “They’re the keys,” Musseman said. “What happens with them is what happens with us.” The 2021 Indians are ready to establish their own identity. “Everyone knows us as the team that won state two years ago,” DeGraff said. “We want to prove ourselves. We’re ready to face the challenge with great, experienced guys up front. We can set our own path, blaze our own trail and show who we are. We’re ready to compete.”


Ripon head coach Chris Musseman has a discussion with quarterback Dylan DeGraff between plays during an 11-on-11 drill.

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Ripon Christian

The BulleTin-Thursday, August 19, 2021

RIPON CHRISTIAN KNIGHTS KNIGHTS LEARNING ON THE FLY RC ready to unveil new-look attack after skipping spring season By JONAMAR JACINTO The Bulletin

Ripon Christian looks forward to having some semblance of a normal football season, even with sanctions from the SacJoaquin Section hovering over the Knights. Head coach Phil Grams, then in his first year at RC, helped launch a club football league that held a short five-week season in the spring amid the state’s coronavirus lockdown. The school opted not to participate in the California Interscholastic Federation season that soon followed, as its football players — who were joined by a few athletes from others schools — were already committed to the local club team led by Grams. The SJS has since punished four of its member schools for their participation in the club season. As of now, Ripon Christian is ineligible for postseason play in football the next two years and under probation for three. School administration is likely appealing the sanctions, but in the meantime the Knights are preparing for their 2021 opener as they have in years past. “We’re approaching it like any other season, putting in all the work we can,” returning lineman Jay Hoekstra said. “All we can do is let it all work out and let God take care of it. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not a reason to give up.” Grams has had more than a year to acclimate himself to his new surroundings while installing the fly offense. A longtime coach out of the Sacramento area, he won a Section championship as head coach for Capital Christian before moving onto Lawrence University in Wisconsin where he served as offensive coordinator for three years. He said the Knights picked up on the offense quickly — they went 5-0 in the club circuit last spring — and has even added wrinkles with a key addition at quarterback. The fly offense makes use of a speedy receiver in motion who stretches the field horizontally either as a pass-catching threat or ball carrier out of the backfield. “We have a group of smart guys who have been willing to learn this offense, and they are real hard workers,” Grams said. “The level of their football IQ has allowed us to expand on the offense a little bit.” What he has learned about his athletes in the pass year-plus is their

COACHES RIPON CHRISTIAN KNIGHTS uHead coach: Phil Grams (second year) uStaff: Michael Dotinga (JV HC/RB), James Vander Schaaf (DC/ LB), Bill Kamps (OL, ST), Jeff Grondz (DB/WR), Randy Fasani (QB), Eddie Erdelatz (DL/ST), Jordan Goslinga (JV DC), Jake Beukelman (DL). uKEY RETURNERS: OL/ DL Zachary Brouwer (12), WR/LB Micah De Jong (12), OL/DL Jay Hoekstra (12), OL/DL Colton Bryan (12). uKEY NEWCOMERS: TE/DE Thys Van Der Hoek (11), QB/LB Trey Fasani (11). close-knit bond and toughness help them overcome their usual disadvantage in depth. There are only 19 varsity players on the roster with three returners on each side of scrimmage, but they’re ready for the rigors of a full, 10-game regular season. The Knights are still reigning champions of the Southern Athletic League, going 11-1 in 2019. The current seniors finished 8-2 for the junior varsity that year. “This senior class has been together awhile,” lineman Zach Brouwer said. He and Hoekstra are team captains along with fellow senior Colton Bryan, who starts at center. “There are only 30 of us in our class and 10 play football. We’re pretty close and get along great with the class below. I think it will be a good experience this year. “I’m just ready to play a full season again,” he added. “We’re finally getting everything back to normal.” Grams said his youthful squad will lean on the two senior linemen for leadership. Brouwer (6-foot-2, 258 pounds) and Hoekstra (6-3, 210) give them size at the tackle spots. At the skill positions, senior Micah De Jong figures to be featured heavily at receiver and fly back. At 6-2, 171 pounds, Grams said De Jong has the size and speed to torment defenses in the inside run game, fly sweeps and out wide as a pass catcher. He’ll also key the defense as an outside linebacker in the stout 4-4 front. “He can really make us go,” Grams said. “With his athleticism, teams are going to have to stop him first.” Quarterback Trey Fasani is back with the school after a year at Del Oro in Loomis.


Head coach Phil Grams gets his team organized during 11-on-11 drills.

SCHEDULE Aug. 20 at Galt Aug. 27 vs. East Nicolaus Sept. 3 at Calaveras Sept. 10 BYE Sept. 17 at Denair Sept. 24 vs. Orestimba Oct. 1 vs. Waterford Oct. 8 at Le Grand Oct. 15 vs. Mariposa Oct. 22 at Gustine Oct. 29 vs. Delhi His dad, Randy Fasani, is Grams’ predecessor and returns to the coaching staff to mentor the QBs. The younger Fasani was in competition for the starting spot with junior Griffin Deabreu and senior Roger Postmus, whose talents will be used at other spots. “He didn’t just come back and automatically be the starting quarterback, he had to compete for it,” Grams said of Fasani. “It helped us get better in the summer. A lot of times with a small roster there is not a lot of competition, but we now have three quarterbacks who know every position in the offense. (Fasani is) a junior who hasn’t started in a varsity game yet. He still has to prove himself.” Postmus is in competition with other juniors at tailback, Ethan McGovern and Deren Van Elderen. Sophomore Grant Sonke is penciled in at fullback. In the passing game, Fasani has a towering target in tight end Thys Van Der Hoek, who measures at 6-9, 240. He’ll also play defen-


Thys Van Der Hoek (81) and Jay Hoekstra (55) work on agility drills. begin drills for quarterbacks.

sive end. If they can remain healthy, the Knights should again be in contention for another SAL crown. They’d also like a shot at a first SJS championship. Whether or not the playoff ban gets lifted, their focus for now is on enjoying the entire experience of their season opener. “We definitely miss the fans, the Friday night lights and the real vibes of Friday night football games,” Hoekstra said. “I’m definitely looking forward to having that back and feeling the love and the hype that comes with it.”


Trey Fasani (5) plays catch with Jace Beidleman before they begin drills for quarterbacks.

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The BulleTin-Thursday, August 19, 2021



Teicheira brings new offense after COVID-ravaged season By JONAMAR JACINTO


The Bulletin

The spring COVID campaign is one Lathrop would like to forget, but it has served as motivation going into what is expected to be a full and normal 2021 fall schedule. No team in the Manteca area was affected by coronavirus health and safety protocols as much as these Spartans, whose five-week season was reduced a single game. After dropping their opener to Western Athletic Conference rival Mountain House at home, they had their next four cancelled because of positive tests. Lathrop was preparing for Senior Night when its finale against Beyer was called off 4 ½ hours before kickoff. And the team is still seething over the loss to Mountain House, which scored 22 unanswered points in the second half to win, 22-15. “That one really hurt,” Lathrop senior Jeremiah Estante said. “I hated that game and we’re still so bitter about it. We had that and just gave it away. For everybody coming back from last year, our blood is just pumping and we’re ready to explode against whoever wants to get it first.” With seven returning starters on each side of scrimmage, many of whom are third-year varsity players, Lathrop enters the fall with a renewed confidence under first-year head coach Ryan Teicheira. So far,

Aug. 20 at Tokay Aug. 27 vs. Mt. Diablo Sept. 3 vs. W. Ranch Sept. 10 BYE Sept. 17 vs. Ceres Sept. 24 vs. Pacheco Sept. 30 at Beyer Oct. 8 at G. Davis Oct. 15 vs. Johansen Oct. 22 at Los Banos Oct. 29 at Mtn. House team leaders are enjoying the transition from the spread to the more run-oriented WingT that has helped bring much success to Valley Oak League power Oakdale, where he spent the past two seasons as an assistant. “He has brought a new type of energy to us as students and athletes,” returning center Chris Subia said. “His emphasis is on us being very physical up front. We’re going to come out strong and aggressive, but there is also emphasis on discipline.” Teicheira believes that the athletes available to him are well suited to the Wing-T, and it starts with the line anchored by 6-foot-1, 295-pound tackles Jeremy Buck and Hector Meza. “We have some big boys,” Teicheira said. “I was surprised when I first went out there and saw what we had — man oh man. They all work together really well. We’re seeing how well they’ve adapted to down blocks and pulls, and the physicality of owning the line of

AT A GLANCE LATHROP SPARTANS uHead coach: Ryan Teicheira (first year)) uStaff: Ross Tisdell (DC, LB), Mark Rangel (RB), Justin Muschott (DB), Justin Miller (WR), Dom Jimenez (DL). uKEY RETURNERS: RB/ DB Jeremiah Estante (12), QB/LB Luis Hernandez (12), OL/DL Jeremy Buck (12), C/DL Chris Subia (12), RB/LB Noah Martinez (12), DL Harold Gary (12), OL/DL Hector Meza (11). scrimmage has been great to see. I don’t think we’re ever going to lose a game because of the offensive line. I think we’ll get the push we need.” That bodes well for the likes of Estante, whom Teicheira calls “multi dangerous” not only because of his all-around athleticism, but his deep knowledge of every position in the offense. Although his main role will be at tailback, he can line up at wing, wide receiver and even quarterback — he’s the back-up to third-year signal caller Luis Hernandez, who also starts at linebacker. “I’m not the only one on offense,” Estante said. “We have multiple guys who may get the ball a lot. I know every position well, but I’m not necessarily the guy. I will do whatever is needed.” Lathrop will also look to


First-year Lathrop coach Ryan Teicheira watches the play unfold as his offense practices the Wing-T.

senior running back Noah Martinez and third-year receiver/ tight end Isaiah MiraviteBaumgardner, who at 6-2 presents a big target for Hernandez. Don’t count on the Spartans to launch a bunch of passes early in games, however, as Teicheira wants his team to establish an identity as a smash-mouth running team. “We want to win at the line of scrimmage and win by being physical up front,” Teicheira said. “We have other packages that come along with (the Wing-T), but we don’t want to get out of the Wing-T just because. We want to make sure

we’re doing things that are going to put us in position to win games. Like any offense, we’ll tweak as needed.” The defense is still led by longtime coordinator Ross Tisdell, whose sturdy 4-4 front features 6-foot, 240-pound senior lineman Harold Gary — an All-WAC second-team selection as a sophomore. With continuity on the roster and coaching staff, Teicheira could be set up to have immediate success similar to his predecessor Joe Pirillo, who guided the team to its first Sac-Joaquin Section playoff appearance in his debut as head

coach in 2015 when it finished 6-5. That remains the Spartans’ best season and only playoff berth in the school’s short history — Lathrop had its first varsity games in 2009. “I think they’re prepared to be the change the program needs,” Teicheira said. “There are a lot of seniors on this team and they’re tired of losing. I see that in their attitudes and what they’re bringing to practices right now. I would love to tell you we’re going to be the team to beat this year, time will tell, but I believe these boys can compete for the WAC championship.”

WESTON RANCH COUGARS WESTON RANCH REBUILD CONTINUES Young Cougars gained valuable varsity experience in short season By JONAMAR JACINTO The Bulletin

Weston Ranch may be young, but second-year coach Ron Wayman said not to mistake that for inexperience. The 2021 pandemic-shortened spring season presented his team some difficult circumstances, starting with low program-wide turnout that forced Wayman to bring up freshmen and sophomores and form a single cohort of Cougars. Numbers continued to dwindle as traditional winter and spring sports began during football season, leading to some busy nights for multi-sport athletes. When senior players were practicing or playing for other sports, younger players got the firstteam reps. “All of our freshmen and sophomores were varsity last year, and they had significant playing time,” Wayman said. “They gained that varsity experience against (Valley Oak League) schools. Even though we’re young on paper, we’re

not young as far as VOL varsity experience is concerned.” Ultimately, Wayman’s trialby-fire project was cut short because of coronavirus health and safety protocols. Weston Ranch only got to play three of its five games, losing to established Manteca Unified rivals Sierra and East Union while defeating small-school nonleague opponent Denair, 22-6. Its finale against Kimball was cancelled following the 53-0 loss to East Union, but Wayman was impressed with how his athletes responded. Returning players were not discouraged by the results and the adversity, however — it left them wanting more. Many reached out to Wayman soon after their season ended, asking when they are allowed to begin training again. More players came out for summer workouts, and the coaches are high on what appears to be a strong freshman class. Wayman opted again to not have a JV team, but having the numbers to cover two levels is a step in the right

SCHEDULE Aug. 20 at G. Davis Aug. 27 vs. Mtn. House Sept. 3 at Lathrop Sept. 10 vs. Franklin Sept. 17 at Kimball Sept. 24 at C. Catholic Oct. 1 vs. Sierra Oct. 8 at Manteca Oct. 15 vs. East Union Oct. 22 vs. Oakdale Oct. 29 BYE direction. “Honestly, I could not have asked them to do any more than they’ve already done,” Wayman said. “They’ve proven that as we change the culture, they’re willing to work harder, work faster and work smarter. It shows with the numbers we have. They’ve embraced everything we’ve asked them to do and more.” Zyale and Namir BrownSanger have bought in and emerged as leaders on the team. The elder Zyale heads a promising — and large — offensive line as its center. Behind him at


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AT A GLANCE WESTON RANCH COUGARS uHead coach: Ron Wayman (second year) uStaff: Marcello Zamarippa (assistant HC), Clayton Buttram (OC), Luis Ruiz (special teams), Damian McMiller (assistant), Chrispin Gonzales (JV HC), Jose Garcia (JV OC), Jesse Watson (JV assistant). uKEY RETURNERS: LB/C Zyale Brown Sanger (12), OL Elian Urbina (12), LB/QB Namir Brown Sanger (11), DB/WR Chris Buttram (11), WR Mauricio Gonzales (10), OL/DL Alex Walker (10), OL/DL Joseph Richardson (10). uKEY NEWCOMERS: RB/DE Jesus Gonzales (12), DB/WR Stephon Nelson Phillips (12), DB/ WR Andre Hughes (11). quarterback is Namir, a junior whose downfield throwing ability allows offensive coordinator Clayton Buttram to expand the playbook of the hybrid spread/ Wing-T attack. The Brown-Sangers also spearhead the 4-3 as linebackers. “We want to prove we are changing the culture at Weston Ranch,” Zyale Brown Sanger said. “We’ve been known as a rag-tag team, but now we’re an actual football team and we want to show that to the VOL.” At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Zyale is dwarfed by some of the linemen next to him. Weston Ranch has a solid three-man rotation at the offensive tackle spots between senior Elian Urbina (6-0, 270) and sophomores Alex Walker (6-4, 280) and Joseph Richardson (6-4, 290). The group is mentored by 2006 Weston Ranch grad Shawn Holmes, who was part of the school’s only VOL championship football team.


Weston Ranch ball carrier Jesus Gonzalez tries to break away from the arm tackle during the program’s maroonand-gray scrimmage.

“We’ve gotten some bigger guys but we have numbers as well,” Zyale Brown-Sanger said. “I’m really proud of the work they’ve put in.” As for Namir, Wayman said he’ll be splitting time at quarterback because of his importance to the defense — he was the Cougars’ leading tackler last spring. “He’s actually a better defensive player than a quarterback, and we’re pretty blessed to have a returning sophomore who can split with him,” Wayman said. Noah Deed performed admirably in spot duty as a freshman in the spring, completing 9 of 16 passes for 177 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions spread across three games. Receivers Chris Buttram and Mauricio Gonzales also gained varsity experience as underclassmen. First-year seniors Jesus Gonzales (RB/DE) and Stephon Nelson Phillips (WR/DB) are expected to make an impact on both sides of scrimmage. They did not play last season but were two-year players at the

lower levels. Weston Ranch is eager to see what it can do over a normal 10-game regular-season schedule, but the Cougars are especially looking forward to their home opener against Mountain House on Aug. 27. That’s because it will mark their first game at the school’s renovated stadium. The last time they hosted a game was Oct. 18, 2019, and the team was denied a home game in the spring because of the cancellations. “We’re really looking forward to doing a whole season and with our new field,” Zyale Sanger-Brown said. “We didn’t get to play on it last year and that was unfortunate. It was real tough because we had been working for so long and it would have been great to show the school what we’ve been pushing for and the changes we’ve made in the program.” They’ll get their chance soon enough. “We’re just excited to have a full season after 18-19 months of hard work,” Wayman said. “It’s going to be fun.”


Football Preview

The BulleTin-Thursday, August 19, 2021


Kim Valverde



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