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East Union

The Bulletin-Thursday, August 22, 2019

RESTORING HONOR TO PROGRAM

Offseason requisite helps rebuild morale for East Union By JONA MAR JAC I NTO The Bu lletin

A season that started with so much promise did not end as expected for the 2018 East Union Lancers. Perhaps the team’s spiral to a 3-7 finish began well before opening kickoff. Now in his ninth year as head coach, Willie Herrera looks to get the Lancers back on the upward trajectory that began with back-to-back postseason appearances in 2016-17. It all starts with stats not seen on MaxPreps — “honor points.� In his early years as coach, Herrera implemented a system that helped gauge his athletes’ commitment to the program, the school and each other. For them to be on the varsity squad, they had to reach a minimum amount of honor points that are accumulated through community service. He decided to do away with it last year. “It was the first year we didn’t do it,� Herrera said. “There is just so much data collection involved. I really regret that.� The Lancers lost four of its first five games, and their heads. East Union’s wealth of talent at the skill positions proved to be more curse than blessing as players grew unhappy with their lack of reps. The turnaround, Herrera said, has already begun. And it starts with honor points. Herrera said the team put in close to 300 hours of community service in less than two weeks, volunteering their time to local churches, the Boys & Girls Club and Northgate Little League, to name a few. “It’s a great measuring tool,� Herrera said. “It tells the story of who works and who doesn’t work. It lets us know who is selfless and who puts their teammates before themselves.� It has translated onto the practice field, where these Lancers embrace the struggle, the lessons and each other. Whether it translates into victories on Fridays remains to be seen, but they’re confident it will. “With the juniors coming up with us seniors, it feels like we’ve been playing together forever,� returning quarterback Eric Morales said. “We respect each other and have a good time. There is no arguing and no fighting — it’s all respect. We practice as a team and we play as a team, and hopefully it shows on game day. I can’t wait for that.� Morales may want a do-over more than anyone. He suffered a rib injury over the summer and aggravated it in East Union’s 39-19 zero-week loss at Downey. The starting job was in flux from there, as the team turned to JoJo Espinosa — the standout QB from the previous season who moved into more of a utility role as a senior — for certain matchups. Morales did have his moments. East Union nearly upset perennial Sac-Joaquin Section contender Oakdale in the Valley Oak League opener but fell short, 35-26. Morales

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Cameron Torres and the rest of the linemen go to work on the sled.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

TOP LEFT PHOTO: Josh Jimenez gets in position to tackle Shane Crawford. TOP RIGHT PHOTO: Defensive linemen work on their pass rush moves under the watchful eye of head coach Willie Herrera. BOTTOM RIGHT PHOTO: Eric Morales, East Union’s starting quarterback makes the catch, during a drill for defensive backs.

completed 20 of 33 passes for 235 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was even better the following week in a 39-27 homecoming win over Kimball, throwing for a season-best four touchdowns. That was the highpoint of the Lancers’ season, as they dropped three of their final four. Heartbreaking losses to Bear Creek, Oakdale and rival Sierra kept them from the postseason. “We have a lot to prove,� Morales said. They’ll have to do it with many of their top players from a year ago, such as leading rusher Raylen Carter, leading receiver Lorenzo Contreras and leading tackler Alex Alexander. East Union replenishes much of the talent at the skill positions with juniors who

SCHEDULE 9/23 vs. Downey 8/30 at Mtn. House 9/6 at Bear Creek 9/13 vs. Johansen 9/20 at Oakdale 9/27 at Kimball 10/4 vs. C. Catholic 10/18 vs. Sierra 10/25 vs. W. Ranch 11/1 at Manteca are coming off a 6-3 season at the JV level. Zelmar Vedder heads the receiving corps, while Tyler Diaz, Jonathan Castaneda, Anthony Corrales, Lane Cefalu and Carlos Alvarez are competing for carries out of the backfield along with stout senior Shane Crawford. The Lancers lack the bigplay threats of seasons past but believe they can remain productive out of their hybrid

 

COACHES uHead coach: Willie Herrera (9th year, 23-57) uStaff: Jason Stock (assistant HC, OC), Dan Coffman (OL), Eddie Koeller (QB), Eddie Lopez Jr. (RB), Richard Somera (WR), Steve Barrios (LB), Joe Trout (Hybrids), Thomas Solis (OL), Jaymz Jones (assistant OL), Frank Johnson (K, character & morale), Amil Ortega (academic director), Jesse Flora (chaplain, assistant K). pistol/wing offense. “We have athletic kids, guys who are quick but not necessarily the home run hitters we had last year,� Herrera said. “Discipline and toughness are really going to have to play a

factor in our game plan.� That’s where the experienced linemen come in. “Nothing beats hard work,� All-VOL first-team guard Alex Yang said. “And we have a lot of guys who work hard in the weight room and on the practice field.� The stocky 5-foot-8, 185pound senior typifies the grit of this year’s team. Also returning are 6-3, 245-pound tackle/middle linebacker Josh Grabowski and guard/defensive tackle Joey Aguirre. Anthony Vargas and David Alvarado are among the top juniors in the trenches. It may be the deepest crop of linemen Herrera has had. “We’re definitely excited about our whole offensive

line,� Herrera said. “We legit have 10 guys who can suit up and start on Friday. It has made the competition more fierce in practice, because nobody is guaranteed a spot. It has to be earned every day.� The Lancers expect to be tested in all facets in the first three weeks. They’ll get chances to avenge losses to Downey and Bear Creek, while reigning Western Athletic Conference tri-champion Mountain House has been added to the schedule. “We’ll know who we are before we get to the VOL,� Herrera said.

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Manteca

The Bulletin-Thursday, August 22, 2019

3

RETURN TO CHAMPIONSHIP FORM Led by 3-year starters, Buffs want to compete for another SJS title By JONA MAR JAC I NTO The Bu lletin

Manteca had a 2018 season that most would consider to be successful. Not for these Buffaloes. Eight wins, a runner-up finish in the cutthroat Valley Oak League and second-round appearance in a tough Sac-Joaquin Section Division III bracket were not what Jacob DeJesus had in mind. He was one of a handful of talented sophomores who started 2017 on the varsity squad that went 12-3, claimed a sixth section banner and qualified for a second straight CIF State NorCal Bowl Game. The 2018 run was ended by a 20-8 loss at Antelope, where lost opportunities and crucial mistakes ruined Manteca’s chance at earning a third consecutive SJS crown. “That definitely struck us in the heart,” DeJesus said. “Our goals were way higher than where we finished last year. A lot of the seniors regretted that and took it really hard. “Sometimes in life and football things don’t go your way, so you just train a little bit harder. Can’t dwell on it, we just have to get ready and get better for the next season.” With a good mixture of senior experience and promising juniors elevated from the 10-0 JV team, Manteca expects to do better in Mark Varnum’s second year as head coach. The Buffs return All-VOL first-team selections Trabron Russell (1,320 rushing yards, 18 TDs) and outside linebacker Garren Genilla (58 tackles. 6.5 assists). DeJesus is the VOL’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year after amassing 843 receiving yards, 542 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns. Like DeJesus, Russell is a third-year starter. “They’ve been there as sophomores and took on leadership roles last year as juniors,” Varnum said. “They want to get back to the mountaintop. They’ve worked harder than anybody in the offseason and they definitely want to show out this year.” Quarterback Ryan Ward (1,907 yards, 22 TDs, 11 INTs), cornerback Isaac Searcy (54 tackles, four picks) and outside linebacker Marc Buenrostro (5.5 sacks) are other seniors of note. All three made the all-league second team. Varnum anticipates a big season out of the strongarmed Ward, a pitcher who has committed to Pacific’s baseball team. “He has matured a lot as a football player,” Varnum said. “He had a crazy summer between football and baseball. After his last baseball tournament he started back up with football and was dialed in right away.” Manteca did lose four AllVOL first-team selections in

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

ABOVE PHOTO: Aiden Nicholas turns up field on an inside-run play. BOTTOM PHOTO: Dy’lon Valentine heads downfield after catching a short pass with Quincy Robinson trailing.

SCHEDULE 8/23 vs. Lathrop 8/30 at Downey 9/6 at Granada 9/13 at Tracy 9/20 vs. C. Catholic 10/4 at Oakdale 10/11 vs. Kimball 10/18 at W. Ranch 10/25 at Sierra 11/1 vs. East Union

COACHES uHead coach: Mark Varnum (2nd year, 8-4) uStaff: Rick James (DC/ LB), Dan Eavenson (OL), Ken Menasco (DL), Jason Dukes (QB/WR), Troy McBroom (WR/RB), Paul Phelps (assistant), Marcus Rivas (DB/RB), Jerry Walser (TE), Todd Feliz (quality control. two-way lineman Chandler Snyder, guard/middle linebacker Tyler Brintley (87 tackles), wide receiver Jorge Cedano (57 receptions, 805 yards, 10 TDs), and safety Jorge Ceja (99 tackles). The current Buffaloes are stocked with talent at the skill positions and stout on the defensive line with 300pound senior Joseph Saylor back from a knee injury, but the offensive line remains a work in progress. Senior left guard Jacob Sanchez stood out in camp. “If anything (is of concern), our experience up front,” Varnum said. “Losing guys like Snyder and Brintley hurts, but we have some young, hungry guys fighting for spots. Man-

teca High is known for that offensive line, and when it comes together we have the weapons to do some damage.” One of those weapons is junior Aiden Nicolas, a DeJesus clone who produced 1,048 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns for the junior varsity Buffs last year. He was also the team’s leading receiver with 273 yards and five scores. “Some say we look like twins,” DeJesus said. “We play similar positions and have similar styles. A lot of players from the JV last year are great athletes and they mesh together well with us. They’ve experienced winning being 10-0 last year after going 5-5 as freshmen.

I see them getting even better.” Angel Garay, a 6-foot1, 215-pound fullback and linebacker, is making a comeback after not playing as a junior. He was among the sophomore sensations pulled up to the varsity two years ago. “This guy is a beast,” DeJesus said. “Not having him last year was really tough for us, but we’re all looking forward to having him back out there. He’s going to be a huge part of our defense this year.” Two other senior additions looking to make an immediate impact are Leonardo Bonilla and Quincy Robinson, both transfers. Bonilla gives Manteca

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

TOP RIGHT PHOTO: Ryan Ward scans the field for receivers as head coach Mark Varnum looks on. MIDDLE PHOTO: Outside linebacker Garren Genilla provides pressure off the edge in 11-on-11 drills. BOTTOM RIGHT PHOTO: Joseph Saylor works to shed the block while keeping his eyes on the backfield.

added depth at fullback and linebacker. He comes from rival from East Union, where he rushed for 419 yards and three touchdowns in seven games last season. Robinson is a two-year varsity starter arriving from San Jose. The wiry 5-10 receiver/cornerback played a key role in Overfelt’s 9-3 campaign, collecting six interceptions on defense while leading the offense with 27 catches, 583 yards and four touchdowns. “’Q’ showed up at the end of the year and we are glad that he did,” Varnum said. “He is an absolute ball hawk.” Manteca kicks off the season with Manteca Unified counterpart Lathrop

at home, but its next three are on the road against stiff competition. The Buffaloes will look to avenge losses to Downey and Granada, and old-school rival Tracy is sure to want payback after suffering a surprising 54-18 defeat at Manteca. Then the real fun begins, as they return home to face defending VOL champion Central Catholic and head to Oakdale two weeks after. “We set our goals super high,” Varnum said. “We have a lot of experience, but the big thing for us is we have to be ready from the get-go. We’re going to be road warriors after Lathrop and then see Central Catholic right after that, so we get the gauntlet right away.”

“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.”

Best of Luck to All of You! Phil Waterford President/Owner Manteca Ford & Exotic High Line

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4

Sierra

The Bulletin-Thursday, August 22, 2019

FAMILY MATTERS TO T’WOLVES

United Sierra team looks to build on improvement from 2018 By JONA MAR JAC I NTO The Bu lletin

The receivers and defensive backs jogged off the practice field for a water break on this torturous Tuesday afternoon. It would have been understandable for them to head straight for the water station in the draining 105-degree heat, but they instead stopped to encourage the linemen as they drudged to the end of their tackling drill. Defensive coordinator Mike James signaled the end of the exercise, and the two groups — eventually joined by the linebackers and running backs — formed a united pack as the Timberwolves hydrated together. As family. The word ‘family’ was repeated in separate interviews from the Sierra camp, where positive reinforcement is more prevalent than friendly trash talk between teammates. “If we weren’t a family, we wouldn’t be a team,” second-year junior Kimoni Stanley said. “Nobody plays for themselves. We protect each other and look out for each other. We all play as one.” It has taken just two years for Chris Johnson to create this environment at Sierra. After a one-year break from coaching that followed a 12-year stint as head coach at Ripon, his alma mater, Johnson struggled to get the Timberwolves — just two years removed from their unexpected run to a state title — to play with discipline and cohesion. An attitude adjustment was in order, as was an adjustment is schemes. Johnson installed a tripleoption flexbone offense in the offseason, and it took half a season for things to finally click for the Timberwolves in 2018. No team from the area improved as much from opening kickoff to the end, as they ended up 5-6 following a near-upset of Western Athletic Conference tri-champion Pacheco, 34-33, in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs. Whether it’s the successes or failures that drive the individual athletes, they’re trotting into their 2019 opener against visiting Modesto Christian as a family. “It really has become a family atmosphere,” Johnson said. “The kids really support each other and keep things positive.” There’s reason for Sierra to have elevated expectations. Four of its five starting offensive linemen return, and unlike last season it is an area of strength and depth for the Timberwolves. That’s good news for Stanley who had a superb sophomore season in which he accumulated 1,375 rushing yards (8.9 per carry) and 15 touchdowns and was named to the All-Valley Oak

COACHES

SCHEDULE

uHead coach: Chris Johnson (3rd year, 7-14) uStaff: Mike James (DC), Roger Allen (QB/ DB), Loren Johnson (OL/ DL), Nick Hardenbrook (WR/DL).

8/23 vs. Modesto Ch. 8/30 at C. Valley 9/6 at Pacheco 9/13 vs. Lathrop 9/20 vs. Kimball 9/27 at C. Catholic 10/11 at Oakdale 10/18 at East Union 10/25 vs. Manteca 11/1 vs. W. Ranch League first team. “We’re a lot more comfortable in this offense, and the offensive line is the biggest part of our team,” Stanley said. “They’ve worked hard over the summer knowing that it was an area we needed to improve.” Also returning in the backfield are quarterback Shane Johnson and versatile slotback Matt Dunham, who was beset by an ankle injury last year. Converted receiver Nyco Mendoza fills in at the other slotback spot for the graduated Nick Stanley. Sierra may look to pass more after making just 37 attempts all of last season.

These days, it’s common for teams to average that many throws per game. “With Shane’s progression and the ability of some of our guys to do different things, we’ll be a little more diverse,” coach Johnson said. “We’re going to continue to run the ball first — we’re a true triple-option team. We built our system around our kids.” The 4-3 defense boasts much experience as well, the problem is that most of them also start on offense and special teams. Shane Johnson, the head coach’s nephew, will play free safety as Sierra looks to make use of his vision and smarts on both sides of scrimmage. Stanley and Dunham are

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

TOP RIGHT PHOTO: Running back Kimoni Stanley runs thorugh an arm tackle. TOP LEFT PHOTO: Chris Johnson oversees practice as Sierra’s third-year head coach. BOTTOM LEFT PHOTO: Quarterback Shane Johnson reads the defense on an option play. BOTTOM RIGHT PHOTO: David Cumberworth, left, and Omar Maxwell go to work on the sled.

part of a formidable trio of linebackers that includes 6-foot, 200-pound Holden Fishburn, a CIF State Track & Field Championships qualifier in the shot put and discus. Fishburn made the all-league second team last year as a defensive end, and coach Johnson said he’s “the fastest kid on the team.” He’s plenty familiar with the position having played middle linebacker at the lower levels. Sierra’s depth at the line allows for Fishburn to make the move. Josh Valdez, a 6-3, 185-pound first-year senior, replaces Fishburn on the defensive line, with Joaquin Alvarez is back at the

other end spot. “The coaches said we were wasting my speed on the D-line and I completely agreed with them,” Fishburn said. “I can mix it up in there with the bigger guys and do well, but might as well utilize everyone to the best of their ability. With Matt and Kimoni being quick on their feet, we should be able to stuff up those gaps.” Fishburn will still get his chances to tangle in the trenches as one of those returning offensive linemen. Senior Omar Maxwell is a space eater on both sides of scrimmage at 6-1, 280 pounds. Juniors David Cumberworth and Ayden Horn

gives the T’wolves additional size. There is belief that if the two-way standouts remain healthy Sierra has the goods to return to the postseason and contend. The Timberwolves, though, are more focused on winning the opening kickoff. “Our thing is to don’t look too far ahead, just be 1-0,” Johnson said. “We strive to be the best versions of ourselves. We obviously feel pretty good about being further ahead than we were at this point last year, but right now let’s just worry about Modesto Christian. Everything else is so far out we’re not even talking about.”

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Ripon

The Bulletin-Thursday, August 22, 2019

5

ON THE WARPATH TO SJS TITLE

Senior-laden Indians want to end section championship drought By JONA MAR JAC I NTO The Bu lletin

Ripon’s tight-knit group of seniors is small in number but not lacking in talent and expectations. These Indians have never endured a losing season going back to their days on the Ripon Chiefs youth program, and they don’t plan on changing that in their final year together. They aspire to deliver a long overdue championship-round appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs. “We’ve grown up together and we’ve seen what we can do as a group since Pop Warner,” Nico Ilardi said. “It has always been a successful group that will win at all costs. It’s in our blood.” Ilardi and the Indians certainly have a tough act to follow, but it’s a challenge they look forward to meeting. Ilardi takes over at quarterback for three-year standout and reigning All-TVL Outstanding Offensive Player Ryan Daggett (1,127 yards, 67 completion percentage, 13 TDs) — also Ripon’s leading rusher (743 yards, 11 TDs). The Indians must also replace their leading tackler Greg Clark, an all-league selection at both linebacker and offensive guard, hard-charging running back Derric Roy and another three-year starter in multi-purpose threat Roland Davis. Ripon is coming off its best season under fourth-year head coach Chris Musseman, repeating as Trans-Valley League cochampion while finishing 10-2. Musseman believes the team can achieve much of the same, if not more. It was knocked out in the SJS semifinals the past two seasons by Bear River, one stop short of reaching the title round for the first time since 1996 when the Indians mauled Mariposa 31-14 for the Division IV banner. Ripon lost all of its previous four title games. The key? Health. Ripon started its first official practices with only 18 juniors and seniors combined. Junior varsity players are being evaluated, and a handful of them, including some sophomores, are likely to join the big boys for the Aug. 23 season opener against Weston Ranch. “If we can stay healthy, we’re going to be pretty good,” Musseman said. “Managing their playing time and keeping them focused on what’s going on in practice is tough when you only have 18 or 19 guys.” Ripon was fortunate to navigate through the 2018 season with few injuries and had enough depth — despite its limited roster — to replace starters with little drop-off in quality. “We were really deep in the skill positions,” Musseman said. “We don’t have that this year.” They expected to have more depth in the trenches this season but won’t have that either with two projected starters no longer on the team. The best of the bunch is back, in the form of 6-foot-3, 225-pound right tackle Caleb Delgado and

COACHES uHead coach: Chris Musseman (4th year, 24-11). uStaff: Mike Merchant (QB, assistant OC), Ken Tyhurst (OL), Brian Wood (WR), Cole Williams (ILB, Co-DC), Jorge Velasco (OLB, Co-DC), Glen White (DL), Jacob Rodriguez (DB), Justin Johnston (DB).

SCHEDULE 8/23 vs. W. Ranch 8/30 vs. Sonora 9/6 at C. Valley 9/13 at Calaveras 9/20 at Hilmar 9/27 at Riverbank 10/4 vs. Livingston 10/18 vs. Escalon 10/25 at Hughson 11/1 vs. Modesto Ch. center Jeremiah Willey. They’ll also have significant playing time on defense. Returning all-league outside linebacker Grant Wiebe (103 tackles, 9.5 sacks), inside linebacker Brandon Rainer (82 tackles, four forced fumbles), defensive lineman Troy Brogan (50 tackles, 6.0 sacks) and defensive back Danny Hernandez (four interceptions) return for an experienced defensive unit that surrendered 14.3 points per game and recorded four shutouts. Sophomore Caleb Johnston and junior Mason Knight are expected to contribute right away in the 3-3 front as linebackers. “We lost a couple key pieces but it’s most of the same guys who are now bigger, faster stronger and smarter,” Rainer said. “It’s going to be a fun defense to watch and be a part of this year.” He’ll likely have a more expanded role in Ripon’s balanced Wing-T offense, as well. Hernandez (640 total yards, seven TDs) is a home-run threat out of the backfield that will include plenty of Rainer and Wiebe. At 6-3, 215 pounds, Bro-

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

TOP PHOTO: Brandon Rainer, from left, Grant Wiebe, Caleb Delgado and Troy Brogan pursue the ball carrier in a fouron-four drill. BOTTOM LEFT PHOTO: Nico Ilardi winds up for the pass as head coach Chris Musseman watches the play develop. BOTTOM RIGHT PHOTO: Running back Danny Hernandez looks to break away from Adam Wood.

gan gives Ilardi a big target in the passing game. Sure-handed receiver Dorian Dougherty also returns. He’s the team’s only third-year player but was limited by a shoulder injury last year. “We have a lot of weapons,” Ilardi said. “A lot of these guys probably didn’t get as many looks as they should have last year because we were so deep, but we’re pretty well set on offense.” Added Rainer: “The coaches will do what’s best for the team. We all just want to win as a team. When it comes to things like personal stats, we’re not worried about that.” Playing time shouldn’t be an issue for these short-handed Indians. There will likely be some who will gladly take a breather. Count Ilardi among them. An All-TVL first-team selection at both defensive back and punter, he’ll continue to fill those roles even with the added responsibility of leading the offense. Oh, and he made honorable mention at receiver last year, and Musseman hinted at making use of his pass-catch-

ing abilities. “We may do some interesting things with him,” Musseman said, “but he’s not strictly a quarterback on our team. He’s an all-league caliber DB, and because we’re so thin I’m not too sure we can not play him there.”

Playing most snaps is a difficult task, Rainer said. It’s as demanding mentally as it is physically, requiring their minds to stay sharp even as their bodies wear down. But he and his fellow seniors are willing to grind through it to reach their intended destina-

tion. “Losing two years in a row the way we did and against the same team, we don’t want it to end there again,” Rainer said. “We want to get past the semifinals and win that section championship.”

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6

Ripon Christian

The Bulletin-Thursday, August 22, 2019

RIPON CHRISTIAN RAISES STAKES

Fasani is back, as are key players from two 10-0 teams SCHEDULE 8/23 vs. G. Davis 8/30 at Stone Ridge 9/6 vs. Summerville 9/20 at Waterford 9/27 vs. Denair 10/4 at Orestimba 10/11 vs. Gustine 10/18 at Mariposa 10/25 vs. Le Grand 11/1 at Delhi

COACHES uHead coach: Randy Fasani (2nd year, 10-3) uStaff: Eddie Erdelatz (DC, LB), Bill Kamos (OL, ST), Pat McGovern (DB), Steven Anastasio (DL), Josh Van Groningen (WR), Oliver Pryor (strength and conditioning), Junior Kowes (team manager), Jeff Grondz (college recruiting coordinator). By JONA MAR JAC I NTO The Bu lletin

Ripon Christian’s goals for 2019 are simply stated by its head coach: uWin league. uWin section. uWin state. Welcome to the Randy Fasani Era 2.0. “I would say the major difference when I started to now in 2019 is our mental preparation going into games,” Fasani said. “We don’t approach games hoping to win, we expect to win.” It’s a refrain coined by predecessor and good friend Trey Ozenbaugh, who now serves as team chaplain after six years as head coach. Last year, with Fasani as his offensive coordinator and longtime assistant Eddie Erdelatz commanding the defense, Ozenbaugh led the Knights to their first-ever 10-0 regular-season finish. They ended up 12-1 — one win shy of checking off two of their goals. Trans-Valley League powerhouse Hilmar rolled past Ripon Christian 57-14 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI title game and claimed a CIF state championship two weeks later. Ripon Christian is now 0-3 in section finals. Fasani guided the Knights to their first SJS final in 2013. That was Fasani’s only season as head coach in his first go-around — he shared the position with John Vander Schaaf the previous year. He’s back at the table but with a larger appetite to satiate. “We’ve played in quite a few section championship games in the past few years and I’m tired of losing them,” Fasani said. There’s no denying that Ripon Christian belongs in the top tier of small schools in the section. The Knights handed eventual SJS and CIF Division VII champion Denair its only loss of the season, and handled SJS top seed Modesto Christian 25-12 in the SJS Division VI semifinals. They soundly defeated the reigning TVL champion Crusaders but were then punished by Hilmar a week later. As far as the program has come, Ripon Christian still has something to prove. “It obviously hurts a lot,”

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

TOP RIGHT PHOTO: Head coach Randy Fasani works with the offense. TOP LEFT PHOTO: Returning quarterback Nolan Lingley heaves it downfield. BOTTOM LEFT PHOTO: Caleb Terpsma tries to regain control of the ball on a deep pass play. RIGHT MIDDLE PHOTO: Erik Weststeyn, right, battles with fellow lineman Jason Vander Weide.

returning lineman Garrett Bryan said. “It was a devastating end to an almost-perfect season. Everyone has been fueled by that loss to Hilmar.” The All-SL Co-Defensive Lineman of the Year is one of three third-year starters leading the quest for a third straight section title game. Sean McGovern and Wyatt Van Vliet round out the triumvirate, and joining the experienced senior class are juniors from the undefeated JV squad. “We have a lot of returning seniors and some talented juniors coming up,” McGovern said. “I think we have the potential to be as good if not better. We were pretty successful last year so we’ll have a big target on our back, but we’re ready for it.” There are some big shoes to fill, namely those left behind by two-way lineman Drew Van Vliet and running back Michael Kamps (2,088 total yards, 36 touchdowns) — the Southern League MVP and Co-Offensive Player of the Year, respectively. McGovern, a two-time allleague first team defensive back, moves from receiver to replace Kamps in the backfield, which gives the most athletic player on the team more opportunities to make plays. He led RC with 32 catches

for 560 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Ian Vrieling (28-348-4) steps in as the new No. 1 receiver. Despite its small roster, Ripon Christian has depth at all positions. It all starts with the offensive line that returns five starters — center Erik Weststeyn was the starting center to begin 2018 but suffered an injury. Junior Joel Hiemstra and Modesto Christian transfer Seth Gallo are expected to be immediate contributors. With experience at both offensive guard spots, the 6-foot-2, 260pound Bryan is the Knights’ top all-around lineman. “I really think the strength of our team is with our offensive and defensive lines, and that’s a coach’s dream,” Fasani said. Quarterbacks Nolan Lingley and Jacob Van Groningen remain under the tutelage of Fasani, who played the position at Stanford and the NFL. Last season, Lingley split time with Cade Alger before going down with a season-ending shoulder injury. Van Groningen played sparingly behind center but made the most of his few opportunities, especially on a heroic game-winning drive against then-defending Southern League champion Orestimba. Lingley is the more explo-

sive athlete with the ability to make plays on the run, while the 6-4 Van Groningen can burn defenses with a strong and accurate arm. The latter will also see time at tight end. “We’ll definitely utilize both of them in the huddle at the same time,” Fasani said. “I’m not afraid to call trick plays, and I know that both of them will throw touchdown passes this season.” The defense, which Bryan

describes as “terrifying” and “relentless,” brings back eight starters from a unit that surrendered 9.8 points per game and had four shutouts in a fivegame stretch. Van Vliet (113 tackles) returns at middle linebacker along with Declan Van Vuren (78 tackles, 12.5 sacks) on the outside. Jadon Booth and Will Gilbert come up from the JV ranks to fill roles at outside linebacker and cornerback.

The Knights believe the pieces are in place for another historic season, and it’s an opportunity the seniors don’t want to take for granted. “I’ve seen two great senior classes leave, and for me there was that feeling that I have another year,” Bryan said. “Now that moment is here for me. I saw what it means to them, and I’m going to let that sit with me all season.”

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Lathrop/Weston Ranch

The Bulletin-Thursday, August 22, 2019

7

QB INSPIRES OPTIMISM FOR LATHROP Raya-Ruiz ‘back home’ as Spartans enter 2nd season in WAC By JONA MAR JAC I NTO The Bu lletin

LATHROP — Davis RayaRuiz is one of many new faces on the Lathrop football team, but he’s not necessarily a stranger around these parts. “I’m back home,” the senior transfer from Edison said. After spending the past three seasons helping the Vikings of Stockton return to prominence, Raya-Ruiz has moved back to the city where he grew up and reunited with former teammates from the Jr. Spartans youth team. “I feel like I’m back in my hometown where I started,” he said. “I grew up with everybody here. “I bring a lot of knowledge from prior experiences with other coaches and camps I attended. I like being here, it’s a great learning environment. I want to help the team (develop) a winning mentality. I’m not out here to just have fun, I’m out here to win as well as have fun.” The 6-foot-1, 205-pound gunslinger may be just what the Spartans need going into their second year with the spread system in place. He busted out as a sophomore for Edison’s varsity squad two seasons ago, completing 59 percent of his passes for 2,548 yards, 28 touchdowns and five interceptions. The Vikings went 6-5.

SCHEDULE 8/23 at Manteca 8/30 vs. Kimball 9/13 at Sierra 9/20 at Ceres 9/27 at Pacheco 10/4 vs. Beyer 10/11 vs. G. Davis 10/18 at Johansen 10/25 vs. Los Banos 11/1 vs. Mtn. House Raya-Ruiz’s junior campaign was derailed by an injury and he was relegated to a back-up role as Edison soared to a 9-3 finish. Fifthyear head coach Joe Pirillo likes what he sees of him at full strength. He’s impressed by Raya-Ruiz’s “blue-collar work ethic” and leadership as much as his skill set. “He’s got a little bit of size and kind of built like a linebacker, but he’s got a cannon,” Pirillo said. “He can really throw the ball around, he’s just working on his reads right now.” With nearly as many sophomores (10) as seniors (11) on the roster, the Spartans need all the experience they can get as they enter year No. 2 in the Western Athletic Conference. They began 2018 with three consecutive losses to familiar Valley Oak League foes Manteca, Kimball and Sierra — their same three opponents to begin this season. Lathrop went 3-4 in conference play, losing decisively

COACHES uHead coach: Randy Fasani (2nd year, 10-3) uStaff: Eddie Erdelatz (DC, LB), Bill Kamos (OL, ST), Pat McGovern (DB), Steven Anastasio (DL), Josh Van Groningen (WR), Oliver Pryor (strength and conditioning), Junior Kowes (team manager), Jeff Grondz (college recruiting coordinator). to the tri-champions — Los Banos, Mountain House, Pacheco — and fourth-place Grace Davis. “We learned that the team that was the most disciplined was going to be the team that was going to come out on top,” Pirillo said. “There’s talent all over the league, but the lack of discipline is what ended it for everybody in their losses especially for us. We made mistakes that were costly. The WAC is a very disciplined league. If you want to win, you have to be disciplined.” As young as Lathrop is, a handful of sophomores gained valuable experience as varsity competitors last year. Isaac Ramos (816 yards, 9.2 per carry, 9 TDs) showed flashes of what’s to come, especially in the 27-26 loss in which he blew up for 181 yards and two touchdowns — all in the second half. Pirillo said the 5-5, 155-pounder will get the lion’s

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Davis Raya-Ruiz tries to evade pressure while seeking out an open receiver.

share of touches and will still be featured heavily in the offense despite the addition of Raya-Ruiz. “He’s an electric kid,” Pirillo said of Ramos. “Any time he gets the ball it can end up in the end one. He’s a track athlete who has gotten faster and he’s put on some weight. He’s really going to just focus on offense, we don’t want to try to do anything else with him. We want him fresh and ready to run the ball.” Junior Joey Sanchis and sophomore Jason Seabron Jr.

will be two of the main targets in the passing game. The Spartans lost leading receiver Maurice Saulsbury II, an AllWAC first-team cornerback, to graduation. Lathrop lacks depth, size and experience on the lines but bring back junior left tackle/defensive end Kevin Ballesteros Paz. Sophomore Jeremy Buck gives the Spartans some needed girth at 6-2, 230 pounds. “We are a smaller team, so we’ll just have to keep pushing and pushing and lay down

the hammer,” Ballesteros Paz said. Strong safety Johnny Lewis is another junior with varsity experience. The 4-2 nickel defense is also led by senior linebacker Jordan Denning, who looks forward to another go-around in the WAC. “We are very energized,” he said. “Defensively, we like to run around and hit. Last year was kind of a letdown, so everyone is motivated to step up and dominate. I feel like we are more prepared for league this year.”

WESTON RANCH’S REYES OF LIGHT

First-year head coach brings positive attitude to rebuilding project By JONA MAR JAC I NTO The Bu lletin

Weston Ranch is starting over. Again. This time, things are a little different at the South Stockton school. Sal Reyes is the seventh head coach for the Cougars football program and third in a year but is a familiar face on campus as its JROTC instructor. The revamped coaching staff features some of the old and some of the new, and Reyes considers recentlyhired principal Troy Fast and athletic director Brett Lewis — both of whom arrive from tradition-rich district rival Manteca High — as an essential extension of the staff. “The energy is very high and there is a sense of newness on campus, not just for the staff but for the players, too,” Reyes said. The most noticeable difference will be the refurbished football stadium adorned by an all-weather track and new infield grass. Weston Ranch will showcase the upgrades, as well as new jerseys, on on its home opener Sept. 6 against Franklin. “I’m excited,” senior quarterback/cornerback Atlantis Gholston said. “I’ve been dreaming about that moment,

SCHEDULE 8/23 at Ripon 9/6 vs. Franklin 9/13 vs. Buhach Col. 9/27 vs. Oakdale 10/4 at Kimball 10/11 vs. C. Catholic 10/18 vs. Manteca 10/25 at East Union 11/1 at Sierra walking through the tunnel for our first home game in new uniforms. It’s my senior year and it’s as if everything has been put in line perfectly. I’m going to go out and give it my all.” The Cougars are ready to put a tumultuous 2018 season behind them. Then firstyear coach Kevin Breaker was fired after just three games, and the team’s Week 2 win at Franklin was forfeited for using an ineligible player. Additionally, work was expected to begin on the stadium at the start of the season but got postponed. As a result, the Cougars did not host a game until the seventh week for homecoming. They finished 0-10. In 16 years, Weston Ranch has had just one winning season — the Cougars were part of a three-way share of the Valley Oak League title in 2005 — and two .500 finishes. Reyes isn’t promising overnight success but is

COACHES uHead coach: Sal Reyes (first year) uStaff: Sam Sears (OC), Aaron Edwards (DC), John Nomura (LB), Nate Waltz (OL), Benny Buardiola (strength and conditioning), Mario Grey (QB), Mike Hale (JV HC), Marcelo Zamarripa (JV OC), Courtney Smith, Sr. (JV assistant), Crispin Gonzalez (JV DC). encouraged by the foundation set by his current group of players, coaching staff and administration. “I’ve had some good talks with Mr. Fast and Mr. Lewis, and we just want to move on from last year and not make the same mistakes,” Reyes said. “I’m not taking anything from any of our (previous) coaches, they’ve all done a great job and I believe every coach brings something different to a program. Hopefully my leadership style and the rest of our coaches can have a positive impact.” Michael Hale, varsity head coach from 2008-12, has returned to the program and will lead the JV. Joining him as JV offensive coordinator is Marcelo Zamarippa, who took over in the interim last season after Breaker’s dismissal. Both are on-campus

teachers. Senior tackle/linebacker Isiah Maxie appreciates the enthusiasm that the coaches, both new and old, bring to practices. “Going through a coaching change in the middle of the season was tough, but we learned to keep pushing and fighting through adversity,” Maxie said. “Everyone in league doubted us. The score didn’t define who we are. Every game Weston Ranch played their heart out, things just didn’t fall our way. “It’s definitely a fresh start now, a whole new environment. I’m really excited to seeing how the season plays out and to step out onto the new field.” Ethan Taylor, Gholston and Maxie are the only players who are going into their fourth season with the program. The rest either come up from a promising JV group that went 6-4 last year or are first-yer players. Gholston returns to the quarterback position after being moved to receiver early last season in favor of Amier Bowen, the school’s single-season record holder for passing yards. The Cougars are shifting to a veer offense but will occasionally go to the previously-

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

First-year head coach Sal Reyes gets his players lined up on defense as the team prepares for 11-on-11 drills.

used spread system to take advantage of their speed. “I feel like we can outrun anybody,” Gholston said. “If we can get our timing and blocking assignments down, we can be pretty good.” Reyes likes the potential of the running game. While Gholston is threat to make plays outside the pocket, he can also hand it off to the speed-power combo of 5-foot-3 scatback Aaron Vickers and Marcel Phillips — both first-year players. Junior Jose Sanchez and Phillips book end Maxie at

linebacker to help fortify the 3-3-5 defense. Overall, Reyes is pleased with the progress of the program and the excitement it can bring to the campus. “We look forward to bringing that positive energy back to our program and to represent the Weston Ranch community the best we can,” Reyes said. “We want to bring out the parents, families and friends on Friday nights to cheer on these young players.”

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Football Preview

The Bulletin-Thursday, August 22, 2019

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