MODESTO — The Big Valley Christian football team conducted it first football practice without head coach Larry Shimel, a Modesto High teacher who died Wednesday from an apparent heart attack at age 58.
But, in a strange way, it was like any other Thursday for the Lions.
"To some extent it was business as usual," interim coach Tim Giannosa, 44, said of Thursday's workout. "Practice was never about Coach Shimel and it was never really about football. It was always about those boys."
"Those boys" will host Valley Christian (Roseville) tonight at 7. A memorial will be held at 6:30 to honor Shimel, a coaching fixture in the Stanislaus District for more than 30 years.
"I think the guys took practice real seriously. They came out with a goal. They want to win, for sure, but they want to represent themselves the way that Coach taught them to represent themselves."
Modesto Metro Conference League action gets underway in the MMC with a trio of games in town. Downey will host Johansen in its homecoming game, while Enochs visits Beyer (at Johansen) in the Sylvan Bowl and Modesto pays a visit to Don Lanphear Stadium to face Gregori.
Enochs is off to an 0-4 start but those losses were to the top four teams in the Central California Conference. Beyer has dropped two straight after a 2-0 start.
Gregori had been the most consistent team in the league, but after a perfect start the Jaguars fell to Division 4 Liberty Ranch (Galt) last week. Modesto is 2-2, with the losses coming to Pitman and Turlock, ranked 1-2 in The Bee's large-school rankings. However, the Panthers proved they're capable of being a player in the MMC with their second-half performance in a 41-40 loss to Turlock last week.
Downey (2-2) faces a rebuilding Johansen (0-4) squad.
Escalon at Ripon The Indians are 4-0 but haven't been tested like they're about to be. They get Escalon tonight, a team they beat last year for the first time in 16 tries, followed by Modesto Christian, Hughson and Hilmar a combined 10-1.
Hilmar at Modesto Christian The undefeated Yellowjackets (4-0) travel to take on Modesto Christian (3-1), which, despite suiting up just 20 players, has looked every bit a title contender.
Pitman at Pleasant Grove The Pride will travel to Elk Grove to face the sixth-ranked team in Northern California, according to MaxPreps. Pitman, tied for 25th in the poll with Central Catholic, will be out to avenge a 45-0 loss to Eagles in the 2011 Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.