At the conclusion of his contact football camp last week, Downey High School coach Jeremy Plaa, talking about Saturday’s Modesto Junior College Passing Tournament, made his expectation clear.
“We better win the thing,” said Plaa, whose team was coming off a second-place performance at the Stagg passing tournament in Stockton. “I’m tired of finishing second.”
Downey senior quarterback P.J. Wilson shook off an early interception and the Knights came through with a late defensive stop en route to a 21-20 victory over Turlock in the championship contest.
Downey and Turlock were two of 16 area teams taking part in the annual event. Beyer, Gregori, Modesto, Ceres, Central Valley, Riverbank, Escalon, Pacheco, Orestimba, Sierra, Sonora, Golden Valley, Le Grand and Mariposa also competed in the event, which started at 9 a.m. and lasted about four hours.
Never miss a local story.
“What we’re looking for out here is kids that will compete,” said Plaa, whose Knights shared the Modesto Metro Conference championship with Modesto last season. “Learning how to win, and how to hate to lose, are skills – just like catching the ball – that kids need to learn.”
Passing tournaments, as the name indicates, are devoid of running plays. Plus, they’re conducted in T-shirts and shorts, without offensive linemen and with no tackling. So while they aren’t the truest indication of a team’s overall skill, they do spotlight individuals with strong arms, good hands or good speed, or a quarterback-receiver combination that has good chemistry.
Wilson, undersized by quarterback standards, appeared poised and consistent guiding Downey’s attack – albeit without a pass rush in his face. He was aided by senior Jakob Magana, who seemed to catch, and defend, everything thrown in his direction.
Golden Valley of Merced looks like it has found a quarterback of the future in Armando Muzquiz, a 6-foot-2, 170-pounder who demonstrated his arm strength on several deep outs and long completions.
Turlock has a nice sophomore in receiver Daniel Velasquez, whose size and speed will make him a tough assignment for any defensive back.
Pacheco of Los Banos appears to have a nice crop of skill players – led by battering ram fullback/linebacker Frank Ginda (6-2, 230). The Panthers should battle Patterson for the Western Athletic Conference championship this season.
Something new to this year’s passing tournament was the inclusion of a clinic for offensive and defensive linemen. Former University of Oregon offensive lineman Jordan Holmes, who played for the Ducks in their national championship loss to Auburn in 2011, put the O-linemen through their paces. Former MJC standout Beau Bachtelle, who recently graduated from the University of Buffalo – where he played with Oakland Raiders first-round draft choice Khalil Mack – took charge of the D-linemen.
“It’s nice to come back and help out and be around football again, said Bachtelle, who said he’s considering a career on the sideline. “I’d like to get into strength-and-conditioning coaching.”
And for the record, Raiders fans, Bachtelle says Mack is not only a super talent but a great guy.
“I’m happy to see him enjoy all this success,” Bachtelle said.
Football fans can get a glimpse of more action beginning Thursday when Central Catholic hosts Sonora, Calaveras and Ripon Christian in a three-day camp. Technically, it’s the Sonora contact camp, but it’s been moved to Modesto since a new playing surface is being installed at Dunlavy Field in Sonora. The teams will practice most of the day on Thursday and Friday with scrimmages beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday.