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As a junior, Chris Bradley was the quarterback for a Modesto High football team that liked to move the ball with a punishing ground game.

The Panthers had their moments and finished the season on a strong note, winning two of four Modesto Metro Conference games.

Bradley had his moments as well, completing 84 of 170 passes for 1,098 yards and 10 touchdowns. His highlights included a 255-yard, two-touchdown performance in a loss to Turlock and a 224-yard, two-touchdown game in a win against MMC co-champion Johansen.

The leash appears to have been loosened this season.

"The team's looking a lot different this year," Bradley said. "A lot of our big guys graduated. But we've got a lot of skill guys coming back."

So the Panthers are going to focus on the passing game this year. Modesto head coach Rod Long has used the shotgun spread offense in the past, but he was just as likely to run out of it as pass.

This year?

"We hope to be throwing the ball a lot more," said Bradley, who figures to be one of the beneficiaries of the new strategy. "It's exciting."

He's got a familiar face to throw to in senior receiver Daniel McClellan.

"We've been on the same team for four years now," Bradley said. "We've got a good rapport. I'll definitely be looking for him."

The Modesto sidelines will have a few new faces as well. Frank Bispo, who coached at Downey the last decade, is now Modesto's offensive coordinator. Two key members of Bispo's staff at Downey -- assistants Len Johnston and Russ Garcia -- will also be wearing Modesto red and black. Bispo said the Panthers would use the shotgun formation for nearly "100 percent" of their plays.

"I think this offense is perfect for Chris," Bispo said. "He can run, he can throw. He's intelligent and he can read the coverages, too.

"We're probably going to have some growing pains, but we're all going to have some fun."

Modesto's first hurdle will be its tough preseason schedule. It includes games against Edison of Fresno -- which already has two games under its belt -- Franklin of Stockton, Turlock, Golden Valley and perennial section favorite Jesuit of Carmichael.

Opening with Edison -- where Pac-10 recruits Robert Golden and Brandon Leslie anchor what editor Mark Tennis calls one of the state's top secondaries -- will test Bradley right away.

"Playing such a tough preseason will make us better for league," Bradley said. "We know if we're able to move the ball against teams like Edison and Jesuit, we'll be OK in league.

"And our league, it's wide open. Anybody can win it. We feel we're going to be right there."