The high school football season won’t officially kick off until August, but many of the Stanislaus District’s top programs are already in full swing.
Seven months after clinching an outright Central California Conference championship with a Harvest Bowl victory over rival Pitman High, Turlock begins its summer season at a 7-on-7 tournament at UC Davis this weekend.
Coach James Peterson said the event will double as a coaching clinic.
The Bulldogs lost two-time CCC Most Valuable Player Danny Velasquez, standout defensive end Mustafa Noel-Johnson and offensive lineman Nicolas Berry to graduation, but return a healthy core on both sides of the ball.
Seniors Dustin Grein (safety) and Breck Jeffus (linebacker), along with junior Jake Dirkse (linebacker) will lead the defensive unit, while junior Johan Kosakiewicz will fill Velasquez’s void under center. He’ll be protected by senior center Brandon Flores and 6-foot-6 sophomore Everett Johnson. Senior Mark Flores returns at running back.
For Peterson and his staff, the UC Davis tournament will provide a first look at the skill players in action together.
Central Catholic is headed back to the De La Salle passing tournament on Saturday, June 17, in Concord.
Even with a pair of new quarterbacks (Cole Petlansky and Theo Azevedo), the Raiders held their own against some of the Bay Area’s best last season, going undefeated in all competitions.
Central Catholic wasn’t able to parlay that success into another CIF State Bowl appearance, but the Raiders, led by four-year linebacker Montell Bland, Valley Oak League MVP Jared Rice and all-everything defensive back DaRon Bland, managed a split of the league title with Oakdale and Manteca.
Like Turlock, Central Catholic suffered heavy graduation losses.
The Bland cousins now occupy both ends of the Causeway Classic rivalry, with Montell at UC Davis and DaRon enrolled at Sacramento State. Rice is walking onto the Cal Poly men’s basketball team, while kicker Bryce Wade is now a member of the Worcester Polytechnic Institute football program.
Still, athletic director and defensive coordinator Billy Hylla likes the makeup of the 2017 roster.
While they may lack the star power of recent Raider teams, Hylla said this group’s drive and work ethic reminds him of the 2013 team “that just refused to lose.”
In 2013, the Raiders went 15-1 and defeated Bakersfield Christian in the CIF State Division IV Bowl, 36-23.
Western Athletic Conference champion Central Valley isn’t going far for competition.
The Hawks, led by third-year coach Scott Edwards, will lock horns with Modesto Christian, Davis, Ripon and Sierra in a series of rotating passing scrimmages on Wednesdays.
Central Valley is coming off a historic season.
The Hawks captured their first league title in dominating fashion, winning eight straight to close the regular season, including all five WAC matchups.
Four players off that team have signed national letters of intent, a record for a program spreading its wings Edwards: WAC MVP Erik Meiji (Humboldt State); Gabriel Quezada (Humboldt State); Carlos Fregoso (Occidental College); and Jonathan Barragan (Valley City State).
Editor’s note: The Bee encourages football coaches and athletic directors to send their summer schedules, including tournaments, challenges and passing leagues, to reporter James Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org.