For the past two years, quarterbacks Armando Muzquiz and Danny Velasquez have been adversaries in the Central California Conference.
With a strong arm, Muzquiz led a football renaissance at Golden Valley, while the shifty Velasquez blossomed quickly into a two-time league MVP, rotating from running back under center as a senior.
This week, they’re teammates – and roommates – for the South in the 44th annual Central California Lions All-Star Football Game.
California’s fourth-oldest active all-star game returns to Wayne Schneider Stadium at Tracy High School on Saturday evening. Kickoff is 7.
The game divides the southern half of the Sac-Joaquin Section, creating a civil war of sorts between the North (Ripon, Manteca, Stockton, Tracy and the Mother Lode) versus the South (Oakdale, Modesto, Turlock, Merced and the West Side).
The South has won three of the last four games in riveting fashion. In 2015, former Modesto High quarterback Nate Phillips led a second-half charge in a 51-38 victory. The South scored 30 unanswered points with Phillips in for injured starter P.J. Wilson.
Last June, Downey dynamo Tyran Daniels returned an interception 102 yards for a touchdown, cutting the North’s lead in the all-time series to 24-17-2.
Who will champion the South this week?
Coach Dustin Caropreso is eager to see the battle between Muzquiz and Velasquez develop. He has broken his offensive unit into two groups, each balanced and overloaded with talent. One quarterback will captain the Cardinal, the other the Gold.
The unit that performs the best during practice this week likely will start Saturday’s game.
“I’m going to let that develop,” Caropreso said.
For all of their battles and natural rivalry, Muzquiz doesn’t mind sharing reps – or a room – with Velasquez, who guided the Bulldogs to their first CCC title in 13 years.
As a junior, Velasquez totaled 1,035 yards of offense and 13 touchdowns in nine games, and he shared the CCC MVP award with Merced’s A.J. Stewart. Last fall, Velasquez made the move to quarterback, where he steered the Bulldogs through a difficult schedule.
Turlock lost its first two games of the season to out-of-section powers Freedom of Oakley and Clovis. After that, the Bulldogs won nine consecutive games before losing to Elk Grove in the first round of the Division I playoffs.
“Look at the kid,” Muzquiz said, “he deserves everything he gets.”
So does Muzquiz, though, and that will be the challenge for Caropreso, who won’t shy away from throwing the football.
Muzquiz threw for 1,715 yards and 19 touchdowns against just five interceptions as Golden Valley put itself in playoff contention. The Cougars finished 5-5 with victories over Placer, Beyer and Los Banos.
In a 31-28 loss to Turlock, Muzquiz had perhaps his best individual effort. He was 20 of 29 for 284 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a score.
“All throughout high school, I’ve had to limit my throws so that a receiver could catch it,” said Muzquiz. “Now I can open up my repertoire. Now that I have all of these guys around me, I can show my ball placement and how I fit it into tight areas. I can bring out everything … show my next-level ability.”
With an explosive receiving corps led by Golden Valley’s Cadrian McDaniel, Central Catholic’s Cole Petlansky and Ceres’ Marcellus Boykins-Hall, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound Muzquiz looks forward to stretching the field.
Velasquez could also line up in the slot, giving the North coaches (East Union’s Willie Herrera and staff) another wrinkle to worry about.
“With a team like this and all the talent we have in camp, if we can get the chemistry down there’s no stopping us,” Muzquiz said. “Once we learn how to work together and put the talent in the right places ... that will be deciding factor: Whoever gets closer by Saturday.”