High School Football

Julian Lopez: Early thoughts from summer passing leagues with season 2 months away

Watch highlights of the North team’s 19-18 win over South in 46th annual Central California Lions All-Star Game

The North team beat the South team in the 46th annual Central California Lions All-Star Game at Lincoln High School in Stockton, California on Saturday, June 15, 2019.
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The North team beat the South team in the 46th annual Central California Lions All-Star Game at Lincoln High School in Stockton, California on Saturday, June 15, 2019.

Summer is almost over for high school football teams. Sunday marks two months until the Aug. 23 start of the season.

I’ve attended a couple of 7-on-7 competitions and passing leagues and here is what I have seen from local schools:

Beyer: Just spending time around the program, this team has a lot of swagger. After a disappointing 0-10 season last year, Greg Bockman was named head coach in January, replacing Doug Severe. With a couple of returners on defense and a heavy amount of players coming from the junior varsity team that went 10-0, the Patriots look strong.

Throughout the 2018 season, the JV team was always mentioned as a team of promise and talent. The Patriots have multiple skill players and speed across the board.

Big Valley Christian: The Lions traveled to San Luis Obispo last weekend to compete in a tournament with Grace Brethren and Sierra Canyon among others.

While they struggled against the two Southern California powerhouse programs (Grace Brethren won state title while Sierra Canyon lost in state championship), Lions coach Brian Berkefeld said he was proud of his players’ effort and it was probably the only team they would face with NCAA Division I-caliber players this year.

It’s fun seeing the Lions compete in the passing leagues because they aren’t a team that passes a lot (only 53 yards per game in 2018).

For a small-school program with about 50-60 players, Big Valley is starting to garner the looks from college coaches, who are particularly eyeing at senior running back Javyn Drobnick, who rushed for 2,221 yards last season.

Big Valley also added a couple of transfers from big-time programs.

Johansen: When you talk to coach Scott Sacuskie, it’s hard not to want to put on the pads after the conversation. He pushes his players and has a genuine care for the program.

The Vikings only won three games last year, but it was most since 2011.

They appear to be trending upward and have fared well against fellow Western Athletic Conference foe Beyer in passing leagues.

It’s another program that looks to have an increased roster size

Modesto Christian: A tumultuous off-season that saw Ryan Green step down as coach after less than three months on the job is now in the past.

Brett Butler, who was named the Crusaders coach on May 7, has a tough task with a small roster (about 20-25 on varsity last year).

Watching Butler communicate with his players, I enjoyed how how detailed he was.

With only one other coach at a recent 7-on-7 event, Butler communicated with every player and the Crusaders ran an up-tempo offense ... although no word yet on who the quarterback will be.


  • After one of the section’s best receivers in Tyler Vargas graduated, Orerstimba coach Aaron Souza might have found his next star, Vargas’ younger brother, Jayden. A sophomore, Jayden led the JV team with 615 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s quick, runs good routes, and has good hands .... just like his brother.
  • Riverbank senior quarterback Bryce Martin could take a big step in 2019. Under new coach, Anthony Buich, who said the offense will feature a lot of short throws, Martin has an accurate arm and looked good recently against Beyer and Johansen.
  • Turlock beat Downey, 10-9, in the semifinals at the UC Davis Passing Tournament on June 8. The Bulldogs fell to Oak Ridge in the final.
  • Dead Period begins July 8 although most teams will host their last practice on July 3. During the time, teams may not hold any organized activities at all. The practice period resumes on July 29.
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Julian A. Lopez has been covering local sports for The Modesto Bee since August 2018. He graduated from Arizona State in 2016 with a BA in Journalism.