As freshmen, the Class of 2017 walked the campus of Beyer High school with confidence, seemingly unaware of their place on the totem pole.
Within two years, athletic director and football coach Doug Severe watched that confidence blossom into varsity championships.
Beyer won Modesto Metro Conference titles in football, wrestling and baseball during the 2015-16 school year with key contributions from a very determined junior class, which includes two-sport stars Dylan Weltmer and Brian Perry.
Severe can sense the best is yet to come for this group, and he hopes it begins Aug. 26, when the Patriots kick off the football season at Hilmar.
“This is one of the groups I coached as freshman,” Severe said, “and they liked to compete back then. They’re a close-knit group and I think they’ve only grown closer.
“We had a successful year in football, wrestling, basketball and baseball. They’ve tasted that success and I think they realize that in order for it to continue it takes hard work and dedication. The leaders understand that.”
The Patriots’ football team forged a three-way split of the MMC championship with a late-season charge. Beyer won its final five regular-season games to share the hardware with four-time defending champion Downey and Modesto. The Patriots advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs, where they lost an emotional showdown with Grant High. The Pacers were mourning the shooting death of senior J.J. Clavo.
The stalwarts in that captivating run were league MVP and All-District large-school running back Jay Green, all-conference center Javon Pope and three-year starting quarterback Nick Trujillo.
All three graduated in June, punching large holes in the depth chart. To fill, Severe and his coaching staff will look to a decorated senior class.
Weltmer is a two-way lineman who earned all-conference honors at defensive end last fall and has spent most of the summer on the college camp circuit.
Perry is another two-way talent who will step in at quarterback. Severe said he’ll see time in the secondary, too, where he had two interceptions.
D.J. Jackson will inherit many of Green’s touches. Jackson averaged 5.9 yards percarry last fall, rushing for 390 yards and four touchdowns. He had one 100-yard game and his 48-yard touchdown run helped stun Modesto.
“You lose Jay Green, the MVP of our league, that’s a big blow. D.J. Jackson will do a great job picking up part of that slack,” Severe said. “You lose Trujillo, a starter for three years, but Brian Perry will step and do a great job there.
“It’s a good group. In some ways, we lose some things but in some ways we gain some things. They all understand the importance of functioning together for us to be successful.”
Jackson has developed the voice to match his hulking 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame.
“He has taken on a really strong leadership role,” Severe said of Jackson. “He’s making sure kids are doing what they’re supposed to do in the weight room.”
That the players have policed themselves during the offseason has been a pleasant but welcomed surprise for Severe. It shows maturity, he says, and bodes well for the adversity they are sure to encounter in the fall.
After Hilmar, Beyer hosts Golden Valley on Sept. 1, travels to Edison of Stockton on Sept. 9, and then closes the nonconference portion of its schedule at home against Atwater on Sept. 15.
“It’s important because those are their buddies. They hang out with them after the games or during the weekends,” Severe said. “In some situations, it’s more important than the coach. As a coach, you can only do so much.
“Sometimes, when it comes from their own peers, it carries a little more weight. I want our kids to be in leadership roles. I think that’s part of growing up.”