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Delta Rebels now Junior T’wolves

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POSTED March 20, 2014 1:19 a.m.

The Delta Rebels are no more.

The youth football and cheer program will celebrate its 30th anniversary this fall with a new moniker, new image, new colors and hopefully, a new direction.

Gone is the mustached cartoon character with hands propped on his hips, hat pulled over his brow. In his place, the board has adopted a familiar mascot to city sports fans: The Timber wolf.

The Rebels have officially changed their name to the Junior Timberwolves with the hope of someday aligning themselves with the Sierra High football program.

“It’s a hard change. The Delta Rebels is all I’ve known. My friends played for the Rebels. My family has played. My kids have played,” said President Angela Ott, who has given nearly a decade of service to the now-defunct Rebels. 

“The way we described it, this is the new generation. We’re still Rebels at heart, but this is what’s best for the future of football and our kids.”

Ott announced the change at the season-ending awards banquet in January, catching some, including one board member, by surprise.

“We are the Timberwolves now,” said Susanna Duran, outgoing administrator. “... We heard rumors and weren’t sure, but everything was confirmed to us that night.”

The change was motivated by a growing trend in youth athletics.

Junior football programs have gained in popularity over the years, with two residing within the Manteca Unified School District boundaries: the Junior Buffaloes the Junior Spartans of Lathrop. 

The Junior Buffaloes aren’t a feeder program, Manteca High coach Eric Reis said, though the youth teams have adopted a similar playbook and system.

Ott believes the Junior Timberwolves will benefit from the name cachet alone.

She said the Rebels dealt with the fallout when the Junior Buffaloes were formed. For many years, the Rebels received most of their talent from the neighborhoods surrounding Manteca High. That changed, she said, with the arrival of the Junior Buffaloes.

Ott said they explored the idea of becoming the Junior Lancer before choosing the Timber wolf mascot.

“We did it to maintain our core group – our coaches and our families,” said Ott, entering her fifth year as president. “People tend to go toward junior teams, even if they don’t know anything about them.

“We feared there would be a shift and everyone would go that way. Then our numbers would be too low and it would break apart what I think is a good core group. It was a way to keep the good people we have working together.”

For now, Ott said there is no bridge between the Junior Timberwolves and Sierra. They share only a moniker. Even the logo and team colors are different.

“We put on our fliers and banners that we’re not an affiliate team of Sierra,” she said. “Maybe one day, maybe five years down the road, we might have that opportunity to work with the school and the team.”

Ott believes it would be in the best interest of the school district and high school athletic departments to establish feeder football programs for all high schools. Not only would the youth teams adopt the system put in place by the varsity head coach, but they’d also align themselves with the program’s standards for academics and parent support.

“It would be best. It’s an investment for bigger things in the future. I’d like to see our town go toward that,” she said. “We need to refocus and look back to the kids. That’s what it’s all about. Working with the high schools would make it more affordable for the kids. It would make them familiar with how the high schools get it done” on and off the field.

“Sierra is big on student-athletes – students coming first. We respect and admire what they do. Hopefully in five years or so, we’ll have a good working relationship with the high school.”

Sierra High has denounced any relationship with the Junior Timberwolves.

“This name change was done against the wishes of Sierra High School in an attempt to affiliate themselves with the Sierra athletic department,” Dean of Athletics Anthony Chapman said in the statement released on Tuesday. “This organization is in no way affiliated with, endorsed by, or supported by Sierra High School.”

The school does have longstanding ties to two Manteca youth football and cheer programs. The Manteca Chargers and Manteca Jaguars play their home games at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium. Ott said the Junior Timberwolves have inquired about hosting games there, too.

“Sierra High School will continue to support local youth programs within the community that share our common vision and interest for youth and high school athletes,” Chapman said in the statement.

The Rebels were established in 1984 and are the second-oldest youth football organization in Manteca.

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