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BATTLED TESTED

Spartans confident after promising summer camp

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BATTLED TESTED

Lathrop head coach Steven Wichman and quarterback Diego Chavez let it fly during a passing drill.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin/


POSTED July 27, 2014 11:19 p.m.

Second-year Lathrop coach Steven Wichman has a better idea of what his team can do with pads on this time around.

The Spartans went into last year’s Sac-Joaquin Section Dead Period without having gone head-to-head with other teams in a full-contact camp. Entering one was a priority for Wichman this summer.

“It’s a true form of assessment to find out how far we’ve come throughout the summer process, which is a grind,” said Wichman, who went 1-9 in his inaugural season. “It gave us coaches and even the players a chance to see where our efforts have gotten us.”

Lathrop didn’t have to travel far. For four days the Spartans mixed it up with the likes of Valley Oak League rivals Sierra and Kimball as well as Chavez at the annual Stagg camp in Stockton. They stacked up well in 11-on-11 scrimmages, giving them both confidence and momentum heading into the Dead Period, which began last week and ends Aug. 11 with the first official day of practice.

“On both sides of the ball I thought we did a lot of nice things,” Wichman said. “I think overall as a team and a coaching staff we were pleased to see how we progressed in our summer camp.”

It was the first time Wichman got to see his new offense at work. Lathrop is moving away from the traditional I-back to more of a shotgun offense to take advantage of the strengths of junior quarter Diego Chavez and promising athletes who surround him.

“We’ve added a couple nuances to try and expand our offense, but more importantly to utilize the athletes that we have at our disposal,” Wichman said. “We have quite a bit of players who can put us in position to be successful. My thought process was, ‘How can we get the ball in the hands of our playmakers?’”

Those playmakers showed well at the annual Mustang Roundup passing tournament held at Delta Junior College, where Lathrop placed third with wins over Argonaut and Monterey Trail (Elk Grove) following a first-round loss to Chavez.

Wichman was also pleased with what he saw in a 7-on-7/lineman challenge at Tracy High.

“Tracy won the SJAA (San Joaquin Athletic Association) last year and is predicted to do pretty well again,” Wichman said. “It gave us an opportunity to match up with one of the top-notch contenders in our area, and I thought we did pretty well there. We were satisfied with the outcome of that.”

Also this summer, Lathrop hosted its second youth football camp with many of its players aiding with instruction. They also held an overnight sleepover on campus, a tradition that began last summer.

“It’s always nice to get everybody away from the element of football,” Wichman said. “It allows the boys to bond with each other on a completely different sense. We played basketball, held ping pong tournaments and even got to jump in the swimming pool. It’s a form of team bonding away from football.”

Changes were made to the coaching staff, but Wichman said that continuity remains. Freshman head coach Clinton Golbrisch accepted a teaching job in Ceres, where he is from, and is replaced by Oscar Guerra, who was head coach of the Jr. Spartans youth varsity squad last year.

Rob Wichman, Steven’s father, takes over the sophomore team after previous head coach Veda Franklin moved to Southern California.

Notable additions include on-campus teacher and head baseball coach Randy Baltazar, former Weston Ranch standout RB/LB Torijean Saffold and former Tracy High standout Kevin Speer.

“It has really been an easy transition,” Wichman said. “Every single member of my staff I have either coached with, coached against or played against in college and high school — I’ve known most of them for a real long time.

“The players know what our expectations are as a coaching staff. We have created a vision and a goal and I believe our players have bought into that. The work output has increased because they understand what they are up against in the Valley Oak League. It’s a very challenging and highly competitive league, and in order to be part of the conversation with the top teams we have to be willing to put in the effort.”

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