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A to Z guide to season

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A to Z guide to season

A behind the scenes look as Manteca Bulletin Managing Editor James Burns helps get players in position for the cover group shot for the Manteca Bulletin 2013 Football Preview as Sports Editor Jonam...


POSTED August 29, 2013 11:01 p.m.

A is for Abeyta. Former Ripon High football coach Manuel Abeyta passed away on Aug. 4. Though he never coached Chris Johnson, he was instrumental in welcoming the Indians’ current head coach to the community in 1983.

B is for broken bones. Ripon Christian wide receiver Spencer Hower broke both his wrists in a skateboarding fall at Curt Pernice Skate Park. The all-Southern League performer missed most of the Knights’ summer workouts and sat out a contact camp with Sonora, Central Catholic and Calaveras.

C is for chain gang. Typically, when a play carries out of bounds, the chain gang scatters. Weston Ranch may have the only chain gang member looking for contact. MMA rising star Vince Bordi will man the Cougars’ chains this fall. Bordi currently holds two MMA belts.

D is for the Dead Period. The CIF mandated that all fall sports observe a period of no organized team activity from July 22 to Aug. 12.

E is for Escalon. Ripon’s longtime rival, the Cougars should get major contributions on both sides of the ball from Josh Redding. The senior is Escalon’s top returning rusher (223 yards) and led the team with five interceptions last fall. Ripon hosts Escalon Sept. 27.

F is for facilities. East Union has multi-million dollar plans in hand to renovate Dino Cunial Stadium. Manteca has also begun looking at ways to modernize Guss Schmiedt Field. Ripon Christian may beat them all to the punch with an athletic complex that will provide fields for soccer and football, as well as upgrade the facilities for baseball and softball.

G is for Gardner. Remember the name? Manteca is tasked with corralling 1,500-yard running back J’Quan Gardner in its season opener at Central Valley. Gardner is the cousin of former Manteca High point guard Kiwi Gardner.

H is for Help Wanted. The Knights will begin the season with fewer than 20 players on the varsity roster. First-year coach Randy Fasani said his program is handcuffed by the boys soccer program and lack of football tradition.

I is for new identity. Weston Ranch coach Seth Davis interrupted his program’s spring and summer routines to give back to the community. The Cougars took part in the Flags Over Manteca program, helping set out and pick up 2,400 flags along the city’s arterial streets. “That’s the new face of our program – putting others before us as a team,” Davis said.

J is for jumpers. Manteca juniors Carl Chandler and Lechi Nkwocha qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section Masters meet in the triple jump in May and led the Buffaloes to their second consecutive Valley Oak League track title.

K is for kickers. Manteca soccer player Marcus Montano could have the strongest leg in the area. The junior has reportedly kicked field goals from 50 yards with relative ease in non-game situations, yet only attempted one last fall. He was 24 of 25 on PATs, while splitting duties with then-senior Matt Kuhnlenz.

L is for Lopez. East Union running back Victor Lopez had a modest season in 2012, rushing for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Those numbers could skyrocket this fall as the Lancers change to a run-heavy attack with Lopez in the lead seat.

M is for Machado. Area football fans will get two chances to see Orestimba’s Steven Machado, one of Northern California’s top running backs. Orestimba travels to East Union Sept. 6 and Ripon Nov. 1. The Westside Warrior has rushed for 3,220 yards and 26 touchdowns in two varsity seasons.

N is for new offense, new defense. The Lancers change from the spread to the wing, a run-based attack that relies on deception, to better utilize personnel. The same is true of their defense. East Union switches from a 4-4 to a 3-4.

O is for O-fer. Lathrop went 0-10 last fall and hasn’t won a game since blanking Kimball 14-0 in the final game of the 2011 season. In all, the Spartans have lost 17 of their last 18 games.

P is for prospects. The chatter and buzz surrounding some of the area’s top football players is quiet – for now. Though they’re undersized by most Division-I standards, Manteca offensive linemen Isaac McClain and Billy Sharmoug will play their way onto someone’s recruiting board.

Q is for quarterbacks. Manteca and Sierra should have two of the Central Valley’s top gunslingers in Joe Menzel and Jake Pruitt, respectively. Expectations are high for each, but look for Menzel, a record-setter as a sophomore at East Union, to force run-first Manteca to think pass more often.

R is for realignment. It’s coming next fall – and so is Central Catholic, a state small-school power. The Raiders become the VOL’s first private school, assuming the vacancy left behind by Sonora. An original member of the Valley Oak League, the Wildcats will play in the Mother Lode League

S is for sophomores. Ripon Christian’s Tyler Driesen and Will Kamps would have played and likely started for the Knights a season ago as freshmen, but they were prohibited from playing varsity because of CIF rule. At the time, they were each 14.

T is for tests. Manteca hosts Santa Clara Wilcox in Week 1 (Sept. 6). Wilcox went 8-4 in 2012 and reached the second round of the Central Coast Section playoffs. More importantly for head coach Eric Reis, Wilcox arrives one week after a season-opening contest against one of the Bay Area’s heavyweights – Valley Christian of San Jose.

U is for under-the-radar players. Without all-world running back Anthony Cota (Modesto Junior College) to lean on, the Timberwolves will take to the skies often this fall. Pruitt has a big-play receiver in Bryson Sanders, but don’t sleep on Lucas Widmer (two catches, 17 yards in 2012).

V is for the Valley Oak League. Oakdale is the six-time defending champion, but a seventh may be a stretch. The Mustangs graduated a boat load of talent, including three-year varsity quarterback Spencer Thomas.

W is for Willie Herrera. The East Union head coach is 2-18 in two seasons after the Lancers’ last playoff appearance under Mike James. They begin Year 3 of his tenure with four consecutive home games to start the season.

X is for quick exits. Manteca, the area’s most decorated program and last section champion, hasn’t won a playoff ga,e since 2007. In that time, the Buffs are 0-4 in the postseason.

Y is for “Your guess is as good as mine.” Sierra coach Jeff Harbison doesn’t know what to expect from his run game. The Timberwolves’ top returning rushers are Pruitt (58 carries for 249 yards) and Garrett DeVillanueva (two carries, 3 yards). Graduated stars Guillermo Nunez and Cota rushed for more than 2,500 of the team’s 3,034 yards last fall.

Z is for Week Zero. The season begins Friday with four teams in action: Manteca at Central Valley, Sierra at Tracy, Grace Davis at East Union and Bret Harte at Ripon.

To contact James Burns, e-mail

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