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.
Billy Sharmoug is one of the strongest linemen to ever play for Manteca High coach Eric Reis.
MVP IN THE MAKING: Senior running back Alex Laurel has tacked on 15 pounds of muscle to his 5-foot-8 frame, which should add another dimension to his game. He'll get most of the carries at running back this fall and could post MVP-type numbers behind the Valley Oak League's best offensive line. "We've had him playing a lot of defense and running the ball," Reis said. "This year, we'll have him just running."
Isaiah Gordon doesn't want to be known as "Teejay's little brother."
EARLY MOMENTUM: East Union's ambitious pre-league schedule in 2012 started with St. Mary's, head coach Willie Herrera's alma mater and a premier parochial power in Northern California. This year, Modesto's Grace Davis (six wins in three years) replaces St. Mary's, while rematches with Orestimba and Modesto Christian follow. All three of the Lancers' nonleague contests are at home.
Sierra could always pass, but it's been a run-first attack out of the spread-option in recent years.
DIFFERENT 'D': Sierra's nickel defense (five defensive backs) has been slightly altered for 2013. The Timberwolves are going away from a 3-3 front in favor of a 4-2 (four linemen, two linebackers). Harbison likes the depth and experience in the trenches. Returning all-VOL selection Aaron Thiel (6-0, 215) is accompanied by senior classmates Devonte Reese and Khalil Williams on the line. There are also high hopes for junior Trevon McCray at linebacker. He gained playoff experience as a sophomore call-up last year. Safety Hunter Peterson and cornerback Jonathan Montoya help shore up the defensive backfield, which showed much promise ...
On a sticky summer afternoon, the familiar sights and sounds of football season return to this Central Valley stadium.
Some of the biggest personalities on a football team come from offensive linemen.
THE 'O' GOES 'I': First-year head coach Steven Wichman is going back to his roots and to the roots of his father Rob, who heads the Lathrop's linemen. The Spartans lined up in the wishbone offensively in their first three seasons, but Wichman has them running out of the familiar I-back formation. He orchestrated the "I" as quarterback for then-head coach Steve Lopez at West (Tracy). Both Lopez and Rob Wichman played in the same offense for legendary Tracy High head coach Wayne Schneider. "We feel that it suits us best with the players we have," the younger Wichman ...
RIPON – When Chris Johnson says he's worked closely with Ripon quarterback Nick Price, he's not fudging.
CHASING HUGHSON: With all-league running back Tanner Duron back in the fold, Ripon head coach Chris Johnson believes the Huskies are the team to beat in the Trans-Valley League. Duron rushed for 1,806 yards and totaled 24 touchdowns as Hughson went 6-5 and qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs in 2012. Hughson played Ripon tough in a 35-27 loss last fall.
They've toiled in the shadows of others. They've struggled with injury and doubt and distractions, and have left their pain on the weight-room floor. Through it all, they've kept their focus on fall's Friday night lights, emerging as captains and leaders and MVP types. This is their time now – everyone's sure of it – so remember the names. Introducing 2013's breakout performers: