There weren’t over 7,000 people at Guss Schmeidt Field when Manteca High hosted Valley Christian on Friday night.
It didn’t matter to Jon Shaefer. Missing a Manteca High game is something he doesn’t want to do if he can avoid it.
“You cut me and I bleed green,” Shaefer said.
Shaefer had been a part of the Manteca High football coaching staff for 19 years on the freshmen level including 13 as head coach. He can’t remember his win-loss record but he does remember the frosh Buffs under his tutelage earned eight Valley Oak League championships and had three 10-0 seasons.
So what is the 50-year-old retiree from helping run In Shape health clubs (he’s still a partner in ownership of the properties) doing these days?
He’s among the owners in The Football Leagues of America, a fledging eight-team league. Among his fellow owners in the league that bought the rights to use the names of the old United States Football League is Tim Tebow. Like Tebow, Shaefer plans to coach — it will either be either for Dallas or Denver. Like Tebow, Shaefer was a quarterback (besides being a strong safety) back in his playing days. Tebow, though, may play in the new league while Shaefer definitely won’t.
The Northern California entry in the league is the Livermore Seals who plan to upgrade a stadium in that community to use as their home field. Shaefer, who served 10 years as a Manteca Police officer, noted it is 35 minutes from his front doorstep in Manteca to the Livermore stadium.
Shaefer said investors are hoping to draw upwards of 25,000 fans to each of the spring games by making it as attractive — and affordable — to football fans as minor league baseball is for baseball fans.
Shaefer says he’s having fun but this is a definite business venture. The league has already inked a deal with ESPN that will provide them with 60 percent of the advertising revenue from two games that will be aired weekly.
He notes there is an abundance of good players out there. He noted the NFL in recent years has started letting journeyman players go after three years that aren’t big impact players. That’s because if they play a fourth year they are vested in the NFL retirement fund. Add to that the fact there is no developmental league for the NFL and only 1.2 percent of Division I players ever make it to the NFL and Shaefer is convinced The Football Leagues of America will score.
It also helps they have contracted all of the critical functions for fan enjoyment out to expert organizations with a track record from concessions and ticketing to parking.
And perhaps the best part as far as Shaefer is concerned, the spring league means he can still be in town to see the Manteca High football games.
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Shaefer played for Buffs under coach Walker Vick
Shaefer’s senior year wearing Buffalo green and white was the last year that Walker Vick coached. Shaefer was hired as a freshmen coach under Joe Miller and continued to coach under Eric Reis. All are coaches that impress Shaefer to this day.
The game that stands out the most from Shaefer’s high school playing days was the 1980 game between East Union and Manteca. The Buffs beat the Lancers 21-20, knocking East Union out of the playoffs and giving Manteca a share of the title along with the Oakdale Mustangs.
Shaefer made All District that year as a strong safety even though he also played quarterback. In that 1980 game, Shaefer had four interceptions.
Just like other players of that era at Manteca and East Union, they often faced opponents on the field that were friends. The Lancers’ quarterback — Lance Miller — was a good friend of his. The receiver that he was able to dominate was Johnny Payan, the brother of a girl he dated in elementary school.
He remembered stores in town closing down early so the owners and staff could jockey for seats. Shaefer put the crowd at 15,000 for the game, some placed it at 12,000. Regardless, almost no one from back then disagrees that there were at least 7,000 people witnessing the Lancers and Buffs battle on that Friday night back in 1980.
Shaefer recalls as a kid years before he was walking the halls of Manteca High how he used to be amazed by players such as Craig Bobson, Ron Yee (both who have since become physicians) and Bob O’Rourke at Manteca High and players from East Union such as brothers Doug and Dave Smith.
And, yes, the Old Geezers — Manteca’s older alumni who bring their own sign to every home game — were at the games too. They just weren’t that old.