The North roster for the 2020 Central California Lions All-Star Football Game features five area players who were part of Sac-Joaquin Section championship teams last fall.
Included are wide receiver Jacob De Jesus from SJS Division III champion Manteca, running back/linebacker Matt Dunham and receiver/linebacker Nyco Mendoza from Division IV champ Sierra, and defensive back Danny Hernandez and offensive lineman Caleb Delgado of Division V titlist Ripon.
Unfortunately, they won't get the opportunity to join forces for the 47th annual event scheduled for Saturday, June 13 at Lincoln High's Alex G. Spanos Stadium. The game was canceled in late April because of the coronavirus outbreak, but rosters were released Friday to recognize the players who earned spots on the North and South teams.
“I'm very honored I made the roster and everything, it just sucks we won't be able to play,” De Jesus said.
The North leads the all-time series 25-19-1 but went winless six consecutive years until ending the skid with a 19-18 victory in 2019. The North, coached by Booker Guyton of Edison, is comprised of schools from San Joaquin, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.
Beyer coach Greg Bockman was selected to lead the South, which is represented by schools from Stanislaus, Merced and Mariposa counties.
This year's group of all-stars did not just miss another opportunity to showcase their abilities the night of the game, but the all-around experience of the week leading up to it.
Players for the North get the college experience with overnight stays in dormitories at the University of the Pacific, meet for multiple practices per day and other team-bonding activities. Part of the festivities is a banquet introducing the all-stars at Italian Athletic Club in Stockton. Former Dallas Cowboys tight end Doug Cosbie was tabbed as special guest speaker.
De Jesus is among the most decorated of the all-stars selected by North coach Guyton. The third-year varsity standout started for two section championship teams and shattered several single-season and career receiving records at Manteca. As a senior, he amassed 1,139 yards and 16 touchdowns on 64 catches and rushed for 631 yards and seven touchdowns to earn All-Valley Oak League MVP.
De Jesus is the lone player from the area to make the National Football Foundation Sacramento Chapter All-Section Team. He was also named to the Cal-Hi Sports medium schools second team and MaxPreps All-SJS first-team offense.
Manteca finished 11-3 last year, was part of a three-way share of the VOL title and captured its seventh overall SJS banner.
Dunham and Mendoza were versatile threats for Sierra's surprising run to its second section title in school history.
Dunham was voted All-VOL Co-Utility Player of the Year, while Mendoza was selection to the all-league first-team defense. It was Mendoza who came up with the clutch plays that catapulted Timberwolves (11-4) past VOL foe Oakdale in the SJS Division IV final — a go-ahead catch-and-run touchdown, two-point conversion catch and game-sealing interception in the final minute and a half.
“They're two good athletes who played for a rival high school across town,” De Jesus said of the Sierra tandem. “We never got to play together in any sport growing up, so it would have been cool to team up one time.”
Turns out they'll get the chance, as all three are headed to Modesto Junior College to continue their football careers.
Joining them at MJC will be Hernandez, the reigning Manteca Bulletin All-Area Football MVP. He and Delgado helped anchor a historic season for Ripon (14-1), which went on to win the California Interscholastic Federation State Division 4-AA championship and earn Cal-Hi Sports Small Schools State Team of the Year.
Hernandez was also voted Trans-Valley League Outstanding Defensive Back, made the first-team defense for the Cal-Hi Sports small schools and MaxPreps all-section lists. Delgado, who is headed for Delta College, is the TVL's Outstanding Offensive Lineman and Cal-Hi Sports small-schools first-team selection.
“I wish it could all be different,” Hernandez said. “It would be great to play with some of my teammates just one last time.”