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EU anxious to get season underway
Willie Herrera, far right, will make his debut as East Unions head coach Friday night against Orestimba. - photo by HIME ROMERO

There are similarities between the East Union and Orestimba 2010 football teams.

Both were led by athletic quarterbacks who operated out of the spread. And on the final day of the regular season, both clinched berths to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time in a long time — 20 years for Orestimba, and 18 for East Union.

Now, with many of their key players graduated, both teams are looking to establish their own identities in 2011. They square off Friday at Dino Cunial Field for an interesting matchup.

While the current group of Lancers has a lot to live up to, there is a level of comfort for them to kick off the season in front of their rambunctious home crowd.

“Last year’s team set a standard, and it’s up to us to surpass it,” said first-year East Union head coach Willie Herrera. “We do not focus on who’s gone and who we don’t have, we focus and are proud of who we do have.

“I think our players are more excited for the season to just start. They are so tired of hitting each other.”

The Warriors got a head start to the season but lost 27-6 to Livingston of the Western Athletic Conference last week. Orestimba, which competes in the always-competitive Trans-Valley League, struggled to get the offense going, and the defense ultimately wore down and gave up 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

Brian Perez rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown to lead Livingston, which also had its struggles (four fumbles, 1 for 6 passing) offensively. Herrera credits Orestimba for that.

“The strength of their defense is their front seven,” he said. “They have size and speed. The secondary is not too bad, but from what I have seen they have not had to do a whole lot of covering because their front seven gets after it.”

Dillon Martins has big shoes to fill at the quarterback position for Orestimba, which rallied around the talents of twins Ravonne (QB) and Ramonne (WR) Pious the past two seasons.  Martins flashed some of his ability against Livingston with his 29-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

The Pious brothers will be missed, but there is still talent at the skill positions. Senior tight end Chase Richey is a big target for Martins at 6 feet, 3 inches, and sophomore Steven Machado could emerge as the Warriors’ top weapon out of a deep backfield.

“They have a sophomore bowling ball of muscle at running back,” Herrera said of Machado, “and some real nice size at the offensive line.

Friday will mark the debut of East Union’s own promising sophomore: quarterback Joe Menzel. Keeping the pressure off him will be key for the Lancers, who will look to seniors Steven Gigli and Tyler Hardesty establish their ground attack.

Manteca at Galt

With the recent opening of Liberty Ranch, which introduces its first senior class this year, Galt’s program has taken a big hit. That’s evident in its 26-man roster, which doesn’t bode well against a physical team like Manteca.

Last Friday, Galt suffered a 48-0 loss to Division-IV Hughson, which was 1-9 in 2010. Hughson was able to dominate through the ground behind Caleb Durron’s 235-yard, three-touchdown effort, and the defense forced five turnovers (four interceptions).

Grace Davis at Sierra

This is a good chance for Sierra to work out the kinks after showing some rust offensively in a 19-10 loss to Enochs in Week Zero.

Davis has problems of its own, as its roster was cut in half (53 down to 25) from last season due in large part to the opening of Gregori High in Salida.

Back however, are QB Matt Christiansen and RB Rey Vega, who rushed for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore playing at the varsity level. The Spartans also had a zero-week contest, losing to powerhouse Patterson, 42-14.

Lathrop at Escalon

They came, they saw, they conquered.

Escalon coasted 37-0 at Lathrop to open the 2010 season and went on to win the California Interscholastic Federation’s Division-III State Bowl Game.

And Lathrop doesn’t have it any easier this time around with the likes of QB Gino Franceshetti (1,444 passing yards, 22 TDs), RB/DB Josh Miguel (1,840 rushing yards, 27 TDs) and a host of others back with realistic aspirations of defending their state title.

Ripon at Linden

Linden opened 2010 with a 41-28 loss, and that was with star RB Jeremy Powers grinding out 235 yards and three scores.

The Lions should again be potent on the ground with QB Daniel Snider leading the tricky veer offense. Ripon isn’t so shabby with its multi-faceted Wing-T, proven last week in a dominant, albeit sometimes sloppy, 28-7 victory over Ceres.

Calaveras at Weston Ranch

Weston Ranch can make a huge statement Friday with a win over the small-school power.

Monti Wilson was as good as any running back Calaveras has ever had in its tradition-rich history, but he has graduated. Weston Ranch, meanwhile, returns the dynamic backfield tandem of Donnell Sims and Tremain Buntan.

There is a key matchup in the trenches to look out for: Calaveras DT Kyle Nickols (6-2, 270) vs. Weston Ranch center Nick Ramirez (6-2, 317).