The times they are not a changing, the times they have already changed.
There was a time when late July meant high-school football players were readying themselves for practice beginning in mid-August with the first game after Labor Day.
Not anymore. Football practice began Monday for most local schools with the first game in a little more than three weeks — a far cry from after Labor Day.
Official practices for most other fall sports across the Sac-Joaquin Section begin next Monday, Aug. 5 for cross country, girls golf and girls volleyball with season-opening contests set for Aug. 23. Water polo practice starts on Aug. 19 and official games on Aug. 30.
The football season kicks off not long after the first day of school. Sierra holds its intra-squad scrimmage Saturday, Aug. 10 and heads to Ripon for a jamboree on Aug. 16. The Timberwolves have a zero-week contests with visiting Modesto Christian on Aug. 23.
“There is something that’s a little bit different about starting practice so early,” Sierra coach Chris Johnson said. “The kids aren’t in school, some of them aren’t cleared yet and families are wrapping up vacations. You have to deal with the heat but it is what it is and you just deal with it and go.”
The 2019-20 term begins next Thursday, Aug. 8 for students of Manteca Unified schools. Ripon High’s first day of school is Aug. 13, and Aug. 14 for Ripon Christian.
“We have a good group of kids and we had a good summer,” Johnson said. “Most of the kids out here have been coming since June 3 and they know the drill, they know what to expect.”
Omar Maxwell looks to be a two-way starter on the line for the Timberwolves and was pleased with the way things went Monday.
“This was a great practice,” Maxwell said. “We worked hard. We had a great effort and great attitudes with strong minds.”
Nyco Mendoza will see significant time in both backfields and enjoyed the combined workouts with the lower levels.
“This is very exciting working with the incoming freshmen,” Mendoza said. “It’s great to be able to coach up all the lower levels. We help them give their best effort.”
This is Johnson’s third year at the helm for Sierra after leading the Timberwolves to the postseason in 2018.
“This is my third year and the kids that have been with the program that long they understand the expectations and the system,” Johnson said. “They understand how we are and our personalities.
“I like our guys. I don’t know what anyone else has — I can’t control that — but our guys work hard.”
Other zero-week games in the area: Lathrop at Manteca, Downey at East Union, Weston Ranch at Ripon and Grace Davis at Ripon Christian.