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Weston Ranch making strides under new coach
Weston Ranchs first-year head coach Seth Davis (right) coaches his squad during a 7-on-7 passing league tournament at Modesto JCs Pirate Stadium on July 13. - photo by JOHN-JOEL GRIFFITHS

WESTON RANCH – A fiery player with ties to a Sac-Joaquin Section championship has returned to the Valley Oak League.

Seth Davis helped transform Manteca High into a perennial title contender as a defensiveback in the early 2000s, culminating his prep career with a section title in 2005.

His next challenge: Work the same magic at Weston Ranch, a talent-rich program short on milestone victories.

Davis is the varsity football program’s new head coach and he inherits a program that went 4-6 in 2012.

So far, Davis counts his first summer on the job in South Stockton as a success. The Cougars competed in the Modesto Junior College passing league tournament on July 13 at Pirate Stadium. The tournament featured several schools from the area, including Central Valley, Pacheco, Sierra, Ceres, Patterson and Franklin of Stockton.

“We’ve actually been in a lot of 7-on-7 stuff this summer,” Davis said. “We went 7-on-7 up in Galt, and then we were at Delta JC at a (passing) tournament (in late June). This was our third one at MJC as far as 7-on-7 goes.”

Weston Ranch was competitive in Modesto, finishing with a 3-2 mark. It lost its opening game against Central Valley – a team that features one of the section’s most electric players in Ja’Quan Gardner – on a questionable touchdown in the final seconds.

Still, the Cougars’ speed and athleticism were on full display. Weston Ranch’s victories were noteworthy, with two coming against Central Catholic and Le Grand, each a recent CIF State Bowl participant. The other win came against Ceres, a former Valley Oak League rival.

 “We’re trying to fly under the radar as best as possible,” Davis said, “but obviously our play on (July 13) kind of turned some heads. Our summer workouts have been grueling.”

Weston Ranch also went 3-1 at Galt’s round-robin style tournament, dealing Galt, Liberty Ranch and Brookside Christian losses.

During the Delta JC elimination-style passing tournament, Weston Ranch finished 2-1 with wins over Edison and San Juan, respectively.

Weston Ranch capped off its passing league schedule on July 18 with a home game against McNair of Stockton, which featured standout quarterback Cedrick Phillips, who passed for over 2,600 yards last year as a junior.

The Cougars’ secondary used that matchup as a gauge for how they’d fare against the Valley Oak League’s potent and pass-happy offenses this fall.

New faces, new hope

Davis is searching for stars on offense, and a few candidates have emerged.

Returning varsity player Khalil Browder and junior Marcus Moore are locked in a duel for the Cougars’ starting quarterback position. The Cougars will also be look to Bulletin Boys Track Athlete of the Year and Texas-transfer John McDonald to interject life into the offense. The incoming junior who was moved up the varsity level last fall.

“I only have four seniors on my team,” Davis said. “(McDonald) played a little bit of varsity last year, and obviously didn’t get as many reps as he wanted to. So returning we don’t have too much. We have a lot of lower-level guys from last year coming up, which is going to be a good thing.”

A very good thing.

Weston Ranch’s junior varsity team went 8-2 last season and stunned Oakdale for the first time in school history. That competitiveness, Davis said, has bled into his summer program, where passing league and scrimmage success hint at better times ahead.

“I wanted to implement a serious summer program,” Davis added. “We’ve been working our boys hard, and that’s one thing I felt I could bring to this program is hard work.

“These guys have definitely been getting after it in the summer time. I want to bring competitiveness. We want to go out there and give people games on Friday nights.”