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WEEK 4 PREVIEW: Lathrop, Ripon Christian gearing up for 1st league games
Week 4 Preview
Lathrop fullback Pablo Pena is met by Sierra safety Evan Greenwood in a zero-week showdown at Bennie Gatto Field. - photo by Wayne Thallander

Two local schools are beginning their league schedules this week, while three others are idle.

Of the three playing Friday, only Lathrop is hosting. The Spartans (1-2), rested from their bye week, host Ceres (1-2) for their Western Athletic Conference opener.

Both teams are finding their way after graduating much of their talent from last season.

After tough losses to Sierra and Bradshaw Christian, Lathrop earned a needed 50-7 win over Battle of I-5 counterpart Weston Ranch. In every game, the Spartans have been able to establish their running game, averaging 245.3 yards.

They’ll look to keep it going against Ceres, which is coming off its best season in more than 20 years. The Bulldogs finished 8-3 and qualified for the postseason for a second straight year. Lathrop beat them 19-16 in dramatic fashion and is undefeated against Ceres in four meetings.

Ceres has struggled to get untracked offensively, losing to Hughson in Week Zero 32-0 and to rival Central Valley 34-8 in Week 2. Its first points of the season were scored in the second quarter on a safety against Central Valley.

The lone win is a forfeiture by Delhi, which was involved in an on-field brawl with El Capitan in its season opener. School officials decided the team would forfeit its next two contests.

The Bulldogs have rushed for just 44 yards on 45 carries in the two games they’ve played. Seniors Donovan Osuna and Brayden Clark have split quarterbacking duties, combining for 236 passing yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Next week, Lathrop welcomes Pacheco to cap a home-heavy first half of its schedule, as four of its final five games are on the road — including the last two against reigning champ Los Banos and Old River Rivalry foe Mountain House.

Here’s a look at the other Week 4 contests in the area:


Sierra (2-2) at Modesto (1-3): The Timberwolves’ depth will be tested with several key players out with injuries or suspension. The good news is their bye week is upcoming.

Sierra has a chance to bounce back from competitive losses to 3-1 Golden Valley and 4-0 Armijo.

Modesto is hosting this non-league contest at Downey High. Its lone victory has come against winless Beyer, 26-22. The Panthers were close to securing a win over Stagg but gave up a touchdown in the final minute.

Junior running backs Vanntheesouk Dam (327 yards, 6.8 per carry, two TDs) and Jaden Rivera (319-5.3-1) stand out in Modesto’s pistol offense along with 6-foot-5 quarterback David Robinson.


Ripon Christian (2-1) at Denair (1-1): With two byes and a 20-0 shutout of Riverbank in between, Denair has had plenty of time to prepare for its Southern Athletic League opener with the Knights.

The Coyotes kicked off their season with a 14-6 loss to Big Valley Christian, which has dropped its three games since. A state champion just five years ago, Denair won a total of three games the last two seasons and has just 17 players listed on its current varsity roster.

Ripon Christian should again be a heavy favorite after trouncing its last two opponents, Pajaro Valley and Calaveras, by a combined score of 110-0. It’s the Knights’ final tune-up before facing reigning SAL champion Orestimba at home.