On Saturday, the North will deploy a secret weapon during the 45th annual Lions All-Star Football Classic.
Meet the Dungeon Master, a ball-seeking defensive back and one of the strongest players in the Valley Oak League.
Scarier yet: East Union’s Andrew Sena, an all-conference cornerback who earned his nickname in the Lancers’ weight room, has been waiting for this moment for more than a year.
Sena made a pact with his best friend, former East Union wide receiver Jake Harries, a 2017 Lions all-star. He would join him in the pantheon of the area’s best high school football players.
The Dungeon Master has arrived.
“It’s an honor, honestly,” Sena said. “I was trying to make it. My best friend, when he made it was like, ‘Dang, I got to make it now.’ I told him that when the year started. He was excited for me.”
Sena separated himself with a team-high six interceptions and year-round commitment to the program, helping coach Willie Herrera continue the team’s remarkable turnaround.
East Union has increased its win total in each of the last three seasons, climaxing with a 7-4 campaign, a fourth-place finish in the VOL and a second straight Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth.
“East Union is really on the come,” Sena said. “We went from going 3-7 to going 7-3. Coach Willie has done a good job over there; all the coaches have.”
The love affair is mutual.
The Lancers’ success over the last two seasons have been built on the shoulders of players like Jack Weaver (now at Modesto Junior College) and Harries, two Class of 2017 standouts, and 2018 Lions All-Star selections Mason James and Sena, a weight room and film fanatic.
“He’s one of those guys that has a nose for the ball. Just very good at diagnosing routes,” East Union assistant coach Jason Stock said. “He’s a tough kid, but he’s got to be because he’s not very big.”
“His technique is very solid and he knows the game. Obviously having six INTs, you’re into your film,” Stock added. “Pound for pound, he was one of the strongest players on the field. He doesn’t look like much, but he’s tough as nails.”
His motivation runs deeper than a promise to his best friend. Saturday’s all-star game represents the finish line for Sena, who flirted with the idea of playing at San Joaquin Delta College.
The Lions All-Star Football Classic pits the top senior talent from the northern and southern halves of the south Sac-Joaquin Section against one another. The North is represented by players from Manteca, Ripon, Lathrop, Tracy, Stockton, Lodi and the Mother Lode. The South pulls talent from Modesto, Ceres, Turlock, Merced and the West Side communities.
Sena was one of five local players originally selected to the all-star game. He’ll be joined on the defensive side of the ball by Ripon defensive lineman Cameron Gamino and Sierra linebacker Jordan Black. Lathrop running back Michael Ramos was also picked. James dropped out of the game.
The game will kick off at 7 p.m. at Wayne Schneider Stadium.
The Dungeon Master hopes to play a central figure in his final football game, and he may get that chance.
The South features two of the top quarterbacks in the southern half of the section in Patterson’s Gabe Sanchez, the Western Athletic Conference MVP, and Los Banos’ Anthony Caballero.
Sanchez accounted for nearly 4,000 total years, leading the Tigers in passing (2,849) and rushing (1,137) yards. He tossed 41 touchdowns against just three interceptions.
“I can’t wait,” the Dungeon Master said. “I know there will be some good players, so I know I’ll have to try even harder just to get on the field. I want to get on the field, so I’m going to take it serious when I need to take it serious. … I’m going to have some fun when I can, too.”
James Burns is a freelance reporter with more than 20 years of covering high school and collegiate sports in Northern California. Follow him on Twitter @jburns1980.