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FOOTBALL: Slump busters?
Area trio looks to end North’s Lions All-Star slide
Bulletin football 2019
Manteca High graduate Chandler Snyder attempts to maneuver past the block of Linden’s Brandon Carvalho during the Lions All-Star North team practice Wednesday at Stagg High. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

STOCKTON — Chandler Snyder is proud to be the latest of a long line of former Manteca High linemen to be selected for the Central California Lions All-Star Football Game.
Now, he wants to be part of the group that ends a winless streak for the North team.
The annual event, in its 46th year, makes its return to Stockton on Saturday at Lincoln High’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Gates open at 6 p.m., and kickoff is set for 7. Admission is $10, and there will be a $5 parking fee.
Snyder is one of six recent graduates from Manteca-area schools who made the cut for one of the oldest high school all-star football games in the state, though only three will suit up. Joining him are Lathrop's Maurice Saulsbury II and Weston Ranch’s Fletcher Pitts, both talented receivers who may also see time at cornerback.
The North leads the all-time series 24-19-1, but the South is 5-0-1 in the last six years and dominated the 2018 edition, 24-2. The game was held at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium the past six years.
“I feel like I’m really blessed because there are a bunch of guys who would do anything to be out here,” Snyder said during the South’s morning practice Wednesday at Stagg High. “This will be my last high school game and I’m really hoping to win, especially since it has been over five years (since the North’s last victory). We’re all putting in the work and I can’t wait for Saturday.”
The All-Valley Oak League first-team lineman, for both offense and defense, is enrolled at Modesto Junior College but is missing out on the first week of practice as he works with the Lions North All-Stars.
“They’ll come out to watch the game,” he said. “Hopefully I can put on a show for them.”
Two of his fellow Buffaloes are among the no-shows for Saturday, as wide out Jorge Cedano and safety Jose Ceja are vacationing in Hawaii. Cedano is committed to play basketball for Stanislaus State.
East Union’s JoJo Espinosa is also not playing, though not by choice. He strained a hamstring during the first day of practice on Monday and was officially ruled out Wednesday morning. An All-VOL first-team selection like his three Manteca counterparts, Espinosa begins practice next week with Sacramento City College where he will play receiver.
Even if he can’t play Saturday, Espinosa is still taking part in the experience. Included are overnight stays at the nearby University of the Pacific dorm rooms and team meals.
“I’ll still hang out in the dorms and stuff,” Espinosa said. “The main thing is to get healthy for college. I’m glad to be out here, though. I can’t play due to injury, but just to be chosen is an honor and I am glad to be able to represent East Union.
“I really wanted to play. I brought my bag out here and got ready but the trainer ruled me out, which is fine because I don’t want to get hurt right before college.”
Pitts and Saulsbury did not get acquainted during their senior year as Weston Ranch and Lathrop, perhaps temporarily, ended their annual Battle of I-5 rivalry contest with the latter moving out of the VOL and into the Western Athletic Conference.
They’re getting to know each other this week and often line up next to each other or against each other in practice.
For Pitts, who plans to play for Delta College, getting selected is validation after drudging through a tumultuous senior season at Weston Ranch. The Cougars were winless last fall.
“Blessed and honored to be here,” Pitts said. “I felt like I wasn’t even supposed to be picked for this after the season we had at Weston Ranch. It’s just a good feeling.”
Saulsbury played just one season at Lathrop after transferring from St. Mary’s. He made the All-WAC first team as a defensive back but will play receiver at Langston University in Oklahoma moving forward.
“There’s a lot of competition, a lot of people with the same skill set as me” Saulsbury said. “I’m just glad to be picked as an all-star and show my talents and skill. It’s been fun meeting people from different cultures and backgrounds. We’re all cool with each other and having fun outside of football.”