East Union went 10-2 in passing tournaments this summer, and its return to the Lake Tahoe Football Camp was a hit — and dry.
“In my tenure I’d say this was our best summer,” fifth-year head coach Willie Herrera said.
He’s hoping it translates into more wins for the Lancers, who are looking have their best season since the 2010 team ended an 18-year playoff drought.
“Our system has been in place for 3-4 years now,” Herrera said. “It’s not brand new to the coaches and the players anymore.”
The team’s eventful summer started with a final-four finish in the UC Davis Passing Tournament. Second-year junior quarterback Jack weaver and 6-foot-2 receiver Austin Miller — arguably the top returning QB-WR combo in the area — led the Lancers to a 7-1 finish. They knocked off notable Sac-Joaquin Section squads such as St. Mary’s (Stockton), Cosumnes Oaks (Elk Grove) and Colfax. Ponderosa, Bishop, Windsor and Milpitas were their other victims before losing to Freedom (Oakley) in the semifinals.
Then on June 24-27 East Union visited Lake Tahoe for camp. Two years ago, the Lancers stayed at a campsite about five miles away from South Lake Tahoe High, and it rained for most of its four days there.
“It was kind of a bummer,” Herrera said. “This time we were a lot closer in case something like that happens again.”
This time, the Lancers pitched their tents on the campus tennis courts — a stone’s throw away from Viking Stadium.
“It was caged off, which is nice, because there are bears in the area,” Herrera said.
It was overall a team-building experience that included hikes in the area, a trip to the lake and, of course, an impromptu team talent show in the campus auditorium.
“Those are the things you can’t force, they just come naturally,” Herrera said. “It’s nice to go up there to play football, but it’s also about creating memories, and the kids definitely created some memories.”
As for the football aspect, Herrera felt the team “fared pretty well” against the likes of Will C. Wood (Vacaville, Ponderosa, Valley Christian (Dublin), San Lorenzo Valley (Felton) and Winters. The South Lake Tahoe Camp included 14 teams that were separated into three sessions.
“Every time we go to camp we want to fine tune what we’ve been working in on the spring and over the summer,” Herrera said. “It’s also an opportunity to create a tighter bond and a chance to see what they look like with the pads on. Anyone can look like an All-American in 7-on-7s.”
East Union’s summer schedule ended July 11 in the Modesto Junior College Pirate Passing Tournament, where it beat intra-city rival Sierra 33-32 in a thriller and finished 3-1. The Lancers started with a loss to eventual tournament champion Downey, but bounced back to beat Gregori and Turlock.
“We definitely held our own this summer, did a lot of good things but we’re never satisfied,” Herrera said. “We’ll take it back to Day 1 pretty soon here and we’re looking to get better.”
The SJS Dead Period ends with the first official day of fall sports practices on Aug. 10. East Union faces three Modesto Metro Conference squads in pre-league play, starting with Davis at home on Aug. 28. The Lancers will travel to Johansen on Sept. 11 before returning to Dino Cunial Field on Sept. 18.