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Rivals turned roommates, teammates
Area athletes stand united for all-star game
Mantecans participating in Saturday’s Lions Club All-Star Football Classic are East Union’s Dakota Anderson, from left, McNair assistant coach Buck Rohles, Sierra’s Jacob Faulkner, Manteca’s LaRon Bennett (kneeling), Manteca assistant coach Bob Beeding and Sierra’s Michael Turner. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO
STOCKTON — Sierra High snapped a seven-game losing streak to hated rival Manteca last fall, but on Saturday members from both teams along with East Union will look to preserve the North’s recent string of dominance of the South in the 36th Annual Lions Club All-Star Football Classic at the University of the Pacific.

The North team has won six straight and comfortably holds the series lead at 21-13-1.

It’s a week-long event for athletes selected to play in one of the oldest known high school all-star games on the West Coast. Players get to live the college experience for a week, practicing up to three times a day while living in UOP’s dorms.

And in one of those rooms resides a Buffalo and a Timberwolf.

Manteca High grad LaRon Bennett thought it was a prank when he found out former Sierra standout linebacker Michael Turner was his bunkmate.

 “They’re just trying to make us be nice with each other, I guess,” said Bennett, an all-Valley Oak League first-team cornerback for the Buffs. “It was weird. I was like, ‘They wouldn’t really room Manteca-Sierra rivals, would they?’”

They would, and they did.

The awkwardness was short-lived, however, and both were chummy during Wednesday’s afternoon practice session.

“It was only weird for like the first 10 minutes, but then you realize that you’re going to be away from home for a whole week,” Turner said. “It’s just a whole new experience.”

Turner was named the VOL and Bulletin All-Area’s Defensive Player of the Year after leading the Timberwolves to their first-ever playoff appearance and postseason victory.

Fellow Sierra alumnus Jacob Faulkner and former East Union Lancer Dakota Anderson round out the area’s representatives.

McNair’s Scott Swartz heads the North team with the aid of his assistant Buck Rohles and Manteca assistant coach Bob Beeding. Rohles, a Manteca resident, formerly head coached Sierra’s freshman squad.

At 6 feet, 4 inches and 280 pounds, Faulkner stood out on the field while playing for Sierra, but he said there are no standouts on the talent-laden North squad that includes traditional Stockton rivals St. Mary’s and Lincoln.

St. Mary’s lost a 37-34 thriller to Cathedral Catholic of San Diego in the California Interscholastic Federation Division II State Bowl Game.

“It’s more competition and it’s just making me work harder,” he said.

Anderson feels honored to be selected for the all-star game. The 6-2 tight end who will move to receiver in college managed to shine in his senior season despite East Union’s 0-9 record.

“It’s been a fun experience, and the best part is meeting guys from other schools,” he said.

Faulkner and Anderson will continue to be teammates after Saturday, as they plan on attending and playing for Modesto Junior College. Turner will head to Delta, while Bennett reunites with former Buffaloes Jared Acaya and Nick Ortiz at San Francisco City College.

The quartet will get to renew old rivalries Saturday with other VOL representatives lining up for the South. Conference MVP Nicky Batteate and Oakdale teammate Kacey Stout joins Central Valley standout quarterback Trevor Mew and fellow Hawk Stephen Fansworth.

“We get along great,” Faulkner said of his Manteca and East Union counterparts. “Yeah, we were former rivals, but it’s like ‘Whatever happened happened, now let’s go win this game.’”