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Lathrop tests new offense at Wests full-contact camp
Lathrop quarterback Kevin Garret tucks the ball and turns upfield as the Pacheco defense closes in during a full-contact scrimmage at West High on July 11. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

TRACY — Lathrop High’s football team didn’t participate in any 7-on-7 passing scrimmages in past summers.

“It didn’t do us any good because we didn’t pass,” head coach Jesse Rodriguez said.

It appears as if that will change.

Rodriguez, a longtime proponent of the wishbone formation, is handing the keys to the offense to Dwayne Davis, who was promoted to the varsity team to serve as offensive coordinator after leading the freshman and sophomore squads the past two seasons.

“I’m not calling the offense anymore — I’ve been wearing too many hats,” said Rodriguez, who will still call the shots defensively. “Dwayne Davis is my offensive coordinator and I’ve been hands-off.

“I’ve ran the bone for over 20 years. He’ll run some of it, but we’re going to use a lot of spread. That’s a whole new ballgame for Lathrop.”

So instead of competing in passing leagues and tournaments, Rodriguez and Co. have been busy installing an entirely new offense.

They got to unveil it last week during a three-day full-contact camp hosted by West High. Valley Oak League foe Manteca, Ripon, Pacheco and Franklin were also among the participants.

The Spartans drew surprised looks from opposing coaches when they set up in trips formation, where three receivers line up on the same side of the field. And lo and behold, junior quarterback Kenny Garrets did not shy away from going over the top for deep passes, a few of which went for touchdowns during 11-on-11 full-contact scrimmages. That was a rarity for Lathrop over the past three seasons.

Lathrop still runs the ball, and at times it did so effectively with the shifty Kevin Rainey and powerful Austin Plunk ripping off some nice gains.

“This is our first time running this offense, and so far it doesn’t look bad,” Rodriguez said.

Lathrop has also revamped its nonleague schedule.

Escalon has been replaced by another Trans-Valley League team in Ripon. Third-year Galt school Liberty Ranch and Capital Christian of Sacramento have also been added. Lathrop’s first three opponents combined for a 22-12 record in 2011.

Both Liberty Ranch and Ripon advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoffs last season. Lathrop would likely be in Division IV should it qualify for the postseason, so it gets an early taste of the competition.

“We’re looking to get some positive flow heading into league,” Rodriguez said. “If we can do well and get at least two wins in the preseason, we’d be in good shape.”

While the offense has made strides this offseason, the team as a whole has a ways to go, Rodriguez said. In the past three years, which are also its first three, Lathrop has just four total wins under its belt and graduated a veteran senior class that includes QB Elijah Cash and starting running backs Andrew Aquino, Dennis Johnson and Christian Pena.

“Our numbers have been good (for summer practices and workouts) and they’re working hard, but we’re looking for two or three kids that are going to say, ‘This is our team,’” he said. “I tell the kids every year that I’m the head coach of Lathrop, but it becomes their team. We need someone every year to take responsibility as far as leaders.”