By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Learning on the fly
Third-year Spartans take lumps at West camp
Lathrop High head coach Jesse Rodriguez has a word with his offensive unit during a full-contact scrimmage with West in Tracy Wednesday. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO

TRACY — No passing scrimmages, no passing tournaments, no camps.

Tuesday and Wednesday marked the first — and last — days of the summer that Lathrop High’s football program was placed in a competitive setting against teams from other schools.

With the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Dead Period in effect next Monday, the three-day, full-contact camp at West High’s Steve Lopez Stadium gives the Spartans a chance to see what they have against stiff competition until a four-team scrimmage held at Franklin of Stockton on Aug. 26.

“We were very nervous at first,” said third-year varsity quarterback Elijah Cash on Wednesday before the Spartans scrimmaged Valley Oak League rival Manteca High and camp host West. Ripon and first-year varsity Pacheco of Los Banos are also a part of the full-contact camp.

The camp, which ends today, features 7-on-7 passing and 11-on-11 full-contact scrimmages. Without having had previous 7-on-7 workouts this offseason, Lathrop coach Jesse Rodriguez said his defense can take a lot from this camp. That isn’t so much the case offensively with the team operating out of the run-based wishbone formation.

“It’s good for us to see it on defense because we face teams like Sierra that run the spread,” Rodriguez said. “Last year, we weren’t any good at defending it because we don’t line up against it in practice every day.”

It didn’t take long for the injury bug to strike the Spartans. Running back/defensive back Ricky Chavez was taken to a nearby hospital after hurting his right arm in a scrimmage with Ripon Tuesday. It ended up looking far worse than it really was, as he is expected to be at 100 percent a month from now.

Lathrop can’t afford to take any more significant hits to its roster.

Rodriguez and his coaching staff remain optimistic despite declining numbers. A few seniors penciled in to start on both sides of scrimmage are no longer with the team. Neither are several members of Lathrop’s talented freshman class that went 7-3 last year.

It’s one of the few challenges teams are faced off during its embryonic stages. Lathrop enters its third varsity season this fall after going 2-17 over its first two.  

Still, Rodriguez said that offseason participation is more consistent now than in years past, with anywhere from 25-35 players working out every day.

 “We lost a lot of kids from last year, and I don’t mean just the seniors (who graduated),” Rodriguez said. “These kids have been showing up, and they’re good kids. They’re sticking it out. Last year we won two games and some of the kids acted like they didn’t want to be here. These kids want to be here whether we win or not.”

One being Cash, whom Rodriguez has high hopes for as a leader. The coach is also high on his returning backfield triumvirate of Andrew Aquino, Dennis Johnson and Christian Pena.

“We have more consistent numbers and people are working harder, which is good because we actually have harder workouts this summer,” Cash said. “I’ve been playing football forever, so it’s kind of hit me that this might be my last year. I don’t play any other sport, so in the offseason I’ve just been working out and trying to get better.”

The Dead Period officially ends Aug. 8, and teams will be allowed to practice with pads on the 10th.

Lathrop will face the likes of Sacramento High, Skyline of Oakland and Brookside Christian — a finalist in the California Interscholastic Federation State Championship Division-IV Bowl Game — at Franklin’s preseason jamboree.

The Spartans’ non-league schedule remains the same, as they open with none other than CIF State Division-III titlist Escalon on the road before taking on Highlands and McClatchy.