The longest-running youth-football organization in Manteca is about to face its toughest challenge in its 40-some years of existence.
The Manteca Jaguars — who were the Manteca Cowboys until the late 1990s — have until Saturday, Aug. 19, to field a full squad at all four levels, or Central California Jr. Football League rules will not allow them to compete this season.
The Cen-Cal will hold a jamboree on Aug. 19 at Modesto Christian High. The Jaguars are scheduled to host Los Banos at Sierra High on Aug. 26. for its regular-season opener.
“I am trying really hard to make sure that does not happen,” Jaguars president Kindal Justis said. “Right now, I am responsible for 100 kids and I want to make sure they all get to play and cheer.”
The biggest hole to fill for the Jaguars is at the varsity level where they are approximately five players away from fielding the minimum roster count of 18. Varsity players are seventh and eighth graders between 145 and 220 pounds, and scholarships will be given during the remaining signups.
The reason for the 18-player minimum is player safety, and Justis takes that a step further with coaches education.
“Our coaches are all enrolled in the USA Heads-Up Football Program,” Justis said. “That gives them training on the proper way to tackle — heads up and breaking down before the tackle. We also teach good shoulder-tackling techniques and how to take a ball carrier at an angle and not head on. We are really working on fundamentals.
“We encourage parents to go on the USAfootball.com web site and see what the coaches are trying to do and the safety level they are trying to maintain.”
For information on signups, the Jaguars can be reached at (209) 456-6495.