While often rivals during the school year, athletes from Turlock, Pitman, Hilmar and Delhi high schools will get a chance to play on the same side at the 44th annual Lions All-Star Football Game.
Eight local players selected to represent the South team, which will be coached by Los Banos' Dustin Caropreso. The South team will be made up of players from the Modesto Metro Conference, Valley Oak League, Central California Conference, Trans-Valley League, Southern Athletic League and the Western Athletic Conference.
The South will face off against the North — led by East Union head coach Willie Herrera — and players from Ripon, Tracy, Manteca, Stockton, Lodi and the Mother Lode at Tracy High's Wayne Schneider Stadium at 7 p.m. June 17.
Turlock has four players in the game: Mustafa Noel-Johnson, Dom Silva, late addition Leo Roa and Turlock Journal Co-Player of the Year Danny Velasquez, who all helped the Bulldogs to a perfect CCC record of 6-0 and the program’s first league title since 2003.
“It was a really cool feeling getting selected,” said Velasquez. “It was a sense of accomplishment. A lot of the best players in our area are in this game. It’s exciting to be able to play one more high school game, especially with three of my best friends. I’m just really excited and cannot wait to play the game and for the practices at Stanislaus with all the guys.”
“We are super excited for our guys. The Lions All-Star game is one of the best games played right here in the Valley,” said Turlock head coach James Peterson. “I've never heard of any other All-Star game housing student athletes for an entire week.”
Pitman High’s Devan Bass, Journal Co-Player of the Year along with Velasquez, will also lend his skills to the South team.
“I feel very special being co-player of the year and it's an honor playing with another player of the year, because we can bring talent in this game,” said Bass. “I think it's going to be a fun experience because I'm going to be with other players that I never played with and I’m excited because I made it.”
Bass was the catalyst to a Pitman team that started the year off at 9-0 for the first time in program history and took second in the CCC next to Turlock.
“I see that we can be outstanding for the area we're in. All the teams in the 209 have talent, so I am very excited for this game,” said Bass.
Along with Turlock and Pitman will be Hilmar's Joey Pereira and the Journal's first team running back, Cody Rentfro, who also placed seventh in the state wrestling tournament in the 182-pound bracket.
“Getting to play with Cody one last time, it's going to be fun,” said Pereira who will be playing football at Merced Junior College. “You can't deny that Cody is a straight man and a half, but in all reality, it's going to be crazy getting to play with a brother one last time.”
California's No. 2 heavyweight in wrestling Jesse Flores will be Delhi High School’s first representative at the Lions All Star Game.
“I decided to play because I feel like it's an honor to be the first Delhi athlete to be playing with Division-I talent,” said Flores. “I take it as a chance to show that I am better than most and that they cannot just say he's just from Delhi.”
Delhi football is coming off the program’s best regular season, including the most wins in a single season, after the Hawks finished at 8-3 and clinched a playoff berth.
“I want the opposition to fear me when I am lined up on the other side of the ball,” said Flores. “I want to show them that it's no longer just Delhi, it's what are we going to do to prepare for him? I want to ruin their game-plan because I am hoping that my talent and my hard work will make them fear me.”