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Making a good impression
Turlock, TC showcase potential in passing league
Kevin Kramer of Turlock High throws during his team’s 7-on-7 football session against Turlock Christian High on Monday evening. The event allowed the players to showcase their potential leading up to the fall season. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal
The pressure was on. Players from the Turlock High and Turlock Christian High football teams were competing against each other in 7-on-7 football under the hot sun Monday afternoon at Joe Debely Stadium, while a couple dozen people watched from the stands. Players knew this was one of a few chances in the summer to showcase their potential before the fall season.
There were no pads or helmets allowed. Just pure hustle, for two nonstop hours. These kind of camps aren’t the truest indicators to what a player can do on a Friday night in front of a big crowd and bright lights, and in a padded uniform. But it helps.
The Turlock Christian players were trying to impress veteran coach Rusty Lyon, while the Bulldogs were taking their turn in front of first-year coach James Peterson, who said recently he expects a “perfect season.” In other words, these two guys know what they want.
Oh, one more thing: Tom Brandstater was also in attendance.
The former Turlock and Fresno State star stopped by, taking in his last day of a nearly three-week break before reporting back to the Denver Broncos. He stood on the sidelines near the water hose with his father, watching the action.
The players and coaches welcomed Brandstater’s presence. “I was surprised to see him there,” Peterson said. “He usually pops in when he’s town. The kids really look up to him. It makes it special for the kids.”
When the players weren’t dreaming of becoming the next Turlocker to make the pros, they were concentrating on the task at hand — 7-on-7 football.
Again, this style of play is for the coaches to get an idea of what kind of weapons they have. They implement routes and schemes to see how accurate and hard the quarterbacks can throw and how fast the receivers and cornerbacks can go. No one keeps score and no one is allowed to tackle, as each team starts from about 40 yards out.
Overall, Peterson was satisfied with his team’s performance. He expects a lot from them, though this is his first season as a head coach. He saw expected starter Kevin Kramer and probable backup Justin Esquivel (who’s also the starting safety) take a number of snaps. He was happy to see senior receiver Andrew Johnson land plenty of catches, while junior cornerback Eric Velasquez, who’s been working all summer, showed off his speed.
But there was one thing the 28-year-old coach wanted to see more of: “I thought we played well. The quarterbacks were making good reads as far as reading the defense. We were getting the ball out there. Our receivers — we need to catch the ball more, but I’m always going to say that. That’s the one thing to improve, although they did run good routes. The quarterbacks were making good reads, but they just need to catch the ball well.”
In other words, this was a good time to notice those things.
Lyon, the Turlock Christian coach, was honored to play against the Bulldogs. He was the freshmen coach for four years before stepping into his current position in 2005. He was honored because he respects Turlock’s football program, and also because the Bulldogs are a Division I program. Facing a bigger school gives the Eagles an advantage when their season begins.
Lyon had this mentality two years ago while building the offseason schedule, and what followed was one of Turlock Christian’s best seasons. They won 10 games that season.
The Eagles hope they can do the same this season. That looks possible, considering the type of performance they had against the Bulldogs. Peterson declared, “I look for them to do big things.” And the Eagles had a handful of standouts on Monday, including quarterback Robbie Smallwood, receiver Geoffrey Retemeyer and running back James Riley as well as sophomore Schuyler Johnson and juniors Matt Truax and Chase Ulrich.
One of their best receivers, Cody Alldrin, didn’t play because he was at a leadership conference.
“I felt like us going against a D-I is a good opportunity to see how we’re going to do,” Lyon said, “ and I’m very pleased.”
And they did all this in front of Brandstater.
The Eagles aren’t done, though. They still want to play bigger schools, face tougher challenges. They get to do that today at 6 p.m., as they play in 7-on-7 football at Hilmar High with Hilmar, Tracy High, West High of Tracy and Enochs High of Modesto.
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.