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Offseason means chance to continue last seasons success
football pic1
Turlock High defensive back Brad Badali, left, leaps high to intercept the ball away from an Enochs High player during a 7-on-7 football scrimmage in Modesto on Thursday afternoon. - photo by CHHUN SUN / The Journal

MODESTO — In no way does 7-on-7 football compete with the real thing.

The field is shortened to about 45 yards.

There isn’t always a true end zone.

The players are in shorts and shirts. No cleats. No tackling.

No offensive or defensive lines. Just quarterbacks, running backs, defensive backs and other skilled players.

But don’t tell the Turlock High football players they don’t take the offseason activity seriously. On Thursday afternoon, about 50 of them met at the football field that sits on the Enochs High campus. They sweated for a couple hours underneath the unforgiving sun, though they’re months away from the 2011 season and proving that last season’s 8-3 record after an 0-10 season was not a fluke.

“I don’t want the guys to think we’ve arrived and back off,” said James Peterson, a former Turlock player who’s entering his third season as the head coach. “I want them to keep pushing.”

This 7-on-7 football, also known as passing league, is a regular concept for high school teams. It gives can’t-wait-for-fall players the feeling of throwing and catching a football. It gives them an early look at their teammates. Who’s the fastest? Who’s the strongest? Who has improved the most?

At the same time, Peterson says he doesn’t put much emphasis on 7-on-7 football, since it’s just a part of a summer workout plan that includes weight lifting and conditioning. He wants his boys to compete, to not “be bullied around,” as he puts it. “Once we put on gear, it’s a whole different game.”

That date is Aug. 18.

And the Bulldogs will have a whole lot to prove by then.

The Bulldogs are returning from a remarkable season. It started with the players, coaches and fans knowing that the previous season ended with no wins. As the season progressed, the Bulldogs gradually made other teams notice. Not just in and around the Turlock area, but also in the state.

The Bulldogs finished the season in the playoffs, completing one of the greatest turnarounds in state history.

For this upcoming season, Turlock returns with experienced offensive and defensive lines, with most of them being seniors. The Bulldogs also have veterans in other spots, like at tight end (Tyler Cook) and defensive back (Brad Badali).

In Thursday’s 7-on-7 against Enochs, the Bulldogs got another look at sophomore quarterback Sean Downs, who played at the junior varsity level last season. He’s leading the quarterback competition with two other challengers, Peterson said, though an official decision won’t be made until the start of the fall season.

“He’s a young guy, but he’s really well-spoken,” Peterson said. “He’s getting more comfortable with this offense, which is good. He’s taking control of the team. It’s a good group for him to be around. Since he’s so young, he got senior leadership at the line.”

The Bulldogs will continue competing in 7-on-7 football today as part of Modesto Junior College’s passing league at the school’s football stadium. MJC coaches and athletes will assist in the event that begins at 9 a.m.

After that, Turlock will have a 7-on-7 football meeting with Riverbank High on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Debely Stadium.

To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.