With sweat dripping across his face on a warm Friday morning, Ethan Alvares walked off a makeshift practice football field at Cal State Stanislaus with his helmet in hand. He greeted his grandfather — who appeared to be the only spectator in attendance — before grabbing his stuff and leaving.
For Alvares, this was the beginning of the end.
On a cold field in Elk Grove in November of last year, his high school football career ended in a loss with his Pitman High teammates and coaches. But he will earn another shot at playing at 7 p.m. today, when the 37th Lions All-Star Classic between the North and South teams takes place at the University of Pacific's Stagg Memorial Stadium in Stockton.
This is one of the oldest-running high school all-star contests in California, with the first game being held in 1974.
Alvares is one of two local athletes chosen to participate, with former Pitman teammate Markus Sanders as the other. Sanders won't play because of a hamstring injury, as he's resting before the Modesto Junior College football season.
Alvares, the South's 6-foot-3, 240-pound starting center, knows that today's game will be his last chance at playing organized football, before he continues with his life. It's a sentiment the recent graduate shared with his all-star teammates, who will be coached by four-time participant and Central Catholic High coach Roger Canepa.
“It's a good feeling,” Alvares said. “This is the last time I'll be practicing because I'm done with football after this.”
So it wouldn't hurt to look back.
Alvares was an integral part of the Pride offensive line last season, considering the amount of production and yards he helped create for the likes of running backs as Sanders — the eventual Central California Conference Offensive MVP — and Dominick Walker and Nathan Romo. Pitman finished with a 6-5 record and plenty of highlights.
One involved spoiling Merced High's league title run with a stunning 49-7 loss.
Another involved making the postseason, though that ended quickly. The Pride suffered a 59-21 defeat to Monterey Trail High in Elk Grove in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs, a night that was remembered partly for its very cold weather.
Through the good and bad times, Alvares was a part of it all. His effort has been recognized among the South's coaching staff during this week's practice, despite the fact that every player who will compete today owns plenty of success stories.
“Ethan is such as a good leader,” Canepa said. “He's a good kid, he works hard. He's a 'yes, sir,' 'no, sir' kid. We don't have anybody else to take snaps, so we got a lot of trust in him.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail at email@example.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.