As summer officially begins baseball typically becomes the main focus, however, the Valley will get one final look at local football talents, including some of the top players from the area who made 2015 a memorable season.
Turlock, Pitman and Hilmar will each be represented in this year’s 31st annual North vs. South Rotary All-Star Football Classic between the Sac-Joaquin Section and Central Section.
Turlock's Chris Silva will join Ronald Sharlou and Alex McKeon on the North squad, both of which competed in the Lions All-Star game a week prior, along with Pitman's Sinue Cortes.
“One last high school game is exciting before it’s all over. It is just a blast, especially in an all-star game,” said Silva. “I was really excited when I was invited to play in this game. It’s been a blast.”
“Biggest difference is being out here with three times as many people,” said Sharlou, who competed in the Lions All-Star game. “Being out here in the mix is great especially being with the guys from last week since we built a bond already. Going against bigger schools is going to be good competition and it’s always fun.”
Aside from the three Turlock Bulldogs and Pitman's Cortes, will be Hilmar's Alex Chavez, who was one of the area’s best receivers and played a pivotal role in the Yellowjackets playoff run during 2015.
“I wasn't expecting to make these all-star games, but I ended up making it and here I am playing my last game for football and of course it’s awesome to stay busy. It’s always good,” said Chavez, who was the Trans-Valley League's best receiver in every statistical category.
Chavez finished the year with 1,344 receiving yards and hauled in 70 grabs. He also averaged 19.2 yards per reception and scored a touchdown in 12 consecutive games, and had 16 total for the year.
“It’s always good to play all these sports and I’ve been keeping in good shape but it’s a wake-up call because these cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers are much bigger, so you always have to be aware, especially because this is a higher level of competition. But it’s always great to get challenged since its more fun.”
The head coach for the North squad is Stone Ridge Christian's Art DeJager, who led a powerful offense to a 13-2 overall record in 2015, including a perfect 5-0 league record. His team outscored opponents 787-145 over the course of 15 games. DeJager is looking to assist the North squad with the same template, the offensive line.
“My coordinators are focusing on the detail, but they know that the linemen are the leaders. We let all the kids know on the first day of practice,” said DeJager. “They know very early, and the linemen love it.”
Along with powerful line play, DeJager will look to ground and pound the ball, but will also look to utilize Chavez as often as possible, since he knows the capabilities of the 'Jacket’s star.
“Alex is good, he showed us already,” said DeJager. “We can guarantee solid line play. That is where we base our program on, the line. We plan to bring our good line coaching on to the field. We will run different things, some spread and some pro set offense.”
Defensively, the North looks to run a 4-2-5 defense that essentially includes five defensive back players and only six in the box.
“It’s kind of an umbrella defense. If need be we can get into a prevent defense with four deep DB's, but we make the adjustments as we go on in the game,” said DeJager. “We are expecting a good game and we are expecting to go out and win, but we know we are facing great players at all positions. We will play hard and tough.”
“There is definitely a lot of talented players and they are all starters out here, but you can only have 11 on the field,” said Silva.
The 31st Annual North vs. South Rotary All-Star Football Classic will kick-off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Veterans Stadium in Merced.