There was only one team standing in the way of a Super Bowl title last year for Turlock Youth Football's JV squads, the Pride and Bulldogs, and this year both teams have their goals set on winning the trophy.
Ceres toppled both of the teams from Turlock in the postseason after a strong run in the regular season where the 'Dogs and Pride saw more wins than losses.
In the end, the 'Dogs were eliminated in the semifinal, while the Pride made it to the Super Bowl but fell to Ceres, leaving both sides hungry for the upcoming year.
“This team last year was young, they are back, so we are expecting good things this year,” said Pride head coach Guy Davidson.
First year head coach Jeff Stout is expecting his Bulldogs to follow up from last year's success and is confident in his team's ability.
“Funny thing is I coached these kids since they were Rookies and moved up with them and are back up here and I know all the kids,” said Stout. “We have 10 or 11 more that I drafted so the camaraderie is there, they know what to expect.”
The Pride also know what to expect with veteran coach Davidson, who led last season’s team to a 7-3 regular season posting.
They won two playoff games prior to falling in the Super Bowl to the Ceres Seahawks.
“It was a real successful season, we showed up and looked like we were playing a varsity team against Ceres in the final,” said Davidson. “These kids have been to Super Bowl four years in a row and won two of them. The team I had last year that won it are going to be back and favorites to win it.”
In order to win it all, they will have to rely on the heavy number of skilled players, seasoned veterans and fast kids, according to Davidson.
It also helps that defensively the Pride have been first or second over the last three seasons.
“The last three years we have given up less than 100 points combined in a season, and scoring close to 400,” said Davidson. “There is always a team or two that will challenge you at the end, we have to work hard and keep our mind straight and we will succeed, it’s a great group.”
Now it is a Super Bowl Championship or bust for the Jr. Pride.
“Anything less than that will feel like we didn't accomplish what we wanted since we have so much talent, and we have size as well. This year we can compete with size as well,” said Davidson. “Usually, we are the small team and successful, but we have size this year so it's going to be fun.”
The Bulldogs went 8-2 during the regular season last year, advancing to the AFC Championship game before losing to Ceres.
“We did very well and it was great,” said Stout. “Ceres was unbeatable and that is why they won the Super Bowl. Now this year we have a lot of good athletes, lot of good players in the draft and coming over from the Pride as well.”
This upcoming season's team is looking like a strong squad and expectations are as high.
“We have speed…we have three or four kids that are fast,” said Stout. “Also, Cole Hendrix at middle linebacker is great and we have a lot of returners, I am real excited. We are setting the bar high and the kids have accepted nothing less.”
The Bulldogs open up the season against Livingston on Aug. 26. The Pride will take on Atwater on Aug. 26.