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Turlock Youth Football readies for 2014 season
A 49ers Peewee quarterback hopeful at drops back for a pass during Mondays first day of practice at Turlock High. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ / The Journal

The area's youngest football players put their game faces on during Turlock Youth Football tryouts this week, kicking off the 2014 season.

The 49ers and Vikings began their season with tryouts on Monday in a week long period of scouting the new talent and also evaluating returning stars.

At every level, the 49ers and Vikings saw a great deal of success in their 2013 campaign, which included two Super Bowl champions and having every team finish with a winning record. All eight teams in every level also managed to make the postseason in 2013.

“It’s exciting and I love it; it’s a great organization and we are always on top in playoffs and super bowl,” said Vikings Peewee first year head coach Lee Avila. “In round two of playoffs, all eight of our guys were in it and that says a lot about our teams and coaching staff, they all work together and hard.”

In 2013, the Vikings were perfect once again, topping out at 10-0 during the regular season with former Peewee head man Ted Howze, who leaves big shoes to fill after leading the team to its fourth consecutive Super Bowl.

Avila saw great success last year as the Rookies head coach and led his team to the Super Bowl, but would eventually lose to Buhach and now he returns many of his players back at a higher level to compete for a title.

“It’s interesting this first year for me because at the Rookie level we don’t do special teams and here we do that kind of thing so it is something we need to work on and get these kids ready for,” said Avila. “We need to get the special teams down and it will be a challenge for me this year with a new coaching staff. We expect to compete and be up there, but the goal is to reach the Super Bowl and hopefully win it.”

The 49ers Peewee team comes off a 6-4 year where they managed to reach the Super Bowl but lost to the Vikings in the grand game.

Now, with a new head coach in Guy Davidson, the 49ers look to be a different squad and will run a misdirection wing-t offense along with either a 5-3 or a 4-4 defensive scheme.

“I think I will implement discipline, the kids will know that, but also have fun and they will be a team and I honestly think they will do real well this year,” said Davidson. “I think we will be successful. We can put points up on the board — but defense wins titles.”

The JV Vikings  capitalized on an 11-2 record for the 2013 campaign, but lost 6-0 to Buhach in the Super Bowl.

“We played Buhach and lost on a bad snap on special teams,” said JV Vikings head coach Tim Roberts. “We were on their goal line twice and we failed to get it in. I feel we should’ve won by two touchdowns, but the game got away.”

The team managed to scrape by and finished better than people anticipated but with only 10 returners and 12 holes to fill in different positions, it won’t be a smooth season for coach Roberts in 2014.

“We have about 20 new kids or so and that was the team that did not lose in three years at the Peewee and Rookie level,” said Roberts. “So that is a lot of talent that we have coming up and, hopefully, the kids don’t get sad if they finally lose one. These kids are competitors and they will compete for sure.”

The 49ers JV team was 6-4 in 2013, and this year they welcome new head coach Sergio Bravo.

As the Peewee head man, Bravo managed to reach the Super Bowl against the Vikings but now at the higher level of play, things are completely different.

“Now we move up with the 11 and 12 year olds and see where we take it from here since we have a lot of returners coming back from those Peewees,” said Bravo. “We have a lot of returners and kids I have coached and we're excited for this year and the kids and program.”

At a new level it will be difficult to replay the success but Bravo will bring his experience to these older kids.

“We will hit them hard on the defensive side, but we're always aggressive there and that’s our mentality and also my coaching style is defense, defense, defense and defense,” Bravo said. “Obviously, depending how our offense looks ...if we can throw then that’s the way we will open things up, but we will see what we got and go from there.”

Joe Lewis is back as the Vikings varsity head coach after a great 2013 season where the team finished off with a 7-3 record and a postseason berth —although the Vikings lost to Buhach in the opening round.

“It’s the way it goes,” said Lewis. “We're looking to have a good team this year since we had a strong JV squad last season and the guys we have coming back are not too many, we have a lot of new guys coming in this year.”

About a dozen newcomers are expected to take the field for Lewis, but he feels his team will be ready when the season rolls around.

 “I am hoping with the kids coming up they can learn the winning attitude with us and there are athletes that should help us at the skilled positions that should be great,” he said.

The 49ers varsity squad was 6-4 last year with one win away from reaching the Super Bowl, however, the team managed to scrape away a third place win and result.

“Lost to Broncos in the semifinal and lost a lot of close games we could’ve won,” said 49ers varsity head coach Mike Egleston. “One of our best running backs also went down near the end or else could’ve been in the postseason.”

Only three returners make up the varsity squad, so it should be an entire new team for Egleston.

“We have mainly new guys coming up from JV. It was a decent team and, hopefully, we can do well this year,” Egleston said. “Defensively, I think we will be pretty good but offensively we need to find a quarterback ... we should have a pretty successful season.”

The Turlock 49ers Rookie squad comes off a Super Bowl title but with a new head coach in Matthew Day and an entirely new team, the possibility of a repeat is up in the air.

The Rookie squad for the Vikings also has a new head coach in Ryan Pruitt, a local from Oakdale.

The Vikings won two Super Bowls in the previous three years, but this season with a new coach, a title seems to be a longshot.

“Well, we expect to keep up the Viking tradition and come away with a winning season,” said Pruitt. “I am more of a defensive coach and I have always coached and played defense. Defense in the younger ages, in my mind, is important and offense is simpler.”

First game for the season is set for Aug. 30 at Joe Debely Stadium at Turlock High School.