If there was ever a year for the Rookie level squad of Turlock Youth Football to be excited, it's this upcoming season.
Second year head coach Rick Hernandez and the Pride are coming off a Super Bowl appearance last year and he is expecting his young but talented squad to pick up where they left off.
“It's early out there, but we definitely have talent just have to get it out of them,” said Hernandez. “I see us in the Super Bowl, but it will be a process.”
Bulldogs head coach Lloyd Souza has been coaching for 27 years and he is excited about leading the league’s younger players.
Just a season ago, the Bulldogs managed to make it to the second round of the postseason but are chasing the Super Bowl crown this year and know it will take a full team effort.
The Bulldogs will have to rely on standouts that include Scout Silva, Conor Pacheco, Landen Neal, Braiden Fuentes, Cole Cronan, Avery Michaels, Dallas Richardson and Kainoa Salinas.
“We will have speed and quickness off the line, initial contact and we should be fine there,” said Souza. “I think we will be alright in skill positions. We are not big, we have smaller kids, but these kids are really picking it up especially after just the second day.”
Souza also mentioned that at 7 and 8 years-old, the team seems to be picking up on the concepts and formations quicker than most.
“The kids seem very knowledgeable and they are picking it up easy and making us better,” said Souza. “We haven't hit yet but with our strong returners and with the drafted players in case one has to step up, we should be good.”
The big thing for Souza, however, is getting all his kids to see the playing field.
“My big thing is playing, all these kids should see lots of playing and that will only make them want to come back and play next year,” said Souza. “Big thing is to get better each week. We have a Super Bowl at this age, so they want to get there but long as we get better each week is what really matters, they have to learn it's a game first.”
The Pride have made it to the Super Bowl in three of the last five seasons and are expecting to be competitive once again and, hopefully, claim a title.
“We have nine returners from last year's Super Bowl team and at least half will start,” said Hernandez. “Last year we relied more on strength and size, but this year we will have smaller team but will rely on skill players. We are built to run not pass.”
Some of the Pride standouts include Tristan Patterson, Gavin Green, Anthony Pena, Blain Cooper and Josiah Simmons.
“What we do as Rookies is unique…we play starters in the first half and second half we always play the backups,” said Hernandez. “What that does is develop the kids… and it’s what we work for.”
The Pride have also won the last three “Bud Bowls,” which is the annual rivalry game against the Bulldogs.
“I tell our kids, we might not be the biggest or fastest and strongest but will be hardest working team as well, we expect a lot and they learn that pretty quick,” Hernandez added.
The Bulldogs open up their season against Livingston on Aug. 26. The Pride will take on Atwater on Aug. 26.