Making contact: Football season begins with scrimmages

August 21, 2010 

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SUN-STAR PHOTO BY MARCI STENBERG Atwater quarterback Michael Gutierrez, middle, as he hands the football to Armando Garcia, back center, during football practice, Wednesday, August 18, 2010 afternoon.

MARCI STENBERG — Merced Sun-Star

No one will remember the touchdowns, much less the score, but that doesn't change one fact:

High school football gets under way today.

Unofficially, that is.

Several local teams will take part in scrimmages scattered throughout the Central Valley today -- the first day the Sac-Joaquin Section allows its teams to make such contacts.

For the avid football fan, it will serve as a sneak peek inside their favorite programs. Who's back? Who looks good? What changes have been made?

For the football coach, it represents a live-action look at their personnel and schemes.

Who looks good?

What last-minute changes need to be made?

Merced travels to Fresno Central High, beginning a brutal preconference schedule that features nationally ranked Sacramento Grant and Fresno Edison.

Central returns 19 of 22 starters from a 7-4 team in 2009, including tailback Brendon Bigelow, a recent University of Washington commit.

"They're No. 2 in the Central Section right now and they probably should be No. 1," Merced coach Rob Scheidt said. "They're probably the fastest team we played all last year.

"In terms of preparing us for what we'll see, they're definitely one of the better teams we'll see this year.

"Athleticism wise, they will rival Grant. Up front, probably not."

Tonight's Golden Valley-Mariposa scrimmage doesn't just unite two of the area's marquee programs. It'll also reunite old friends.

Golden Valley first-year coach Jake Messina and Mariposa's Bob Kelly served as assistants together at Palo Alto High in the Bay Area.

"We've talked for awhile about doing something like this," Messina said. "When I was at Merced, we weren't going to do it. When I took this job, I said we have to get together. If we could do a scrimmage situaiton, I think it would be great. We've been able to do that."

Livingston will host Linden and Gustine, while Falcon Field will serve as the backdrop to Atwater and Patterson's morning contest.

Delhi will host Big Valley Christian and Los Banos will travel to Oakdale.

Buhach Colony has perhaps the most daunting scrimmage schedule.

Beginning today, in back-to-back weeks, Buhach Colony will face Stockton Lincoln, Tokay and Napa (at Stockton Lincoln, today), as well as Central Catholic and Sonora (at Central Catholic, Aug. 21).

Hilmar and junior quarterback Andrew Olson will test their might against Turlock tonight.

Hilmar head coach Frank Marques hand-picked his opponent. Like several teams on Hilmar's schedule, Turlock features a spread offense. Plus, the regional throwdown should make for a good show at Hilmar's McSweeney Field.

"Who are our starters going to be? If you've put in new schemes, are our schemes working?" Hilmar head coach Frank Marques said of the benefits of a scrimmage with an outside contact.

"Plus, they're our neighbors. It'll be a Turlock-Hilmar get-together. It'll be fun for the fans in both communities."

Le Grand fans will have to wait a week to see its 2009 Sac-Joaquin Section Division V runnerups.

But for the first time in program history, they won't have to go far.

Le Grand will host its first annual multi-team scrimmage on Aug. 27 against Parlier and Bret Harte high schools at Joseph Fontes and Richard Geary Stadium.

For the last three years, Le Grand has taken part in the Modesto Christian scrimmage with the likes of Weston Ranch, Linden and Sierra.

This time, they'll play the part of gracious host, bestowing a different type of gift on its guests.

Hits, and lots of 'em.

"Going through the summer and all the work we did, then we get our 10 days in pads and our (Green and Gold) scrimmage, everyone's just ready to get started," Martinez said.

"We're at a time when it's starting to get repetitive. We're just due to hit somebody else in a different color jersey."

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