Beyer High's Richie Alkire is ready for tonight's debut as a head coach, and he'll quickly find out whether his Patriots are ready for the 2010 season.
With returning starter Justin Usiak running its spread offense, Beyer debuts against Hilmar at 5 p.m. in the opening game of the Modesto Kickoff Classic at Downey High.
But Usiak will not have his top target. Kaden Cline, who caught 46 balls for 914 yards and nine TDs last fall, was given a nine-week athletic suspension this week for violating school discipline rules.
Turlock, hoping to rebound from the worst performance in the program's 90-year history, is facing Downey at 7:30.
Never miss a local story.
"It's a good chance to showcase two games with two city schools," said Downey coach Jeremy Plaa, who is starting sophomore Aaron Zwahlen at quarterback. "We want it to be an annual event, with two other city schools next fall."
Those are two of tonight's 15 games with Stanislaus District schools. The season is 11 weeks long, but schools still are limited to just 10 games.
While the Kickoff Classic is intended to promote Modesto football, Hilmar coach Frank Marques says tonight is just as crucial for his 'Jackets.
Hilmar has put together the most challenging non-league schedule of any small school in the district. It plays three Division 1 schools and Ceres, rather than the small-school dominated schedule in 2009.
"This is the first time Hilmar has played a Division 1 program in the modern era," says Marques, 67-15 since taking over the program in 2003. "People think I need my head examined, but I'm excited about being in the Kickoff Classic."