Pacheco High School coach David Snapp figured small dust-ups and smack talk would be a part of the North/South Rotary All-Star Football Game experience.
After all, the North roster features 58 alpha males – some of the biggest, strongest, fastest players in the Sac-Joaquin Section.
“Usually, when everyone is ‘the man’ at their school, you come in with a chip on your shoulder,” said Snapp, coaching the North for the first time. “At least that’s the way it used to be.”
Remarkably, the North is devoid of ego, and after three days of practices and several individual sacrifices, Snapp believes the team has coalesced.
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Those bonds will be tested Friday evening when the North squares off against the Central Section’s best at Veterans Stadium on the campus of Golden Valley High School in Merced. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
“They’re all talking and joking around. They seem like they’ve been a team for more than (three days). There are no rivalries out here,” said Snapp, who led Pacheco to a runner-up finish in the Western Athletic Conference last fall. “It’s not like the Turlock guys don’t like Pitman, or the Los Banos guys don’t like Pacheco. There hasn’t been any of that.”
The North won last year’s game handily, 35-13.
This year, the North’s confidence is bolstered by its bonds.
Eleven players took part in the Lions All-Star Football Game two weeks ago in Tracy, including Patterson’s Damarrio Hammonds; Oakdale’s Frankie Trent, Tyler Flores and Jon Carmelich; Gregori’s Matt Vargas; Los Banos’ Alec Barcellos; Buhach Colony’s Justin Stefani; Central Catholic’s A.J. Contreras; Pacheco’s Josh Tui; and Turlock’s Robert Martinez and Jacob Mabie.
Several more have offered to play anywhere the coaching staff sees fit, including both ways if necessary.
“The one thing that sticks out is the selflessness of all these guys,” Snapp said. “They’ve had a great time. No one was bitter about where we put them. It was surprising to me.”
It also speaks to the North’s versatility.
Vargas was originally selected as a defensive player. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he projected well as a defensive end/outside linebacker despite his modest numbers for the Jaguars. Vargas had two fumble recoveries and 21/2 sacks in 11 games.
But once Snapp got his all-stars on the field for the first time Monday, he quickly realized two things: One, the North was flush with talent on defense; and two, there was a need for big-bodied tight ends on offense.
Vargas played tight end in the Lions game, collecting three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. He led Gregori with 37 receptions for 386 yards.
“He just wants to play. He asks a lot of questions. You could tell he’s a football player and he just wants to get into the game,” Snapp said of the Chadron State-bound talent. “He asked me, ‘Where do you want me to play?’ I told him we needed a tight end, and he said OK.”
Vargas will platoon at tight end with another re-purposed linebacker, Barcellos, one of two Most Inspirational Player award winners at the Lions game.
That night, the 6-foot-2 Barcellos starred at middle linebacker, diving over the line of scrimmage to harass Chavez quarterback Julius Davila and a host of running backs.
On Friday, the Colorado Mesa recruit hopes to dive into the end zone for six points.
“We want to match him on a high school safety. With him being (6-foot-2), most high school safeties are only 5-10,” Snapp said of the three-sport athlete. “You don’t see too many kids with his basketball skills and ability to box out. He’s going to be a big target.”
Kalhiel Dillard of Central Catholic is another versatile player at Snapp’s disposal. A running back/defensive back, Dillard has volunteered to play on both sides of the ball.
Dillard was the Raiders’ third-leading rusher with 506 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 8.2 yards per carry. Defensively, he had 35 tackles and an interception.
“He came up to me after (Monday’s) practice and said, ‘I don’t want to play a bunch of offense, but do you mind if I play a little?’” Snapp said. “He was one of those guys that said, ‘Anything you need, coach, I can do it.’ He’s full of confidence and has a great attitude.”
North Rotary All-Stars
Coach: David Snapp, Pacheco
Roy Gutierrez/Buhach Colony
Cristian Nava/Le Grand
Aaron Lerma/Mariposa County
Billy Marr/Ripon Christian
Kama’re Bailey/Mariposa County
Jadin Battles/Mariposa County
Bailey Rodriguez/Los Banos
Alec Barcellos/Los Banos
Michael Souza/Golden Valley
Kalhiel Dillard/Central Catholic
Bailey Dahlhoff/Stone Ridge Christian
Gilbert Fuentes/Los Banos
Austin Ekizian/Buhach Colony
Justin Stefani/Buhach Colony
Kevin Kramer/Ripon Christian
AJ Contreras/Central Catholic
Kyle Todd/Central Catholic
Rick Silva/Buhach Colony
Spencer Arrebalo/Mariposa County
Daniel Alvarado/Central Valley
Adam Mensonides/Ripon Christian
Ramon Coral Jr./Ceres
Seth Stockton/Stone Ridge Christian
If You Go
What: 30th annual North/South Rotary All-Star Football Game
Where: Golden Valley High’s Veterans Stadium in Merced
When: Friday. Kickoff at 7:30 p.m.