At times last season Pacheco High’s football games ended with basketball scores, with the Panthers involved in high-scoring shootouts week after week.
Scores like a 50-40 win over Chavez on Sept. 9 were very common. A week later the Panthers were on the wrong side of a 69-54 loss to Buhach Colony. There was a 48-41 win over Patterson and a 42-21 win over Ceres in October.
Pacheco could score points with any team in the Western Athletic Conference. The problem was the Panthers couldn’t stop anybody.
The shootouts took their toll.
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“I just think it’s mentally draining being in a shootout each week,” said Pacheco coach David Snapp. “You start worrying about every possession and every play. You start feeling that you have to be perfect, that you have to score on every possession. That drains on your psyche.”
Snapp and his staff feel the defense will be more formidable this season. Snapp likes the players he has coming back like defensive end C.J. Samifua and Cesar Jiminez leading the way up front, Tobias Lesui and Fernando Vazquez at linebacker and Marqus Marques in the secondary.
“I think we have guys who are a little more athletic,” Snapp said. “Not to say the guys we had before weren’t as smart, but this group isn’t as emotional. They don’t let other things get to them. In the past we’ve let something like another player shoving one of our guys after a play get to us. This group has bought into the team concept.”
“We have a pretty good group,” Samifua said. “Everyone is working hard and dedicated.”
The WAC should be wide open. It’s a league that has had four different champions the past 4 years. Good luck trying to pick the teams in order this year.
Central Valley is the defending champ. Patterson, Pacheco and Los Banos have have been in the thick of it the past couple seasons.
“Other teams are going to feel the same way as we do, that it’s a wide-open league,” Snapp said. “We have to seize the opportunity.”
While the Panthers are hoping for improvements on the defensive side, they hope the offense continues to perform like it did last year when it averaged 40.6 points per game.
Snapp feels the Panthers offense is hard to stop because teams just don’t see the option as much anymore. A lot of teams have gone to the spread offense. It’s tough to play assignment football when Pacheco comes up on the schedule.
It helps that the Panthers have a quarterback like Aric Barton to orchestrate the offense. As a third-year starter, Barton has a good knowledge of the playbook and has control in the huddle.
“I expect the game to be a lot slower for me,” Barton said. “It should be kind of easier. I still have to go out and do the job. I’m ready for it.”
Barton passed for 1,545 yards and 18 touchdowns and also added 568 yards on the ground with five more scores.
“I think one of Aric’s biggest attributes is his unsung athleticism,” Snapp said. “His demeanor is always the same. You never see him rattled. He’s a calming influence on his teammates. You’ll never see him with his head down. He doesn’t get too excited. A lot of quarterbacks are prima donnas. Aric is just one of the guys.”
The Panthers also will have home-field advantage on their side this season with seven home games, including four consecutive games at Veterans Stadium to open the year.
“We knew if we scheduled it right we could have as many as seven home games the year before going into realignment,” Snapp said. “Having seven home games, including the Los Banos game at home, that’s going to be big for our gate receipts and concession receipts.”
Players to Watch
1. David Serrano, defensive lineman, Central Valley: Serrano was an all-WAC first-team selection last season after helping lead the Hawks to their first league championship. The 6-foot-3, 275-pounder is the only returning starter from a dominant defensive line last season. He finished with 43 tackles, including 17 for a loss and three sacks.
2. Andrew Gibson, running back, Ceres: Gibson returns after leading the Bulldogs in rushing (576 yards) and touchdowns (eight) last season. At 5-foot-5, and 133 pounds, the diminutive back is tough for defenses to find. Gibson is also a threat in the passing game, hauling in 30 catches for 241 yards and two touchdowns last season.
3. Anderson Guzman, running back/defensive back, Livingston: Guzman should be the key man in the backfield for the Wolves this season behind an improved offensive line. Guzman will also see time at defensive back. Livingston is hoping to rebound from a 1-9 season.
4. Esteven Barragan, defensive back/running back, Central Valley: Barragan led the Hawks with 91 tackles last season at defensive back to earn all-WAC first-team honors. Barragan saw more work on offensve late in the season. Over the last three games, Barragan had 21 carries for 163 yards and two touchdowns.
5. Daniel Guerrero, reciever, Los Banos: Guerrero led the Tigers in receiving last season after catching 30 passes for 538 yards, including the game-winning catch in Los Banos’ 23-20 playoff win over El Dorado. The Tigers will look for those type of clutch plays from the senior this season.
2016 Final Standings
School (league, overall records)
Central Valley (5-0, 9-2)
Los Banos (4-1, 8-4)
Pacheco (3-2, 5-5)
Ceres (2-3, 4-6)
Patterson (1-4, 2-8)
Livingston (0-5, 1-9)