Frank Ginda became Pacheco High School’s first 1,000-yard rusher last fall, notching 1,113 yards and 18 touchdowns as Pacheco went 7-4 with a first-round playoff exit.
This season, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior will step aside on offense for the return of Kalama Kamoku (6-1, 225), who tore up his knee in a contact camp last year. Ginda will slide over and become more of an H-back, with duties at fullback, tight end and even split out wide.
“What I’m mainly going to contribute to this team is blowing up holes for Kalama and Libby (Librado Velasquez) to run through, our two starting running backs,” Ginda said. “I want to blow up holes, and I also want to be a pass threat.”
Defensively, Ginda and Kamoku will play side-by-side as the starting middle linebackers. Even Kamoku, who started at running back alongside Paul Parks as a sophomore, couldn’t really answer how to approach that offensive duo.
“I would honestly … you can’t really approach them; just have to play as hard as you can,” Kamoku said, shaking his head. “With someone like Frank Ginda, you just have to keep hitting him, you know. Get to his level. He’s coming for you. He’s hungry.”
Having a star like Ginda not only be willing to take a different role but to relish the chance to block for his teammates makes Pacheco coach David Snapp smile.
“You’re lucky if you have one of those guys on your team a year, and I’ve got two of them on my team this year. It’s a bonus for us,” Snapp said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how they get out there and work together. And they’re team-first guys. If I told them, ‘Hey, you guys, at guard,’ they’d line up at guard with no complaint and probably be the two best guards in the league. It’s great when your team leaders have that attitude.”
After placing third in the Western Athletic Conference last season (without Kamoku), it’s a different feeling for the Panthers, one of the favored teams in the league. Snapp, for his part, has used the school’s underdog status as motivation since Pacheco opened in 2010.
“That’s just people who look at us on paper and see that we’ve got some good players, but just like any year, you’ve got to step out and take care of everything,” Snapp said. “Two years ago, nobody expected us to be as good as we’ve become all of a sudden. Now, we haven’t done anything, but we’re the favorites. Hopefully, it’s a testament to the hard work my guys and the staff have put in.
“We’ve kind of earned where we are, because we do work hard and we’re trying to better ourselves, and we’re trying to build the program the right way.”
The Panthers’ strength is their depth, especially at running back. Even with Ginda out of the backfield, the team boasts Kamoku (125 carries for 868 yards as a sophomore), shifty Moffat Teneng (91 for 612), Velasquez and speedy Los Banos sophomore transfer Deontae Smith.
“All the guys have known since we started in the spring that we have talent,” Snapp said. “We have five guys that could be starting at any high school in the area, and we only start two, so you’re all going to have to understand that you make things happen when you have your time to make things happen.”
Another player Snapp expects to have a monster season is the unpredictable Juwan Epperson, who completed 83 of 156 passes for 1,507 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions last year. He also ran 70 times for 548 yards.
“There are times when you want to pull your hair out when he starts a play,” Snapp said, “And then all of a sudden, he throws a 50-yard pass or he’s scrambling for 30 yards. You can’t coach those things; you don’t want to take those things away from him.”
Head Coach: David Snapp
Last Season: 7-4
Key Returners: Frank Ginda, Sr., 6-1, 230, RB/ILB; Kalama Kamoku, Sr., 6-1, 225, RB/LB; Juwan Epperson, Sr., 5-11, 135, QB; Josh Tui, Sr., 6-2, 250, OL/DL; Maurice Harden, Sr., 6-0, 180, WR/S; Robert Ricks, Sr., 6-3, 235, OL/DL.
Key Losses: Victor Cortez, C; Wyatt Orozco, OL; Hunter Mendez, TE, Adam Perez, S.
Key Newcomers: Deontae Smith, So., 5-9, 170, RB/DB; Thor Rodoni, Jr., 6-2, 190, C; Chris Munoz, So., 6-0, 170, WR/S.
Rivalry Game: Crosstown Clash vs. Los Banos
Stadium: Veterans Memorial Stadium