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Dawgs will compete with revamped lineup
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Ceres High opened football practice last week. The Bulldogs are coming off a record-breaking season. They won a share of the Modesto Metro Conference championship--its first league title since 1985--and secured a berth in the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Ceres faces a lot of uncertainties entering this season. The Bulldogs lost 11 all-league players to graduation, including quarterback Derrick Goblirsch, offensive lineman A.J. Ball, running back Ray Robles, receivers Cruz Flores and Rafael Valencia, defensive linemen Nick Eudy and Zack Wiedenbeck, cornerbacks Daniel Smith and Ryan Leazer, and punter Brandon Gresham.

"Our coaching and expectations are not going to change," said Ceres head coach Bret Durossette. "I think the Ceres High football tradition will continue."

Here are five questions facing Durossette's program as he enters season No. 6:

1.Who will lead guide Ceres' offense? Ross Tate and Roland Salazar are vying for the starting quarterback position.

"It doesn't matter who we put back there," Durossette said. "If they learn, they're going to do good."

Tate took the majority of snaps during the summer passing league. The 6-foot-3 junior played a handful of positions at the JV level last year, including quarterback, defensive back, kicker and punter.

Salazar suffered several concussions while playing quarterback at the JV and freshman levels in 2002 and 2003, respectively. That forced him to miss the entire 2004 season.

Tate and Salazar, who is now a senior, have some big shoes to fill. Goblirsch was a two-year starter. He passed for 3,732 yards and 33 touchdowns.

2. Will Ceres have adequate replacements at wide receiver? Flores, Valencia, Borges and Charlie Cunha combined for 132 receptions, 1,273 yards and nine touchdowns this past season.

The 2005 receiving corps features Salazar, Dingko Luangchai, Jake Loveland, Armando Valencia, Jake Keidel and Ray Sewell. Luangchai ranked third on the team in receiving last year. He caught 20 passes for 328 yards and one touchdown. Loveland was a backup tight end. Salazar, Valencia, Keidel and Sewell lack varsity experience.

3. Will the Bulldogs have a productive rushing attack? They return two starting offensive linemen from last year's team, including Adam Kent and Lonny Gerhart. Kent earned second-team, all-league honors for his outstanding play at center. The seniors will pave the way for Luangchai and Daniel Munoz. Luangchai will be the featured tailback.

"There's a little pressure but I think we can handle it," Luangchai said.

"We're a lot faster than last year."

Luangchai averaged 5.63 yards per carry last season. He gained 107 yards on 19 carries and scored one touchdown.

His predecessor, Ray Robles, racked up 557 yards and scored five touchdowns.

Luangchai said he's capable of rushing for 1,000 yards and scoring 15 total touchdowns.

"With my team behind me, I think I can do it," he said.

4. Will Ceres' defense be as dominant as past years? Munoz, Luangchai, Loveland and Luis Malagon will lead the way. Malagon had 119 tackles, three sacks, one interception and a fumble recovery en route to earning first-team, all-league honors at linebacker last season. Munoz started all 11 games at defensive back. He accumulated 53 tackles and three sacks. Luangchai and Loveland logged a significant amount of playing time at defensive back and linebacker, respectively. Luangchai had 36 tackles, one sack, one interception and one fumble recovery. Loveland had 29 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one sack.

5. Will Ceres contend for the conference championship and earn a postseason berth? If the Bulldogs win the Modesto Metro Conference title, they'll be guaranteed a No. 1 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs. The top two teams in league advance. Modesto High is the frontrunner. The reigning MMC co-champion Panthers return a host of starters on both offense and defense.

"We're looking at playoffs," Tate said. "That's our goal. I think we can do it."

Ceres High's season starts on Sept. 9. The Bulldogs play their first game at home.

"Our goal right now is to beat Manteca," said Ceres defensive coordinator Brett Johnson. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff reporter of the

Ceres (Calif.) Courier