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Bulldogs mix things up at Downey High
Ceres High School football teammates (top) gang-tackle a Downey player. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

The members of Ceres High School's varsity football program rested in the shade prior to scrimmaging at Chuck Hughes Stadium earlier this month in Modesto.

"We were competitive," Bulldog senior quarterback Brad Bussard said. "That's going to help build our confidence."

The Downey High full-contact camp was held, July 7-10.

Ceres High battled East Union, Downey and Enochs.

"I'm happy with how we performed," Bussard said. "We did well on offense. For the first time in a long time, we were able to run the ball. We got young receivers. We're still trying to make improvements on defense."

The Bulldogs relied heavily on first-year varsity running back Johnni Smith-Willis, who totaled six rushing touchdowns.

Smith-Willis rushed for 58 yards and one TD on 11 carries, and returned a kickoff 82 yards for a score during the Ceres High junior-varsity football team's 34-21 upset of crosstown-rival Central Valley during the 2013-14 school year.

"We all knew coming in, he (Johnni) had potential," said Bussard, who tossed one TD pass versus Enochs. "He showed it today. He's going to take pressure off me. It (Smith-Willis' presence) opens up our playbook. We're going to be a lot more deadly on offense."

Brad Bussard will target Juan Anderson (Sr.), Daniel Raya (Sr.), Seth Gibson (Jr.), Erik Collins (Jr., Tristan Dray (Sr.) and twin brother Brent Bussard (Sr.).

Gibson, Collins and Dray are varsity newcomers.

Smith-Willis will carry the ball, along with Brent Bussard, Izaiah Hernandez (Sr.) and Aaron Black (Jr.).

"We all get along pretty good," Brad Bussard said. "The younger players are willing to listen."

Brad Bussard started in place of Hernandez at free safety this past week at Downey.

He scraped his arm on the turf while making a tackle.

Brad could see playing time at cornerback in 2014.

"I'm not sure what their plans are," he said. "If they need me to play defense, I will."

Ceres High senior lineman Blake Tobler suffered knee and ankle injuries against Downey.

"It wasn't a pretty sight," Brad Bussard said.

Each practice session at the Downey camp lasted four hours (4-8 p.m.). Scrimmages session lasted four hours (4-8 p.m.). Scrimmages were staged from 6-8 p.m.

Brad Bussard and JV passer Chris Lubinsky will attend the Lake Tahoe Quarterback Camp this week.

Brad went to camps at Montana University, Eastern Washington and Central Washington earlier this summer.

Ceres High hasn't had a winning season or made the playoffs in varsity football since 2004.

The Bulldogs compiled a 2-8 record and placed sixth in Western Athletic Conference play (1-5) this past season.

"We've put in a lot of work since our freshmen year," Brad Bussard said. "We want to turn the program around. It would mean a lot."