The Ceres Cowboys and Ceres High football programs have formed a partnership.
"There's a lot of excitement on both ends," said Jim Patterson, past president and head coach of the Cowboys' varsity youth team. "Now, the real work starts."
The Cowboys and Bulldogs were permitted to work together after leaders from both sides met with Ceres Unified School District Athletic Coordinator Fernando Ureno in February. Former Cowboys President Madeline Patterson and current leader John Boston, and Ceres High Athletic Director Shawna Nunes and Varsity Football Head Coach Bret Durossette attended the meeting.
"It will benefit everyone," CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel said. "The main thing is the coaching staffs are working together to help build their programs. I want to make it very clear they're not feeder programs. We're not telling the kids what high schools to play for. That's a decision parents have to make. The coaches have to be completely neutral. If we have situations of undue influence, we'll investigate."
"It's a relief," said Jim, who along with his wife Madeline, have been members of the Cowboys for the past 16 years. "This is what we've always wanted since the mid-1990s when we first started. "It's been in the works for the last three years. It was supposed to happen in 2010."
The Cowboys will run the same offensive and defensive plays as the Bulldogs, beginning this season. Durossette has already passed on his playbook.
"All of the terminology will be the same," Patterson said. "It will take two to three years for the kids to learn the system. You'll start seeing a difference next year."
"There was a huge disconnect the last few years with the Pop Warner teams," Durossette said. "It was important to get this done. We have a great opportunity here. It's going to help our schools and community. We're going to learn from each other. It's a win-win. We're in this together."
Bulldogs coaches will be present when the Cowboys hold a youth football skills camp this summer.
The Cowboys will start practicing for the 2013 season on July 20.
"I'll do whatever coach Durossette asks me to do," said Patterson, who cut ties with crosstown-rival Central Valley High School. "I'll promote Ceres High football." Jim helped coach the Hawks for three seasons. He'll be an assistant at CHS next school year.
The Cowboys printed their new joint motto, "Together We're Better," on T-shirts and banners.
They're also considering changing the look of their helmets.
"We might do the star with a Bulldog in it," Patterson said.
The Ceres Seahawks youth organization formed a partnership with Central Valley last season.
Ceres High and Central Valley have both endured seven straight non-winning seasons in varsity football.
"You look at the successful high schools, such as Central Catholic, Escalon, Oakdale, Hilmar, Atwater and Buhach Colony, and they all have successful youth programs that feed them," Patterson said. "That's how it starts. There's a lot of talent in this town. Hopefully, our high-school programs get better. The kids deserve it."
Added Durossette: "It will be interesting to see where our programs are at in three to four years. We should be competitive."