Ceres High School’s boys soccer program has reason to be confident heading into the 2021-22 season.
The Bulldogs return a wealth of talent from last year’s team, which amassed an 8-2-1 overall record and claimed the Western Athletic Conference South Division championship.
“We have a really strong team this year,” head coach Gilbert Zamora Jr. said. “We have a lot of experienced players who play travel soccer. We have a lot of speed.”
Ceres High’s top returners are Gilbert Zamora III (So.), Noah Trevino (Sr.), Matthew Sanchez (Sr.), Noah Zamora (Sr.), Antonio Medina (Sr.), Diego Ruiz (Sr.), Sergio Gonzalez (Sr.) and Jesse Villalobos (Sr.).
The Bulldogs’ top newcomers are Isaac Arana (Sr.), Luis Alvarez (Sr.), Nicholas Vieyra (Jr.) and Enrique Murillo (Fr.).
Sanchez and Noah Zamora, Ceres High’s two center backs, have been named team captains.
The decision was based on leadership, experience and academics.
“Before I chose captains, the whole team agreed,” coach Zamora said. “They’ve been two of my top players for three or four years. They’re pretty much the heart of the team.”
Trevino and Gilbert Zamora III both earned all-conference accolades a year ago.
Zamora III collected six goals and three assists while contributing at winger and fullback.
Trevino was a defensive midfielder.
The Bulldogs graduated two all-league players in Hassiel Ruiz and Luis Yepez. Ruiz tallied seven goals and one assist. Yepez had three goals and four assists.
Ceres High will compete in the WAC this season, along with Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Lathrop, Mountain House, Los Banos and Pacheco.
The Bulldogs were previously members of the conference from 2010-20.
Ceres High spent this past year in the WAC South Division for COVID-19 safety reasons.
The Bulldogs compiled an 8-1-1 record on their way to a first-place finish in league play last winter.
Pacheco (7-2-1), Central Valley (4-5-1), Johansen (3-6-1) and Los Banos (2-6-1) placed second, third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
Playoffs were postponed for all sports during the 2020-21 school year because of a late start to the season due to COVID-19.
“I heard everybody got stronger this year,” Zamora Jr. said. “We have more to lose than other teams. We’ve been winning a lot. We like to be in this position. It makes us work harder.”
Ceres High enjoyed its best season to date in 2018-19. The Bulldogs posted a program-best 20-2-4 overall record, claimed the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III crown and advanced to the CIF Northern California Regional Championship Tournament for the first time.
The Bulldogs made history in 2009-10 by winning their first-ever section title while competing in the Division-IV bracket.
“A lot of teams want to beat Ceres High because our record has been really good,” coach Zamora said. “We got a lot of respect when we won sections.”