The members of Ceres High School’s football program have reason to be optimistic heading into the 2021 season.
The Bulldogs return a wealth of talent from last year’s team.
Ceres High compiled a non-losing record for the first time in 16 years during the 2020-21 academic year.
“Our expectation is to play the best we’re capable every time we step on the field,” said Clinton Goblirsch, second-year head coach. “We want to build on last year’s success.”
Ceres High’s top returning players are Verlis Smith (Sr., WR/CB), Landyn Hudson (Jr., QB), Tarrell Lee-Gill (RB), Eli Beltran (Sr., WR/DB), Josh Prestridge (Jr., FB/LB), Tavion Travis (Jr., DE/TE), Kahmi Smith (Jr., FB/LB), Faiva Taukalau (Jr., DE/OL) and Mikey Rivera (Sr., OL/LB).
Verlis Smith, a third-year varsity player, earned first-team all-Western Athletic Conference South Division honors as a junior.
He totaled 348 yards and three touchdowns on 16 receptions.
He ranked first on the team in all three offensive categories.
Smith rushed for 198 yards and two TDs, both team highs, on 20 carries.
He completed 10 of 17 passes for 160 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
He also had nine tackles, one interception, one pass deflection and one forced fumble.
“He’ll be one of our go-to guys, offensively,” Goblirsch said.
Hudson passed for 860 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions in three games.
“He got his first varsity experience last year,” Goblirsch said. “His arm strength, footwork and reads improved. We’re looking forward to seeing him continue to develop.”
“I improved everything,” Hudson said. “My football IQ is a lot higher. I process things faster. I can really sling it. I can fit the ball in small windows. I can extend plays. Overall, I’ve gotten better.”
“I’m excited to see what he does,” Verlis Smith said. “I think he’ll be a lot better. He’s motivated.”
Lee-Gill rushed for 54 yards and one TD on 16 carries. He caught three passes for 108 yards and one score.
Lee-Gill had six tackles.
Beltran had 73 yards and one touchdown on three catches. He had seven tackles.
Prestridge gained 47 yards on 20 carries. He caught two passes for 19 yards. He had eight tackles.
Travis and Kahmi Smith both collected 15 tackles.
Taukalau had seven tackles and one forced fumble.
Rivera had five tackles and two fumble recoveries.
The Bulldogs’ top newcomers are Austin Munguia (Sr., WR/DB), Lebron Stallworth (Jr., TE/DE) and Emmanuel Quijano (So., OL/DL).
“We were young last year. We have a lot of players returning in key positions.”Coach Clinton Goblirsch
“We were young last year,” Goblirsch said. “We have a lot of players returning in key positions.”
The 2020-21 high school football season was moved from the fall to spring due to safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. Schedules consisted of just five games and no playoffs.
The Bulldogs finished 2-2 overall and in fourth place in the WAC South standings (1-2) a season ago. Ceres High played just four times as its home game against Pacheco was canceled because of COVID-19 testing issues.
The Bulldogs are scheduled to play 10 games this fall.
Ceres High will compete against West of Tracy, Amador and Central Valley during the preseason.
The Bulldogs have an all-time record of 2-13 versus the crosstown-rival Hawks.
Central Valley has won the last six meetings.
The Hawks prevailed, 36-14, this past season.
“We’re hoping to get some revenge this year,” Hudson said.
The Bulldogs will face Lathrop, Beyer, Johansen, Pacheco, Los Banos, Mountain House and Grace Davis in WAC play.
“We’re looking forward to having a full season and putting ourselves in a position to be successful every week,” Goblirsch said.
“I feel like this year’s team is going to be better,” Hudson stated. “The majority of us love playing football. That’s one of the keys to success. We got a lot of talent. We haven’t shown our full potential yet. That’s a scary thing.”
The Bulldogs will open the 2021 season on the road this Friday. West will play host to Ceres High at 7 p.m.
“It’s our first test,” Goblirsch said. “We’re expecting to play well.”