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Dawgs target conference title, playoff berth
Benjamin Larranaga
Benjamin Larranaga (12) and Alfredo Toledo will try to help Ceres High’s boys soccer program continue its run of success this season. - photo by Dale Butler

Ceres High School’s boys soccer program plans to continue its tradition of excellence this season despite being hit hard by graduation.

“We lost a lot of seniors,” Bulldogs’ head coach Gilbert Zamora Jr. said. “We’re still going to try to make playoffs. If everybody stays healthy and plays together as a team, we’ll have a shot.”

Ceres High returns just six players from last year’s team, including Alfredo Toledo (Sr.), Joshua Yepez (Sr.), Nicholas Vieyra (Sr.), Luis Flores (Jr.), Enrique Murillo (So.) and Samuel Vargas (So.).

The Bulldogs have 12 newcomers in David Flores (Sr.), Benjamin Larranaga (Sr.), Fernando Martinez (Sr.), Yahir Medina (Sr.), Joshua Rodriguez (Sr.), Aiden Lopez (Jr.), Alexander Lopez (Jr.), Christopher Vega (Jr.), William Duran (So.), Fabian Montanez (So.), Leonel Baez (Fr.) and Jayson Trevino (Fr.).

Ceres High lost 10 players to graduation: Luis Alvarez, Isaac Arana, Nathan Barajas, Serjio Gonzalez, Antonio Medina, Eduardo Ramirez, Eduardo Savala, Noah Trevino, Jesse Villalobos and Noah Zamora. 

Arana, Most Valuable Player of the Western Athletic Conference, totaled 27 goals and 19 assists.

Trevino, Villalobos and Zamora all earned first-team all-league honors.

Gonzalez was selected to the WAC Second Team.

Gilbert Zamora III and Julio Larranaga both transferred to crosstown-rival Central Valley.

Zamora III garnered second-team all-conference recognition. He collected seven goals and seven assists.

Murillo and Benjamin Larranaga have been named team captains.

Murillo had 14 goals and six assists at the varsity level as a freshman.

“It’s a brand-new team,” coach Zamora said. “We’re rebuilding. We have a lot of young players. We don’t have experience. They know the situation we’re in and we have to work even harder. Hopefully, it doesn’t take too long to rebuild. If we make playoffs, that would be a successful season.”

The top three teams in the WAC will be awarded berths to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

Ceres High will compete against Beyer, Grace Davis, Johansen, Lathrop, Mountain House, Los Banos and Pacheco during league play.

“Our expectation is to win and make playoffs,” Zamora Jr. said.

The Bulldogs posted a 16-6-1 overall record, placed first in the WAC standings (12-1-1) and finished in the top 8 in the Division-III playoff bracket this past winter.

Seventh-seeded Ceres High lost 4-1 to second-seeded Placer in the quarterfinals.

The season-ending loss snapped the Bulldogs’ 14-game unbeaten streak.

Ceres High edged the 10th-seeded Valley Vikings 1-0 in the opening round of the playoffs.

The Bulldogs were seeking to win their third section title in program history.

Ceres High compiled an 8-1-1 record on its way to a first-place finish in the WAC South Division during the 2020-21 COVID-shortened season. Playoffs were postponed for all sports because of coronavirus-safety concerns.

The Bulldogs enjoyed their best season to date in 2018-19. Ceres High amassed a program-best 20-2-4 overall record, claimed the Division-III crown and advanced to the CIF Northern California Regional Championship Tournament for the first time.

Ceres High made history in 2009-10 by winning its first-ever section title while competing in the Division-IV bracket.

“I’m excited about this season,” said coach Zamora, whose team will be vying for its third straight conference title. “It’s going to be a really fun year. Everybody wants to beat Ceres based on our past.”