The long-delayed high school football season is set to begin on March 19 following months of uncertainty.
The California Interscholastic Federation moved the 2020 fall season to spring 2021 due to safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ll be happy when Friday gets here,” said Derrick Goblirsch, first-year head coach of Central Valley High School’s program. “We’ve wanted this for so long. The kids will get an opportunity to showcase what they’ve been working hard for.”
“We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs this offseason,” Bulldogs’ senior running back/linebacker Amare Padilla said. “We didn’t know if we’d play this year. I’m just grateful we’re having a season. I’m looking forward to competing.”
“Obviously, it’s been a long wait. We’re excited to get back out there. It’s an unusual season. We still have our expectations to play the best we’re capable of.”s High new head coach Clinton Goblirsch
“Obviously, it’s been a long wait,” Ceres High new head coach Clinton Goblirsch said. “We’re excited to get back out there. It’s an unusual season. We still have our expectations to play the best we’re capable of.”
Padilla, Verlis Smith (junior receiver/defensive back), Ryan Beffa (senior linebacker), Nic Angulo (senior offensive/defensive lineman) and Eli Beltran (junior receiver/defensive back) are Ceres High’s top returning players.
The Bulldogs’ top newcomers are Landyn Hudson (sophomore quarterback), Kahmi Smith (sophomore offensive lineman/linebacker), Tarrell Lee-Gill (sophomore running back/defensive back) and Samar Singh (senior tight end/defensive end).
Hudson, Smith and Lee-Gill contributed at the junior-varsity level last season.
Hudson will make his varsity debut at quarterback.
“He’s done a good job progressing in terms of his footwork, throwing mechanics and timing,” Clinton Goblirsch said.
“I know I’m going to be ready,” Hudson said. “I’ve been working hard this whole offseason. I haven’t missed any practices. I’ve gone to all the workouts. I’ve been trying to get myself and team better. I fell in love with the position. Everything runs through you. When the pressure’s on, I feel like I play my best.”
“He (Hudson) has a lot of potential,” Smith said. “He has a high football IQ. His work ethic is amazing. He has a lot of confidence in himself. He’s competitive. He has a strong arm. If he puts 100 percent effort in, we’re going to win games.”
Isaiah Hidalgo (senior quarterback), Angel Vega (senior safety), Ruben Valenzuela (junior defensive end), Favian Lopez-Garcia (senior offensive/defensive lineman) and Alexis Becerra (junior linebacker/offensive line) are Central Valley’s top returning players.
The Hawks’ top newcomers are Felix Arellano (sophomore running back/defensive back), Amari Taylor (senior running back/linebacker/defensive back), Francisco Padilla (senior offensive/defensive lineman) and Roberto Tiscareno (junior quarterback/receiver/defensive back).
Hidalgo will play quarterback for the first time at the high-school level.
He starred at running back the past two seasons.
Hidalgo racked up 1,844 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns while earning Central California Conference honorable-mention recognition as a junior.
He gained 983 yards and tallied 12 TDs, both career-highs, on 205 carries.
He caught 26 passes for 163 yards and one score.
Hidalgo totaled 537 yards and two touchdowns on 20 kickoff returns.
He had 161 yards and one TD on seven punt returns.
Two of Hidalgo’s most-productive games came against Sac-Joaquin Section champs Ripon and Sierra during the preseason.
He carried the ball 19 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns against Ripon.
He ran for 129 yards and one TD versus Sierra.
“It’s a harder job,” said Hidalgo, who will play quarterback for the first time at the prep level this year. “You have to make sure everybody is doing their job right. I’m looking forward to the challenge. I believe in myself. My teammates believe in me. It’s going to be fun.”
“He was skeptical at first,” Derrick Goblirsch said. “It took a little convincing. I think he’ll flourish in that role. He’s got a full understanding of the offense. He’s always been a leader. He’s our best athlete. We thought putting him in a position where he’ll touch the ball every play will put us in the best position to be successful.”
Ceres High, Central Valley and other football programs from the Sac-Joaquin Section will play five-game schedules this season.
The Bulldogs and Hawks are members of the Western Athletic Conference.
The 15th installment of the Ceres Classic, which pits Ceres High against Central Valley, will be staged on April 2.
Central Valley improved its all-time record versus Ceres High to 12-2 with a 55-13 victory during the 2019-20 school year.
The Hawks went 4-6 and finished in fifth place in the CCC standings (2-4).
The Bulldogs finished 0-10 and last in the Western Athletic Conference (0-7) a year ago.
Ceres High hasn’t posted a winning record or qualified for the playoffs since 2004.
The Hawks made history in 2016 by claiming their first-ever league title and amassing a program-best 9-2 record. Central Valley also participated in the playoffs for the second year in a row.
“People at our school, mainly students, don’t believe in us,” Padilla said. “I don’t blame them based on past experiences. We want to change the culture. We want to make a statement. We want to let the league know we’re a different team this year. We’re tired of being known as losers.”
“Our goal is to prove everybody wrong,” Hudson added. “We got all the pieces—players and coaches. We’re going to work hard to change things.”
“We’ve been working hard,” Hidalgo said. “I got high expectations. I always have faith in my team.”
The Bulldogs and Hawks will kick off the 2020-21 season this Friday at Ceres Unified School District Stadium.
Ceres High will battle Grace Davis at 5 p.m.
Central Valley will face Johansen at 7:30 p.m.
Fan attendance will be limited as players, coaches and cheerleaders will be allocated just two tickets each.
“It would be a big deal if we started the season off with a win,” Padilla said. “To win under tough circumstances would mean a lot.”