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Prep football set to kick off
Ceres High's and Central Valley's varsity football programs held their first official practices of the 2009-10 school year on Thursday, Aug. 13.

Both teams will play three preseason games this month before beginning the Valley Oak League portion of their schedules in October.

"I think we have the potential to be better than last year," said Vince Lopez, a two-way starter for the Hawks. "We lost a lot of talent but this year's team is different. The bond is tighter. We got a lot of strong, fast kids. We still have people who can make plays."

For the second consecutive year, Central Valley will battle LeGrand (9/11), Bret Harte (9/18) and Hilmar (9/25).

The Hawks collected victories against LeGrand (34-6) and Bret Harte (46-30) in 2008. Central Valley lost 10-8 to Hilmar, which upset Central Catholic 17-6 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V title game and finished the year with a 12-1 overall record.

LeGrand advanced to the second round of the Division VI playoffs and amassed a 7-5 record.

Bret Harte won three of its 10 games.

Ceres High will play Grace Davis (9/11), Downey (9/18) and Calaveras (9/25) for the fourth straight year.

The Bulldogs have dropped seven of eight games to the Spartans, Knights and Redskins since 2006. Ceres High fell 14-7 to Grace Davis, 24-6 to Downey and 48-13 to Calaveras last season.

Grace Davis (5-6) and Calaveras (7-4) participated in the Division I and V playoffs, respectively.

Downey won four of its six games.

"My philosophy is to schedule tough preseason opponents to prepare us for league," Bulldogs head coach Brett Johnson said.

Central Valley posted a program-best 5-5 overall record in 2008 thanks to the stellar play of Trevor Mew, Tyler Dodd, Deangelo Williams, Rick Rogers, Stephen Fonsworth and Timmy Henley.

The 2009 Hawks face a rebuilding year as Mew, Dodd, Rogers, Fonsworth and Henley graduated, and Williams moved to Modesto.

Lopez, a third-year running back and defensive back, is looking forward to the challenge. He had a productive junior campaign. The VOL second-team honoree had 794 yards rushing and 501 receiving to go along with eight touchdowns. Vince also tallied a team-leading four interceptions.

"My role is to be a leader and make plays," he said. "I'll do as much as I can."

Ceres High (2-8, 2-5) hasn't had a winning record or made the playoffs since 2004. The Bulldogs won just 8 of 40 games from 2005-08.

Josh Edwards (QB, Sr.), Marc Ortega (OL/DL, Sr.) and Brandon Jolley (LB/TE, Sr.), Ceres High's team captains, will provide leadership this year.

Edwards threw for 1,732 yards and 14 touchdowns en route to earning VOL second-team accolades as a junior.

Justin Canatsy (WR/DB, Sr.) will also be a major contributor. The honorable-mention receiver grabbed 36 passes for 569 yards and four touchdowns a season ago.

The Bulldogs have a huge hole to fill as Hadon Lopez's playing status is uncertain due to a knee injury.

Lopez (LB/RB, Jr.) made the VOL second team as a sophomore.

"We'll regroup and move forward," Johnson said. "We have to rise above it."

The top three teams in the VOL qualify for the postseason. At-large berths will also be awarded for the first time.

Said Johnson: "Every win counts now because of the new playoff system."

Added Edwards: "We worked hard over the summer. We're really confident."