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Raptors begin their third season of football and cheerleading
Ceres Raptors Youth Football & Cheerleading Organization co-founder Tom Vasquez suffered a stroke prior to the start of the 2010 campaign.

Vasquez continued to coach football despite being debilitated by poor health. An assistant at the varsity level, Tom took over leadership duties for JV halfway through the season.

He was confined to a wheelchair for most of the year.

Tom stood while providing directions to varsity players at practice on July 26.

"I'm up moving around," Vasquez said. "I still walk with a bad limp. I can't run and do some of the drills. I can still instruct."

Tom helped establish the Raptors organization in 2009.

The Raptors registered 80 football players and 35 cheerleaders, aged 5-14, for the 2011 season.

Practices are held Monday through Friday, from 6-8 p.m., at Chavez Jr. High School.

Frank Yorba, Mike Cole and Richard Alderete coach JV, rookies and starts, respectively.

"We're building at the lower levels," Vasquez said. "That's what you want."

The Raptors are members of the National Youth Football League.

Ceres will play against the Modesto Raiders, Central Valley Panthers and Patterson Redskins twice, and Central Valley 49ers and Riverbank Trojans once.

The Raptors kick off the 2011 season against the 49ers on Aug. 13 at the Riverbank Sports Complex.

Every team qualifies for playoffs at the end of the year.

"We've never had a losing season at varsity," Vasquez said. "I want to keep up that tradition."