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Special season in store for Varsity Bulldogs
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It's been three years since the Ceres High varsity boys basketball program last participated in the playoffs. Head coach Jason Martin believes the 2005-06 Bulldogs can reverse that trend.

“We're a lot deeper and bigger this year,” Martin said.

His players don't lack confidence either.

“We'll go as far as we want if we work hard,” said Ross Tate, a third-year varsity player.

Added senior Bryant Hill: “We should have a pretty good season. I think we can go to Arco Arena (site for the section title game) if we play as a team.”

Ceres High has the pieces in place to make a run for the Modesto Metro Conference championship and Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoff berth. The top 16 teams in the section advance to the postseason.

“Everyone has the same goal, which is to win games and improve,” Martin said.

Said Schwark: “Our goal is to finish in the top eight (in the section) so we get a home playoff game.”

Ceres will be a much more cohesive unit this year. The Bulldogs will also play with more passion and energy. They'll run and press.

“We all get along,” Schwark said. “We're all unselfish.

“Winning should keep everybody happy.”

Added Martin: “We got a lot of guys who love to play basketball year-round.”

Ceres returns experienced players in Tate, Schwark, Hill, Kevin Dupree, Brad Muniz and Joe Gallo.

The Bulldogs have seven newcomers in Brett Sayad, Steven Downs, Ray Green, Andrew Chipponeri, Ricardo Castellanos, Adarsh Brar and Ryan Ketchum. Sayad, Downs, Green, Chipponeri and Castellanos guided the JV Bulldogs to a second-place in the MMC standings last year.

“Our practices are very competitive,” Martin said.

Ceres' summer schedule included 34 games. The Bulldogs compiled a 20-14 record. They went 7-4 in the Modesto Junior College League. They won six of 12 games in the Delta College League. Ceres posted a 4-1 record at the Cal State Stanislaus Basketball Camp Tournament. The Bulldogs also collected three victories at the UC San Diego High School Boys Basketball Camp Tournament.

“Everybody got better,” Green said.

“We put a lot of time in over the summer,” Martin said. “They played a lot of games together.”

Competition will be fierce in league. Modesto High, the defending champ, is the team to beat. The Panthers return a host of players from last year's team, which compiled a 22-8 overall record, finished second in league at 13-2 and advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I semifinal playoff game, including junior guard Sammy Yeager and 6-foot-11 center Ryan Vermeulen.

Davis, Beyer, Johansen and Downey won't be slouches either.

“It's going to be a battle in league,” Martin said. “We're playing each other three times.”

Said Tate: “It should be fun.”

Added Schwark: “We're going to keep on working hard.”

The 2004 Bulldogs went 9-18 and finished fifth in the MMC at 3-12. - By DALE BUTLER /Staff reporter of the Ceres (Calif.) Courier