Football will take center stage at Orestimba High Friday, when the Warriors host an eight-team pre-season scrimmage.
The traditional scrimmage is a tune-up for the upcoming season, giving players an opportunity to audition for playing time and allowing coaches to further evaluate their players and teams.
Orestimba head coach Aaron Souza said that, with eight schools participating at both the frosh-soph and varsity levels, the 2019 scrimmage will be the largest that Orestimba has hosted.
Participating schools include Orestimba, Gustine, Livingston, Dos Palos, Firebaugh, Kimball (Tracy), El Capitan (Merced) and Mountain House.
The schools will be divided into two groups of four. Each school will scrimmage once against each of the other three in its group.
A number of traditional rivals - including Orestimba and Gustine - will be participating in the scrimmage but will not face one another, Souza said.
The frosh-soph scrimmage will start at 5 p.m. Varsity action will get under way around 7.
Souza and Gustine head coach Ronnie LaBry said that, while the scrimmage will not count in the standings, it is an important step in preparing for the season ahead and evaluating players.
LaBry said the Reds have plenty of competition for starting positions and playing time, particularly at the running back and receiver competitions.
“I don’t want anybody going into that scrimmage thinking that they have a position locked up,” he commented. “(Starting positions) are week to week. You have to earn it through the course of the year.”
The scrimmage allows coaches to give every player a chance to show their skills without the pressure of being in a game that will count in the win-loss record.
LaBry said that he expects the Gustine coaching staff to have a good idea of what players will fit where going into the scrimmage. The competition, he remarked, will either validate those evaluations or leave coaches looking for other options.
“We will evaluate our kids and go from there,” LaBry stated.
Souza said the competition for starting roles on the Warrior team is also fierce, particularly on the offensive unit, which has only one returning starter.
“We really need to figure out throughout the scrimmage what we can do on the offensive side of the ball,” Souza commented.
The practice environment does not begin to compare to the competition level when players line up against other teams, the two local coaches agreed.
“It is an open audition. It is one thing to go hit somebody you know behind that face mask,” Souza expressed. “When you are playing somebody you don’t know in a Friday night setting, you see how guys handle that type of competition. Every year we get some pleasant surprises at the scrimmage, but also have guys who had great practices but it didn’t translate (to a strong scrimmage showing).”
Both coaches agreed that their players have had enough of going toe-to-toe in practice and are anxious to line up against players from other schools.
“They’re ready to hit somebody right now,” LaBry said Friday.
“We’re competing against each other,” Souza echoed. “We want to compete against somebody else.”
The season begins in earnest the following week.
Orestimba opens its 2019 campaign Friday, Aug. 23, when Bret Harte visits the West Side.
Gustine will have to wait a week, as the Reds’ bye falls on the initial week of the season. The Reds visit Linden Aug. 30 to begin their season.