Football players from different teams and backgrounds, including four from Tracy, united this week in a series of practices leading up to the 41st annual Lions All Star Football Classic.
The game Saturday night, to be played in Tracy for the first time in the history of the event, will begin at 7 p.m. in Wayne Schneider Stadium, which opened last year after a complete renovation as the Tracy High Bulldogs’ home venue.
The stadium is named for longtime Bulldogs coach Wayne Schneider, who is also one of the founders of the all-star game.
Sixty top high school senior players from Lions District 4-A1, which covers the San Joaquin Valley and adjoining foothills, will face off as part of North and South teams on Saturday.
Four local players on the North team, all recent graduates, said this week that practicing and playing with the best of their former rivals was more exciting because they would be able to play in front of a hometown crowd.
“It will be my last high school football game in my home stadium where I’ve played for the last four years,” said Clayton Fegett, the 2013 Bulldogs’ center. “It’s a new stadium, so we’re going to show it off and hopefully get the W in front of everyone.”
To prepare for the game, the North team got into practices Monday at Stagg High in Stockton. By Tuesday, the team was in full pads, going through offensive drills in the morning and defensive drills in the afternoon.
“It’s nice to get back into the swing of things,” George Obinna, Tracy High defensive lineman, said.
He said that even after a championship season — the Bulldogs went 10-2 and 5-0 in the San Joaquin Athletic Association — he was disappointed to go out with a 49-28 loss at home to Jesuit High of Carmichael in the second round of playoffs.
“After the season ended, it didn’t feel like it ended the way I wanted it to, so this gives me another chance to redeem myself,” Obinna said.
He and Tracy teammate Chaz Briggs, a linebacker, both said that they quickly saw that the all-star game would help them reach a new level of play.
“Everyone here is an all-star,” Briggs said. “You have to work a little harder to stand out. It’s fun working with everyone when all the people are good.”
Kimball High running back Gaige Allen said that the competition had already begun by Tuesday as players hoped to win the starting roles in Saturday’s game.
“It feels great to be able to play with the best people in high school, to know that you’re one of the best, and now we compete to see who really is the best,” he said.
Tokay High coach Louis Franklin said that all his all-star players were willing to learn fast and adopt new styles of play.
“We told them right off the bat, we’re not saying that what you’ve learned for the last four years is wrong, we’re just asking you to learn a common theme,” he said. “Everything we do and everything we’re trying, there’s no attitude. It’s ‘Yes, sir, yes, coach.’ That’s exciting as a coach.”
Contact Bob Brownne at email@example.com or 830-4227.
41st annual Lions All Star Football Classic
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Wayne Schneider Stadium, Tracy High School, 315 E. 11th St.