It will be the team’s third year in Tracy, following a season as one of the playoff contenders in the Central Valley Football League.
Now the team has a new coach and will play in the AAA-level, 12-team Pacific Coast Football League. The Wolves have been practicing since August and will scrimmage against the Tuolomne County Outlaws of Sonora at 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Tracy Learning Center fields at Holly Drive and Beverly Place.
“The level of football in this league has stepped up significantly,” head coach Ira Ayers said, adding that 2012 is a new start for the team.
“The word has gotten out that we have a new staff here,” Ayers said. “We’re getting guys from all over who are interested in learning football and playing a quality level of football.
“We have some guys who are returners, but we have a lot of new guys who are eager to start a program and really represent Tracy. They understand my expectations of a certain level of football for Tracy.”
Ayers brings 20 years of experience as an offensive and defensive coach and as a head coach, including minor-league experience and high school coaching.
“For me, football is a game, but it’s really about community. It’s about us making sure that we’re representing our families and our community, and we’re representing ourselves in a very positive manner.”
The Wolves have been in Tracy for two years, and the team has a history that reaches back to the Manteca Thundercats of 2002 to 2007. This year, in addition to the new coach and new league, team owner Mario De La Rosa also has two new co-owners, both with experience as players on the team: Bubba Briscese, an offensive and defensive lineman, and John Benton, a running back.
“Mario had a lot on his boat, so we decided, better organization, better team,” Briscese said, adding that the team has been practicing since the summer in preparation for opening day on March 17 against the East Bay Outlaws at West High. “We’re trying to get everything to perfection. We’re trying to do our best to get this out to the community.”
Ayers said everyone on the team starts the season knowing the Wolves will have to work hard to carve out their own place in Tracy’s football community.
“We love the respectable football they play here. Before this, I coached high school football in Sacramento for the last seven years, as defensive coordinator at Sacramento High School, so I know the level of football in Tracy. It’s a high level, and there are high expectations.”
Football team adopts foster children for the holidays
To reintroduce themselves to the Tracy community, the West Valley High Wolves have added a charity drive to their pre-season schedule.
The Wolves are holding a Christmas toy and tree donation to local foster children Saturday, Dec. 17, at 1 p.m. at the Tracy Learning Center located on the corner of Holly Drive and Beverly Place. The team will also be holding a scrimmage at 1 p.m.
“We didn’t want to make it too big, but we wanted the team to give toys to someone who needs them, especially this time of year and how the economy is going now,” Wolves lineman and co-owner Bubba Briscese said.
Players are working with VBR Foster Family Agency of Tracy in an effort to match up each player with a child who might otherwise go without Christmas presents this year. The agency referred the team to 37 children and 14 families, according to team co-owner Mario De La Rosa.
He said that the original plan for a “Toys For Tots” game didn’t materialize, but the Wolves still got donations of toys from players, coaches and owners, and also donations of Christmas trees from the local Boy Scouts.
He said the team will gather in the morning to meet with the foster families, and will also collect more toys if people want to drop by with donations. De La Rosa said that the team is still looking for a few more presents, and if the Wolves end up collecting more than they need for VBR’s foster children they will pass donations along to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys For Tots program.