Even as the team prepared for its scrimmage against Manteca last week coach Dave Brown hoped to see top players emerge.
“I’d say the program is just to go with the flow and adjust on the run,” he said. “You see some sparks with some kids. Once you put the pads on and go against an opponent, that’s the first inkling of how you’re going to fit guys around and who’s capable of what.”
Since Kimball doesn’t join the Valley Oak League until next year, the Jaguars won’t be chasing a league title while playing teams from various leagues. And while sophomore teams don’t have a postseason, Brown still has goals for the year.
“Obviously, we want to win as many games as possible, but at the same time we want to develop the program,” he said. “We want to make sure we stay within ourselves and perform and execute the way we want. Winning’s going to come. It’s all about teaching the program and teaching our philosophy.”
The Jaguars have 37 players on the sophomore roster and 46 on the freshman team. Brown said that he’s moved up a couple freshmen and has also cut a few players. And rather than look at which current Kimball players were on the Tracy or West freshman teams a year ago, he’s just glad to see that there is some experience on the team.
“I coached freshmen for a few years at Tracy High and dealt with inexperience there,” he said. “These kids are a little older. They already have one year of high school under their belts. They’re relatively mature.”
Lineman Cody Hatcher, in his first year of football, said it took a while for everyone to get ready, “but we pulled together as a team and got through it,” he said. “Everyone seems to know their plays.”
Freshman running back Alex Toledo said the team’s showing at Friday’s scrimmage in Manteca gives him confidence that the Jaguars are off to a good start.
“We have a lot of athletic people that can step up and make some big plays. Everybody is consistent in what they do, and that’s what’s going to help us win games,” he said.
Players also draw inspiration from other students at their new campus.
“By Wednesday, you’ll be able to feel the energy building up in the school,” center and team captain Anto Bidanian said. “Come Thursday morning, it’s like, Bam! Everyone’s in their jerseys, school colors everywhere, everyone’s excited for it.”
Bidanian, who played last year on Tracy High’s freshman team, said most Jaguars players were on either the Tracy or West freshman teams, but some are new to the game. Most also have experience on youth teams, something he said gives the team a pretty good idea of what the Jaguars can expect from their competition.
“Back in Buccaneer football, we played teams from the towns that we’re playing, and those teams move up,” he said, adding that he recalls the Galt-area players, which Kimball faces this week, as tough competition.
Brown said it was tough just to find opponents, since most sophomore teams follow their varsity teams. So Kimball has two games against Liberty Ranch of Galt, including the season opener at Liberty Ranch on Thursday, and two games against Christopher High of Gilroy.
“They were in the same boat as us, trying to scramble to get games,” Brown said.
Kimball plays West High in the team’s first “home” game — which will be at West’s Steve Lopez Stadium — Sept. 18. In all, the Jaguars will have three road games and six home games on the West High campus while Tracy Unified School District finishes the stadium at Kimball High. The freshman schedule includes most of the same matchups, including the first home game against West.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.