Los Banos High and Escalon High open the 2013 football season against each other tonight in Escalon, a rematch of two games last year the opener, a 34-32 win for Los Banos, and the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 4 semifinal, a 42-35 Escalon win that took four overtimes to hash out.
With a rematch like that looming, both teams can take consolation in the fact that the other team is in the same boat as far as replacing graduated starters.
"I think both schools in same situation. We're rebuilding a lot. I'm replacing 18 out of 22 starters," Escalon coach Mark Loureiro said. "We're young in a whole lot of areas. That always concerns you with a Zero-Week game. That becomes a concern with us. The thing makes it little easier is that Dustin (Caropreso, Los Banos' coach) is dealing with the same thing."
Caropreso is working with almost an entirely new offensive cast, with the exception of fullback Bailey Rodriguez and tight end Alec Barcellos. The defense has more returners, with middle linebacker Darren Baty leading the way.
Caropreso was encouraged by Saturday's scrimmage against Hilmar and Turlock, but is dealing with a rash of injuries both his starting offensive guards are up in the air, Jordan Harris with a knee issue and Anthony Machado with what he originally thought was a fractured arm, though Caropreso said the X-rays came back negative.
"Some things we need to get better at, fix it up a little bit," Caropreso said. "I was happy. We competed, and that's what we wanted to do. We were pretty vanilla going into it. We're young, a little inexperienced, and we just need to figure out how to get better at competing and everything."
Escalon returns lineman Colin Strasser and linebacker Lance Davis, and will rely heavily on first-rime starters at running back (Christian May) and quarterback (Ben Hood). May, a junior, replaces the school's record-setting running back Nathan Chunn, who graduated last year.
"We're still running wing-T offense," Loureiro said. "We're not changing what we do, but there's not nearly as many things offensively that we can do."
The opener is just the start of a tough preseason for both teams LB goes to Roosevelt of Fresno before hosting Manteca and Dos Palos, while Escalon rounds out its preseason with games at Pacheco, at home against Linden and on the road at Patterson.
But that's down the road. Both teams are looking to set the tone early.
"I was talking with coach Loureiro today, and he was at our scrimmage on Saturday," Caropreso said. "He said we're close to being equal teams. I said, 'Yeah, as long as we don't go four overtimes.'"
Enterprise reporter David Witte can be reached by phone at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6565 or by e-mail at email@example.com