Lions Game week offers CHS grads future glimpse
A quartet of recent Calaveras High graduates got a taste of what the next chapter of life could be like during the week of the 40th annual Lions All-Star Football Game.
A whirlwind week, which included the CHS graduation and Grad Night celebration, concluded for North all-stars Joe Elliott, Brian Golston, Zack Johnson and Noah Shelgren with a 17-14 loss to the South Saturday night at Modesto Junior College.
All four Redskins made contributions for the North team, which was coached by Jason Weatherby and other members of the CHS coaching staff, but it was not enough to overcome a big night from Downey (Modesto) quarterback Aaron Zwhalen. Zwhalen, a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder bound for University of Hawaii, earned game MVP honors after passing for a touchdown, rushing for another and marching the South down to the North 20-yard line, where he kicked a 35-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
All of the game’s points were scored in the second half with the North rallying from a 14-0 deficit to tie the game on a pair of touchdown runs by Kimball of Tracy’s Zack Johnson, who earned Offensive Player of the Game honors.
“The first half was a little stagnant, but the second half, we picked it up,” said Zack Johnson of Calaveras, who shared North quarterback duties with the other Zack Johnson. “It stinks that we lost on an uncontested field goal at the end, but that’s all-star football.”
Following Lions Game rules, the North was not allowed to rush on Zwhalen’s game-winning field goal attempt.
Hondo Arpoika of Oakdale earned Defensive Player of the Game honors.
For the Calaveras players, spending a week living in the dorms at University of the Pacific in preparation for Saturday’s game offered a glimpse of what could soon lie ahead in college.
“It was a great week,” said Elliott, who played fullback and noseguard for the North and was part of a key goal-line stand late in the second half. “Our room was filled with pizza boxes and trash. It was pretty cool, I liked it. No chores.”
Elliott is headed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the fall and is undecided if he will try out for the school’s football team.
Empty pizza boxes likely won’t have a place in Johnson’s immediate future. He is scheduled to report to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., for basic training June 27, but the two-time all-Mother Lode League quarterback appreciated the opportunity the Lions Game gave him to spend time in close quarters with a group of his peers.
“I enjoyed getting to know everybody,” Johnson said. “You read about all these kids in the paper, you see them on the news, you play against them, but you don’t really know them. This week, I got to meet a lot of those people that I didn’t really know and it ended up being really cool. It was fun staying with all people my age, hanging out in the dorms after practice. It seems like the next stage of my life will be fun.
“I liked the team. I thought we bonded really well. I think I will take a lot of friendships out of this experience.”
Golston, who played tight end and defensive end and had a key first down catch on the game-tying touchdown drive, echoed Johnson’s sentiments about the unique team-bonding experience presented by the Lions Game. He said the all-star week not only let him know what life will be like off the field in college, but also what to expect on it.
“It was a rude awakening,” said Golston, who plans on going out for the football team at San Joaquin Delta College this fall. “You’re playing against all-stars and that’s another level of play. I’m real excited I played because I feel like it’s going to help me at the next level.”
Contact Jeremy Malamed at firstname.lastname@example.org