On Thursday, June 28, the Bret Harte Bullfrogs and Calaveras shook hands after a friendly 7-on-7 scrimmage at Frank Meyer Field in San Andreas. The next time the two teams share a field will be on Oct. 26, the final week of the football season.
Although there is still the rest of the summer and nine games to be played before Bret Harte and Calaveras square off at Dorroh Field in Angels Camp, Thursday was a great reminder that both teams have high expectations for a great 2018 season.
In a 7-on-7 game, there is no rushing, tackling or chasing the quarterback. It’s a chance for teams to work on their passing and pass defense. But there is still a football being thrown around by someone wearing a different color shirt. For Calaveras senior John Arbuckle, wearing pads was the only thing that was missing in order to truly enjoy the experience.
“It’s a good practice to get us ready for the season,” Arbuckle said. “Of course, I’d much rather have pads and a helmet on and do some hitting.”
When it comes to throwing the ball, Calaveras and Bret Harte are two completely different teams. Calaveras has a run-first offense and only threw the ball 93 times in 2017. The same cannot be said for the Bullfrogs. During his junior year, Bret Harte quarterback Ryan Kraft threw the ball 251 times and completed 127 passes.
Knowing that Calaveras looks to run the ball first, head coach Jason Weatherby isn’t overly concerned with where his pass offense currently is. He’d much rather see proper execution and decision making from his new starting quarterback, senior Zack Nordahl.
“We are trying to accomplish timing,” Weatherby said. “With any pass game, you have to have some sort of timing. This is really the first time that Zack has been able to compete against anybody else, which is a good thing and he showed a lot of good things out here today.”
During his junior year, Nordahl backed up starting quarterback Kyle Byrd. He attempted six regular season passes and didn’t complete any. Although he has very limited experience under center, Nordahl knows that the players he has around him will help him relax and feel more comfortable as quarterback.
“With the team we have, it’s going to make it a lot easier,” Nordahl said. “Yeah, there is a little bit of weight on my shoulders, but at the same time, having a team that is willing to work makes things easier on me.”
While Nordahl didn’t look like Joe Montana during the 7-on-7, he did make a number of passes that put a smile on Weatherby’s face. He completed a 40-yard touchdown to senior tight end Andrew savage for the first score of the afternoon. Nordahl later connected with junior Ron Garcia for a touchdown completion. Junior Jonny Lozano, who had a strong year on the JV team last season, was on the receiving end of a Nordahl touchdown pass. And senior Kade Overley caught a touchdown on a goal line pass.
Calaveras lost the majority of its 2017 offensive weapons, so Nordahl and his receivers have to form a connection on the fly. Yet that doesn’t seem to be an issue for Nordahl.
“It’s pretty easy with the guys who are willing to work,” Nordahl said. “They are in the weight room with us and it’s easy to gain camaraderie when we are working out together.”
Defensively, Calaveras senior Jarrod Biondi picked off Kraft twice and senior Dawson Harper collected one interception.
While Calaveras has a new single caller heading into the 2018 season, Bret Harte does not. Kraft is entering his third season as the Bullfrog quarterback and he currently holds the record for the most career Bret Harte touchdown passes (31).
For Kraft, an afternoon of sitting back and throwing the football is a perfect way to get ready for the upcoming season.
“I love it because all these other guys have to run in the heat and I get to just stand there and throw,” laughed Kraft.
After throwing two early interceptions, Kraft settled down and finished the afternoon with six touchdown passes. Four of the scores went from Kraft to senior Michael Costa. The first came on a double move where Costa got behind the Calaveras secondary and made a perfect catch for the 40-yard score. The Kraft to Costa combination isn’t something that has happened in a real game, primarily because this is Costa’s first year of playing high school football.
Although Costa hasn’t played football since elementary school, Bret Harte offensive coordinator Jeremy Hurtado has been impressed with what he’s seen from his new receiver.
“Michael is a great athlete and we knew that coming in,” Hurtado said. “I’m impressed with how well he’s picked up the playbook. Some of our stuff isn’t as easy as it may seem and he’s done a great job of knowing when to run this route and when to run that route.”
Convincing Costa to play football took some persuasion and a potential deal to be struck with Kraft.
“We did a lot of talking and I may have told him that I’ll play basketball this year,” laughed Kraft. “We’ll see how that goes.”
Asides from connecting with Costa, Kraft also seemed to be on the same page with Cameron Silva, Karson Kirk, and Hunter Brewer. But it was junior Adam Ange who showed he has the ability to make the tough catches and is someone who Hurtado feels will be a valuable option for Kraft.
“He’s one of those kids who has been really impressive over the summer,” Hurtado said. “He came in and he’s put a lot of time into the playbook and asks a lot of questions. He’s worked his way into a starting spot at receiver.”
With the summer dead period beginning on July 2, all football related activities will be put on hold until July 23, but that doesn’t include running or lifting weights. Teams can again have full practices on July 23 and for Bret Harte, the regular season begins on Aug. 17 against Orestimba in Angels Camp. Calaveras will not play its first game until Aug. 24, when it heads to Escalon to take on the Cougars.
Contact Sports Editor Guy Dossi at 498-2053 and follow him on Twitter at @GuyDossi.