One of the state’s oldest and most prestigious high school all-star football games is the Central California Lions All-Star Game that is held near the Cal-Hi Sports home base and this year’s contest is returning to its roots on Saturday at Lincoln High’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Go inside for all the info on this event.
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Players and coaches from the North team getting ready this week in practices at Stagg High in Stockton for the 46th annual Central California Lions All-Star Football Game know that they will be attempting to snap a six-game winless streak.
The South won last year’s game 24-2 and has gone 5-0-1 in the last six years. The North still leads in the overall series 24-19-1.
This year’s all-star game matching many of the best players from the southern part of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section will kick off at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Lincoln High’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium in Stockton.
“The biggest thing is that we’ve got to be focused on all of our plays and bring each other up when things aren’t going well,” said Lincoln’s Grant Stevenson, who will be one of the North’s two quarterbacks along with Cesar Chavez High’s Gio Gonzalez. “A lot of guys try to shine in these games and might get mad at each other. That’s not something I think that we’re going to do. We’re going to have a different attitude than in the past about being together.”
North head coach Jason McCloskey (Mountain House) came up with his own playbook for this year’s game, but still thinks it will be the basics that will decide the winner.
“We have to control the line so we can run the ball,” he said. “I think we will match up with them fine skill-wise so the line may be most important. Turnovers also are always a big factor in any all-star game.”
Despite being a quarterback, Stevenson will be one of the biggest players in the game. The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder passed for nearly 2,000 yards for a Trojans’ team that struggled against a tough schedule and only finished 3-7.
Gonzalez had an even more prolific career for the Titans. He passed for 4,912 yards and 64 touchdowns over the past two seasons for teams that were 7-3 and 3-7.
“I’m very blessed and humbled to be here,” Gonzalez said after a hot Wednesday morning practice. “Not many get this opportunity and a lot of kids work very hard to have this chance. Getting to know each other has been the best part, especially off the field. We were at different schools and now we’re friends.”
South head coach Shaun King (Hughson) will try to keep the unbeaten streak going with an offense that will be run by quarterbacks Xavier Rodriguez (Grace Davis, Modesto) and Jonah Kosakiewicz (Turlock).
Rodriguez was one of the regular season state leaders in passing yards and ended with 3,518 yards and 37 touchdown passes (only five interceptions) following Grace Davis’ 5-5 campaign. Kosakiewicz hopes to keep alive a recent streak of Turlock High players doing well in the Lions’ game, including 2017 MVP Danny Velasquez and 2018 MVP Jordan Porter.
The South team is working out at Cal State Stanislaus in Turlock and is staying in dorms on that campus as well. The North team is being housed and fed at the University of Pacific, which has one set of dorms about one block from Stagg.
This year’s game is being called a homecoming since it is returning to Stockton after a seven-year hiatus. The Lions All-Star Football Classic began in 1974 and was held at the University of Pacific’s Memorial Stadium until 2011. With that stadium at the time being prepared for its eventual demolition, the Lions game moved to Modesto Junior College for two years and for the last six years has been held at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium.
The Lincoln stadium, through the cooperation of athletic director Brian Gray, should be a great location for the local all-star game. It is regarded as one of the best high school football stadiums in California and has been the site of numerous CIF Sac-Joaquin Section and CIF Northern California football championship games.
Several players on the North team were told on Wednesday about a player who was practicing on the same field they were just four years ago who eventually became a third-round NFL draft pick last April.
Sonora High offensive lineman Garrett Anderson didn’t need to be told the story of tight end Kahale Warring since Warring represented Sonora in the Lions game.
“I saw him play a few times on TV when he was at San Diego State,” Anderson said. “It’s just awesome what he did. It makes us all feel that anyone can do it. And he didn’t even play football until he was a senior.”
Following the Lions game in 2015, Warring went to San Diego State as a walk-on, eventually earned a scholarship and then became one of the top tight end prospects coming out of college this spring. He was a third-round choice by the Houston Texans in the most recent NFL Draft.
Tickets at the gate are $10 and there also is going to be a $5 charge for parking near the stadium inside the school’s lot.