The 47th annual Central California Lions All-Star Football Game was supposed to have been played on June 14, 2020 at Lincoln High School’s Alex G. Spanos Stadium. That game, along with all high school sports at that time, were canceled due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic several months earlier.
There also was no All-Star Game in 2021 or 2022 due to the lingering after-effects of the pandemic as high school scheduling wasn’t back to normal until the current 2022-23 school year.
With dollars still on hand from the canceled game from 2020 and with most of those who were serving on the Lions All-Star Football Game committee still committed to seeing the local event honoring outstanding graduated local high school players continue, it is with pleasure to announce that the Central California Lions All-Star Football Game is returning in 2023.
The all-star game, which now will be the 47th in the series, will be staged on Friday, June 24, 2023 at 7 p.m. and will be held at Wayne Schneider Stadium in Tracy. The game had been held at Tracy High’s venue from 2013 to 2018 before moving to Lincoln High in Stockton in 2019.
Coaches from the two teams also have been selected and they are already working on their rosters.
For the North, since he was supposed to be coaching the team in 2019, Edison of Stockton’s Booker Guyton was asked again and he has accepted again. The Vikings were coming off of a league championship team in 2019 and they are once again.
For the South, one of the co-head coaches will be retiring Oakdale High legend Trent Merzon. He had never been able to coach the South team before, and the Lions All-Star Football Game committee couldn’t be more thrilled that a person of his stature is going to be involved this time. Merzon coached the Mustangs to a record of 225-62-1 in 23 seasons. His winning percentage of 78.3 is one of the highest in Northern California history among coaches with 200 wins or more. Note: Lions All-Star committee member Wayne Schneider retired from Tracy with a 224-59-5 record (almost the same as Merzon with a 78.6 win percentage).
Merzon will be co-coaching with longtime friend Tim Garcia, the Modesto Bee’s 2021 Coach of the Year from Grace Davis of Modesto.
Guyton will be assisted by one of Edison’s two coordinators, former NFL wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins.
The North won the 2019 game 19-18 and snapped a six-game winless streak in the series. The North also leads in the overall series 25-19-1.
There will be changes to the format of the event. In order to concentrate on getting the game itself back up and running, there will be no all-star banquet and players will not be housed at a college dorm for the week leading into the game. The Lions All-Star Football Committee may look into reviving those unique qualities of the event at a later time.
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 six years from 2013 to 2018 had been held at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium.
The committee, headed by Elizabeth Gibbs Olson, would like to specifically thank head coach Jeremy Plaa from Downey High of Modesto for joining the committee and offering invaluable insights as a former coach in the game and a former player in the game.
High Schools Represented In
District 4A-1 of Lions International
North – Amador (Sutter Creek), Argonaut (Jackson), Bear Creek (Stockton), Bret Harte (Altaville), Brookside Christian (Stockton), Calaveras (San Andreas), East Union (Manteca), Edison (Stockton), Escalon, Franklin (Stockton), Jim Elliot Christian (Lodi), Kimball (Tracy), Lathrop, Lincoln (Stockton), Lodi, Manteca, McNair (Stockton), Merrill West (Tracy), Millennium (Tracy), Mountain House, Ripon, Ripon Christian, St. Mary’s (Stockton), Sierra (Manteca), Sonora, Stagg (Stockton), Summerville (Tuolomne), Tokay (Lodi), Tracy, Weston Ranch (Stockton).
South – Atwater, Beyer (Modesto), Big Valley Christian (Modesto), Buhach Colony (Atwater), Central Catholic (Modesto), Central Valley (Ceres), Ceres, Chowchilla, Delhi, Denair, Dos Palos, Downey (Modesto), El Capitan (Merced), Enochs (Modesto), Golden Valley (Merced), Grace Davis (Modesto), Gregori (Modesto), Gustine, Hilmar, Hughson, Johansen (Modesto), Le Grand, Livingston, Los Banos, Madera, Madera South, Mariposa County (Mariposa), Merced, Modesto, Modesto Christian, Oakdale, Orestimba (Newman), Pacheco (Los Banos), Patterson, Pitman (Turlock), Riverbank, Stone Ridge Christian (Merced), Turlock, Turlock Christian.