Until last weekend, Sonora High coach Bryan Craig hadn’t decided which quarterback would lead his Wildcats into one the region’s biggest high school football rivalries.
Come Friday night, as Sonora takes the field against Oakdale that quarterback will be Jake Gookin.
Gookin got the nod after a summer of hard work, said Craig. Both Gookin and Rico Sanchez were in the running, but Gookin had the edge.
“It was a good competition,” said Craig.
The decision came down to who was protecting the football best. Which quarterback contender was making throws only Sonora could catch.
“Jake is doing the things we need in order to have success,” said Craig.
To say last year’s victory over Oakdale was emotional isn’t a stretch. The teams have been meeting for almost a century. The Wildcats hadn’t won the matchup since 2005.
“You’ve gotta win some for it to be a legitimate rivalry and the fact that we did finally win … they’re gonna wanna come up here next year and kick our butts and make up for that,” Craig told The Union Democrat last year.
And so it continues Friday.
That extra motivation, said Craig, is what the Wildcats know is coming. Oakdale will also bring some swagger from their state championship.
But Sonora has plenty of talent to rely on.
LIke a 35-4 record over the past three seasons. Last year’s undefeated regular season. And then there’s the work ethic and athleticism from players like senior Kane Rodgers. Also returning for the Wildcats are seniors Otutoa Afu and Jack Camara, both first team All-MLL.
Juniors CJ Castleman, Gookin, fullback defensive end Conor Pullen, receiver/defensive back Dalton Cuneo, linebacker Mason Dambacher are all poised for breakout years.
“We’re more athletic than I expected,” said Craig.
When it comes to preparing for the Oakdale game, Craig says he doesn’t do anything different than he does with the rest of the year’s games.
The team will go through their usual game simulations the day before. And there’s the pre-game team dinner.
“I”m not superstitious,” he said.
And judging by this year’s prospects, there’s no need for that anyway.
The game is at 7:30 tonight at Sonora HIgh School.