The temperature hovered at 96 degrees Wednesday afternoon, even as the sun dipped below the Dunlavy press box at Sonora High School.

But the day’s warmth didn’t dampen the players’ energetic pre-snap hand clap. Or the clashes between helmets and pads.

The Wildcats were practicing with a renewed sense of purpose. And Wednesday marked the third solid day of practice in a row for the team, said head coach Bryan Craig.

“Last week we weren’t quite as good as we are this week,” he said.
The 47-13 loss to longtime rival Oakdale loss showed his team’s youth, and highlighted how strong the Oakdale team is, said Craig. Sonora made mistakes, and Oakdale took advantage.

Craig said this week the team has basically been working on fixing what went wrong last Friday - executing plays.

“Mainly just doing what you’re coached to do,” he said.

Last week’s halftime talk had a similar theme.

It was the simple things the team wasn’t executing, assistant coach John Canepa told The Union Democrat after the game.

“We got dominated on offense,” said Canepa.

Other mistakes were mental. Kane Rodgers was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct in last week’s game. The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) rules say the player is automatically benched for the next game. A report sent to the school this week cited Rodgers for “running his mouth,” said Craig.

Craig said he isn’t exactly sure what happened on the field to provoke the incident. But players have to learn to keep their composure, he said.

With Rodgers on the bench, the Wildcats will likely rely even more on RBs Kellen Phillips and Conner Pullen to fill in the gaps.

Jake Gookin’s solid start last week also bodes well for the Sonora offense.

Gookin was chosen as the starter the weekend before the season opener. Craig said that choice came down to who was taking care of the football and keeping it away from the defenders.

Gookin was able to take advantage of an unsportsmanlike call on Oakdale with a rushing touchdown in the first half.

Tonight Sonora plays a non-conference away game against Lodi. It’s Lodi’s season opener.

“I expect us to come out and play a little bit better than we did Friday night,” said Craig. “I think they want to redeem themselves.”

The game begins at 8:30 p.m. because of the heat. The junior varisty game has been canceled.

Contact Melissa Blanton at (209) 588-4539 or . Follow her on Twitter @downtownmelissa.