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Fall Ball - Bruin Football Athletes Prepare For First Practices, Games
The 2012 Fall Sports season is so close, Riverbank area fans can nearly taste it.

Starting on Monday, Aug. 6, Riverbank High athletes participating in cross country, girls golf, boys soccer, volleyball and football will bite into their first practice of the 2012-13 school year.

The sessions of action will be the first steps toward competition in the always-tough Trans-Valley League and a potential appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.

For second year football coach James Oliver, season No. 2 is expected to be an intense challenge considering graduation voids, a tougher non-league schedule and competition presented by one of the best small school leagues in the state.

And Oliver and Co. face the adversity immediately. Riverbank opens the season on Aug. 24 with traditional Southern League powerhouse, Waterford. The Wildcats were 5-5 a year ago and will be searching for vengeance after losing to Riverbank 20-19 in overtime to begin the 2011 campaign.

"They are picked to contend very well in the Southern League this year and I know they return almost all their starters," Oliver said. "It will be a big test for us."

The Wildcats' top returning player is stocky runner Dylan Gonzalez, who scorched the Bruins for 157 yards and two scores last year and was on pace to easily eclipse the 1,000-yard mark before a midseason injury.

The Bruins will compete without 2011-12 Riverbank News Athlete of the Year Alex Reynaga, who now plays for Modesto Junior College. Reynaga's void in Riverbank's spread offense will be filled by a collection of runners expected to churn yards behind a re-vamped offensive line that lost 6 foot, 5 inch, 265 pound senior captain, Steven Arnold, to graduation.

In all, 17 of Riverbank's 33 players from 2011 have seen graduation exits. The list includes several starters and some big holes for the 35 varsity players in 2012 to fill. An active and competitive summer gives Oliver hope his squad can step up when necessary.

Anchoring Riverbank's defense will be the imposing form of Luis Solario (6-2, 220 a year ago), who lurks in the Bruins' middle linebacker position. Senior outside linebackers Chad Oliver (also tight end) and Joaquin Felix (also wide receiver) will be key to Riverbank's aspirations to stop the opposition in a traditionally run-first faction of the SJS.

Senior defensive back Christian Torres will lead Riverbank's secondary and receiving corps, while bulky Nestor Montoya (5-10, 275 in 2011) will lead the offensive and defensive lines.

"We have got some big shoes to fill this year, but our kids have really responded this summer and we want to move that ball around a lot this year."

Coach Oliver is also offering sideline passes to all Bruin football alumni. Riverbank's first practice is during team tryouts on Aug. 6 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Bruin practice field. Athletes are asked to bring their cleats, tennis shoes and have completed physical exams.

"What I'm looking for at tryouts is, number one, an attitude to want to be out there and a passion to be a part of our program," Oliver said. "You want the kids dedicated to the program, where it's a priority to them to want to play and contribute."

Oliver said he expects the 2012 Bruins to show more flashes of a power running game from the team's shotgun formation with two running backs and a quarterback in the backfield. He expects the Bruin defense to be more stalwart in 2012, with simplified assignments designed to plug holes and avoid the 336 points Riverbank surrendered in 2011 (the team went 3-7 overall).

Riverbank was active throughout the summer with team workouts and conditioning, and fared well in a 7-on-7 tournament at MJC, where the team faced the likes of Downey, Orestimba, Le Grand and Ceres.