When Anthony Martinez and Quinton Gaines parted ways in November, it was a likely end to their football journey together.
Fate had other ideas.
The Lincoln head coach Martinez and recently graduated quarterback Gaines are back on the same side on the Lions North All-Star team.
The 45th District 4A-1 game is Saturday at Tracy High’s Wayne Schneider Stadium, and the offensive-minded Trojans’ duo will have a big say in whether the North side can capture its first win in five years.
“It’s like we never separated,” Martinez said of Gaines, who had 28 touchdown passes as a senior. “… he knows what to do; he commands the offense and gets everybody lined up.”
And those lining up alongside Gaines? Martinez is amped about them, too.
“Our offense is going to have tremendous speed,” the North head coach said.
Here’s a breakdown of the North’s offense and defense entering Saturday’s annual showcase, with players to watch, formations and numbers to know.
The North’s offense
Martinez isn’t just confident in Gaines. Whenever Gaines needs a breather, or Martinez wants to give his Air Raid offense another look, he trusts Brookside Christian quarterback Isaiah Gomez to step up.
“We’re going to come out firing on all cylinders,” said Martinez, whose coaching career started as a Sierra assistant. “We’re not going to skip a beat when we pull ‘Q’ out and put Gomez in.”
The North also features a pair of versatile tailback sand slot receivers in Reuben Lee (Brookside Christian) and Lee Webb (Stagg). Lee was a sophomore on varsity when Martinez was offensive coordinator in 2015.
“Reuben Lee is absolutely unbelievable on a football field,” Martinez said. “His speed. His route running. His ability.”
Lathrop’s Michael Ramos (tailback), Bear Creek’s Walter Maymon (receiver) and James McClain (Tokay) have all shined this week as well and figure to be prominent Saturday, Martinez said.
Multi-purpose player to watch
For a quick break in-between the two sides of the ball, here’s a multi-purpose player to watch: Edison’s Jordan Whatley.
Whatley is listed as a tailback and a safety, but has the speed, length, strength and instincts to be a running quarterback, receiver and outside linebacker as well.
He posted 1,464 rushing yards in 2017 as the Vikings reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs.
The North’s defense
The North will come out with a four-man front, and boy, is Martinez happy to have a couple of former rivals on his side.
Tracy outside linebacker/edge rusher Bolaji Akinyemi and linebacker Kristien Reyes both figure to be defensive leaders. Martinez also lauded linebacker Jack Camara of Sonora: “(he’s) going to be an absolute monster for us.”
As for Akinyemi?
“I told him, I’ve been game-planning against you all these years,” Martinez said, “and you’re (doomed) either way.” Either you run into Akinyemi, or you run into Reyes.
Now, Martinez can send both into the backfield to make the South miserable.
Numbers to know
The North defense will run a 4-2-5 – four linemen, two linebackers, five defensive backs – formation.
Lee compiled 4,148 all-purpose yards the last two seasons for Brookside Christian. That included 1,724 rushing yards in a 2016 Sac-Joaquin Section championship campaign.
North quarterback Quinton Gaines (Lincoln) passed for 2,961 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions last autumn — with 306 rushing yards and four more scores. This is the final time as coach and quarterback for Martinez (who took over the Trojans in 2016) and Gaines.
Host Tracy has three players on the North roster: Bolaji Akinyemi (defensive end), Kristien Reyes (linebacker and tailback) and Nick Nunez (offensive lineman).
Stagg’s Cutrell Haywood, who wore No. 7 with the Delta Kings, won the Offensive MVP a year ago. Haywood is now playing football on scholarship at the University of Idaho.