"You've got to compete against yourself before you can compete against anybody else," Gridley's head football coach Greg Baker yelled to his team during conditioning.

"You've got to compete against yourself before you can compete against anybody else," Gridley's head football coach Greg Baker yelled to his team during conditioning.

It's been a hot summer of practice for all the teams in the area, and Baker wants his team to be able to fight those elements like it was the fourth quarter of a regular season game. Competing with themselves in conditioning is the team's first obstacle.

"Your body's tired and your mind is tired, but you've got to make a decision of who you're going to listen to, and fight through that fatigue, both mentally and physically," Baker explained. "That's learning how to compete with yourself."

So far, Baker is pleased with his team's effort. They've been flying around on the practice field and adjusting to the new coaching style quickly. Gridley participated in a scrimmage last Saturday at Colusa, including Winters and Williams.

Because of a rule that requires ten days of practice before scrimmaging, the Bulldogs were only able to play 13 of their roughly 30 players. Many had missed practice due to prior commitments such as the Butte County Fair.

"The 13 that went did an outstanding job," Baker said. "We asked them to play a lot of positions they'd never been in before. They've really raised the bar for the expectations the coaches have of the players, and what level we believe they're capable of playing at. Because those 13 kids over there at the Colusa scrimmage really played hard, and were never out of any scrimmge contest."

The Bulldogs have another scrimmage day scheduled at Oroville on Friday before opening their season at home against Willows on September 5. The Oroville scrimmage will be key for players still hoping to earn starting roles.

Last year's starting quarterback Scott Peck is back, and junior quarterback Anthony Paredes is in the mix. The team is set on the offensive line with Jose Avina, Brandyn Davis-Campbell, Pedro Caudillo, Abu Bakar and Zach Larson. Baker expects his cornerbacks to be Erick Garcia and Bryan Monzon, with Zane McFarlane and Asees Kahn seeing time at safety. In the mix at running back are Matt Reinhardt, Josh Garcia, Patrick Choate and Alexander Agapiades.
Other positions are up for grabs and Baker will know more after the scrimmage. It will also help him to narrow the focus of the offensive and defensive schemes.

"We're a multiple defense and a multiple offense," he said. "We're still settling. After this next scrimmage, I think we're going to have to make some commitments in what direction we want to go. Offensively, we have a short passing game and we like to try to run the ball off-tackle. Defensively, we expect a lot of movement within the front seven, and we expect kind of a pass-run support out of the secondary."

The team's weakness might be their lack of experience. It's a small senior class and Baker said they are asking a lot from their juniors. As far as strengths go, he thinks they have some kids that pretty physical. Not knock you out physical necessarily, but players that are not going to be easily managed by the opponent.

There are moments at practice that make Baker think they can be a really competitive team this season. But he couldn't say how good the team could be, explaining that there are still too many variables.

"I don't think it's always got to be measured in the win-loss column," he said. "Success is measured in a lot of different ways. Football is an extension of the classroom. I would consider success, first and foremost, that all the student-athletes on the football team don't have any Ds or Fs in their classes, they go to school, they don't miss classes, and they try to become the best football player they possibly can when they're out on the football field."