For all the differences between the 1987 Tracy High Bulldog football team and the 2014 team, what they have in common is a passion to be better than anything the competition can throw at them.
“These kids have no quit,” said Mauricio Martin, who coaches the Bulldogs’ wide receivers and defensive backs and was a junior defensive back and receiver on the 1987 Sac-Joaquin Section championship team.
“They find ways to win. They’re probably a little more athletic than we were and with more team speed. They just don’t know how to stop playing.”
The 2014 Bulldogs beat the odds in their 48-38 quarterfinal win against Jesuit of Carmichael on Nov. 22, and they did it again with last week’s 27-21 semifinal win at Granite Bay. Each time, they hit harder than before and battled for extra yards on each run.
“That’s always been Tracy football,” said Danly Daniel, the 1987 team’s star tailback, now the admissions director at San Joaquin Valley College in Modesto.
He added that the extra fight in each of the 1987 players, who regularly faced off against bigger competition, came from commitment to their teammates.
“We were a small team, but we were a team. That’s what makes me proud,” he said.
That pride was renewed as the 2014 Bulldogs beat both Jesuit and Granite Bay. While Daniel wasn’t at those games, he remembers how it felt to prevail against ever-increasing challenges.
“It may be a surprise to a lot of people,” he said, “but it’s not a surprise to the players, because they believe in themselves.”
Daniel grew up playing in a town with one high school. Being a Bulldog was the goal of all his Tracy Raiders teammates as they advanced to the Tracy High freshman and sophomore teams, with coaches Steve Lopez and Don Nicholson, and then to coach Wayne Schneider’s varsity team.
“The group I was with, we played Pop Warner from the time we were 8 to 10 years old. We did everything together. We went to summer leagues together and went to passing camps together,” Daniel said. “We had an advantage, because when we grew up, we knew we were going to go to Tracy High.”
Michael Serrato, a linebacker on the 1987 team and now the pastor at Mission City Church in Banta, said that even though Tracy is no longer a one-school town, he still sees the same passion for Bulldog football.
“What these kids have is very similar to what we saw in 1987, where guys showed up on the field and left it all out there,” Serrato said. “We were digging deep and giving it all we’ve got. There’s always a payoff when you work that hard. We’re seeing that with this team.”