Staying Sharp: Mother Lode footballers look to stay in game amid pandemic, canceled programs

Ryan Kraft throws at Bret Harte's Dorroh Field in late July. (Photo by Guy Dossi, Calaveras Enterprise)
Ryan Kraft throws at Bret Harte's Dorroh Field in late July. (Photo by Guy Dossi, Calaveras Enterprise)

By Guy Dossi
Calaveras Enterprise


SAN ANDREAS - Ryan Kraft’s football future is unknown, but that doesn’t prevent the Bret Harte High School alumni from preparing each day as if he’ll be back on the gridiron at any moment. Kraft is one of the thousands of California community college athletes who learned that the beginning of the 202021 sports season won’t begin until December and even that isn’t a guarantee.

Even without knowing whether or not he’ll throw a pass or even hit the practice field for his sophomore year, Kraft isn’t taking any chances. He regularly returns to Dorroh Field, the place where he’ll be remembered as one of Bret Harte’s all-time great quarterbacks, and throws to whomever is willing to be on the receiving end of one of his laser passes.

“I just don’t think about it,” Kraft said in regards to there not being a football season in the winter. “I try to stay focused on being ready for when it does happen. If it does happen, then I’ve got to be ready for it.”
 

Heading into his second year of college football, Kraft will be wearing a new uniform. In 2019, Kraft joined the Cabrillo College team and found himself rising up on the depth chart. However, an injury cut his season short. Two surgeries later, Kraft was looking forward to possibly challenging for a starting role, but that opportunity was taken from him.

In May, Cabrillo’s football program was suspended for two years after violating conference rules. The school’s board of trustees voted to cancel the program after the school reported a violation of players receiving improper benefits to the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA).

With no football team, Kraft had to look for another place to play. But the timing couldn’t have been worse, as most teams were already getting ready for summer practice and Kraft had no place to call home.

After looking at nearly every community college in California, Kraft landed with Merced College, just 65 miles away from Angels Camp.

 

“We were in a big rush to find a new school, because we didn’t find out that Cabrillo was getting shut down until May,” Kraft said. “We were trying to get ready for summer practices at another school. Luckily, the season got postponed, which gives us some more time to get this new offense in and get settled at Merced.”

Kraft is not the only former Bullfrog who hopes to make an impact at Merced College. Bucky Sewell, a 2017 Bret Harte graduate, has aspirations of returning to the football field and once again catching touchdown passes from Kraft.

“It’s just the love and excitement that I get for playing the game and being out on the field,” Sewell said about wanting to return to football.

During his senior season at Bret Harte, Sewell had 20 receptions and 10 of those resulted in touchdowns. After graduating from Bret Harte, Sewell tried to earn a spot at Sierra College in Rocklin, but was unable to make the team. Even with the disappointment of not making the squad, Sewell knew his football playing days were not finished.

“I knew I was going to play, but it just wasn’t the right time,” Sewell said.

 

Sewell has joined Kraft out on the Bret Harte football field for much of the spring and summer. The speedy receiver runs routes and catches nearly everything thrown his way. The original plan was to rejoin Kraft on the college football field; however, Merced was not in the first draft.

“The plan was to go to Cabrillo, but once that didn’t work out, we all started looking for a school we could all go to together and Merced was the right one,” Sewell said.

 

When Kraft isn’t joined by Sewell, he makes sure to do daily workouts to stay in shape. He works out nearly five days a week and tries to throw three of those days. While Kraft has no problem putting in the work, he knows there’s a chance it could all be for naught if the COVID-19 situation in California does not improve in the not-too-distant future. He credits his parents for keeping him focused on the ultimate goal.

“It’s definitely hard, but my parents understand what it takes to go D1 and play at a high level,” Kraft said. “Mom has been kind of the motivator and dad will go do a workout with me, so when the season comes, I’ll be ready.”

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