Photo Caption: Players from Monte Vista Christian, top left, Pajaro Valley High, top right, Watsonville High, bottom right, and St. Francis High have been working hard leading up to the kickoff of the 2018 football season, which this year will be at the inaugural Apple City Jamboree at Emmett M. Geiser Field on Aug. 17. -- Tony Nunez/Register-Pajaronian
WATSONVILLE — As one of maybe a handful of football coaches to coach and teach at all four high schools in Watsonville, Joe Gregorio has a good grasp of the different personalities, backgrounds and upbringings of the kids who attend each school.
“We’re such a diverse community,” said Gregorio, now a teacher and assistant coach at Watsonville. “[The four schools] are kind of what our city is. You got Corralitos, you got out on College Road, you got downtown Watsonville and you have out toward Airport. It’s kind of like a mirror of what you’ll see in the city. It’s Watsonville.”
The four areas of the city will unite for a unique night of football on Aug. 17 at Emmett M. Geiser Field.
Watsonville High, Pajaro Valley High, St. Francis High and Monte Vista Christian will come together for the first-ever Apple City Jamboree, hoping to not only prep for the upcoming season but bring together a city celebrating its 150th anniversary.
Action is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.
“I feel like it’s something that’s really going to bring the city together,” said Watsonville senior defensive lineman Dylan Vargas. “Having all four schools coming together in one stadium to play each other in football, I feel like it’s something that we’ve all wanted so bad.”
The four teams have traditionally been a part of the long-running Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League Jamboree.
Watsonville in 2014 tried to break away to host its own scrimmage, but returned to the SCCAL Jamboree shortly after.
The hope is the inaugural run-through will spark a longterm pact between the four teams.
The location of the jamboree is expected to rotate from school to school, according to Watsonville head coach Ron Myers.
“I think it’s like anything else in life, timing is everything,” Gregorio said. “It’s the perfect time for something like this.”
For three reasons: (1) the city’s anniversary, (2) the respect among the four head coaches in place at every school and (3) the introduction of the Pacific Coast Athletic League.
The newly-formed, 33-school super league split the Watsonville schools into three divisions this fall. Pajaro Valley is in the Santa Lucia division, St. Francis landed in the Cypress division and Watsonville and M.V.C. were placed in the Mission division.
Only Watsonville and M.V.C. will be competing head-to-head for a league title this season, but the two schools won’t play until the final week of the regular season on Nov. 2.
Neither team expects to be able to glean much from a short scrimmage in August by that time.
“We’ll both be very different teams by [November],” Myers said.
Of course, every team is still expected to keep its plays very vanilla, especially with preseason games between three squads on the horizon. Watsonville and Pajaro Valley play on Aug. 24, Pajaro Valley faces St. Francis on Aug. 31 and Watsonville hosts St. Francis on Sept. 7.
But a preseason game and a league game, according to Pajaro Valley head coach Kevin Cordova, are very different.
“We don’t have to worry about giving away too much,” Cordova said. “It’s a fun competitiveness because there’s a lot of great rivalries there, but we’re also all looking to play each other and help each other out to do well in league. That was one of the things in the [SCCAL] Jamboree. You could end up going against two teams that you’d face in league, and you’d always ask the question, ‘alright, how much should we do against them?’”
It is expected to be a round robin format, and coaches will know when first stringers are playing against first stringers, second stringers are playing against second stringers and so on and so forth.
That simple adjustment was a big plus for all four coaching staffs, who have not been able to get that look in seasons past at the whirlwind SCCAL Jamboree.
“We’re trying to get the kids adjusted to the speed of the game, and that doesn’t happen if you’re ones are going against threes,” Gregorio said.
The four athletic directors came together during the summer and pitched the idea to the four football coaches, whom quickly gave it the stamp of approval — M.V.C's Jubenal Rodriguez and St. Francis' John Ausman being the other two.
Myers said someone floated the idea of calling the event the Berry Bowl, but he instead wanted to give a nod to the city’s first major crop, which has waned over the decades but has remained a staple of Watsonville’s agriculture industry.
“Drive out all around Watsonville and you can see the orchards out there — there all over the place,” Myers said. “That’s still a part of our community. I think apples when I think about Watsonville.”
And Myers hopes the jamboree will become a staple of the community, too.
“Come have a great tri-tip sandwich, watch some football and be a part of the community,” the coach said. “I can’t think of a better Friday night.”