Santa Maria alumni practice for upcoming football game against Righetti

Santa Maria High School alumni run drills last Tuesday during practice for a football game against Righetti High alumni. The old high school foes take to the gridiron Friday night at Santa Maria High’s Ralph Baldiviez Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.     ---     Daniel Dreifuss/Staff

Gabriel Espinoza and some of his line mates were doing agility drills during a recent practice. The bulk of Santa Maria High School’s alumni football team members were running plays.

“Faster, Gabriel!,” someone called out from the gridiron at SMHS’ Ralph Baldiviez Stadium.

“No, I’m good,” Espinoza replied.

Espinoza, his teammates and their Righetti High School counterparts were preparing for the first Righetti-Santa Maria alumni football game. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19 at Ralph Baldiviez Stadium.

Jarrod Hargrave of Alumni Football USA is the event coordinator. Alumni Football USA, according to a release the organization sent out, has put on more than 720 games throughout the nation and has been in business more than 26 years.

Al Rasgado put Santa Maria players through the paces during the workout. “He’ll be one of our coaches,” said Espinoza. “It will actually be a team coaching effort. Matt Almaguer and Raul Castillo will also be coaches for us.”

Almaguer once held the record for longest field goal kicked at Santa Maria. Castillo is a former veteran wrestling coach at the school who coached the varsity football team for one season, 2007.

Espinoza graduated from SMHS in 2002. He is an instructional assistant in the special education department there now. He is also the varsity football team’s offensive coordinator as well as the head junior varsity football coach.

He’s been the varsity’s offensive coordinator the past two years. Espinoza has been the head junior varsity coach the last five.

The Santa Maria contingent appeared to be 35-to-40 strong at a recent practice.

The Righetti contingent ... well, it was 10 strong at a recent practice.

“Oh, we’ll have more,” team member and 1985 Righetti grad Mark Dennis declared.

“The others are on vacation. It is summer.”

Dennis said he served in the U.S. Navy and National Guard. He also said he served with Santa Maria High School graduate Andre Tyson, a lieutenant in the California National Guard who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004.

Righetti varsity assistant coach Derrick Beebe is the Righetti alumni squad’s coach. Players at the Righetti practice graduated in years ranging from 1985 to 2009.

Ali Gonzalez, who graduated in 2009, and Ryan Cassidy, who graduated from RHS in 2001, said they were playing “to play football for Righetti one last time.” The others at the practice echoed that sentiment.

Espinoza said, “Some of the kids I coach have been after me to play in this game.”  Their coach answered his players’ call.

“It will be interesting playing with some guys I used to coach,” Espinoza said with a smile.

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