The Shandon High football team is going through a revival of sorts.
While last year’s 4-4-1 record may seem pedestrian, the four victories were more than the 8-man Outlaws had accumulated in the previous seven years combined.
Now, new coach Alan Sciocchetti is trying to take it a step further.
“From the people I talked to that were here in the ’90s when Shandon was winning a lot, they’re telling me that this has to be one of the best teams we’ve had since then,” Sciocchetti said. “So this year we’re trying to build a new team mentality.”
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Last year, the Outlaws fielded a 25-man varsity roster, a 13-player increase from 2008.
Sciocchetti and his staff are taking steps to ensure the upswing continues. Offensive coordinator Jeff Lehar has spent the better part of the past two years devising new plays to suit the current group of players, but Sciocchetti said the offense would remain similar to past years, only with a few tweaks.
Meanwhile, assistant coach Mario Contreras has installed a weight-training program for Shandon, which didn’t employ one last year.
“We went through a number of years where we had a lot of players that weren’t really assets,” Sciocchetti said. “They were just kind of there. This year we have a lot of athletes.”
Still, Sciocchetti said, the biggest turnaround is simply the hunger his team has to rebuild the winning tradition the Outlaws enjoyed into the early 2000s, when playoff runs in the CIF-Southern Section 8-Man Small Schools Division were commonplace.
“I look at these kids and I can see it in their eyes,” Sciocchetti said.
This year’s leaders figure to be cornerback Rio Contreras, whom Sciocchetti said has a chance to start at quarterback, as well, and defensive end Josh Smith, who had 85 tackles and 10.5 sacks in 2009 to earn all-Coast Valley League first-team honors.
Other likely key contributors are Jose Reyes, a 6-foot-2, 255-pound two-way lineman; Andrew Cook, an all-league second-team center who may move to tight end; and Jose Hernandez, who had five interceptions as a defensive back a year ago.
North County Christian looking to rebound
Recently graduated North County Christian running back and wide receiver Josh Feld is a walking record book for the school’s football team.
Feld owns school records in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns while playing receiver for three years. He moved to running back as a senior, when he rushed for a team-high 867 yards while also catching a team-best 38 passes for 463 yards.
On defense, Feld averaged an eye-opening 20.2 tackles per game, also a school record, while recording a team-best seven sacks.
Even with Feld, though, the Crusaders won just one game last season.
With Feld now set to play baseball at Cuesta College, it would seem to possibly set up a dreary season for North County Christian, but first-year coach Matt Wilson said the team feels it can be exponentially better as a whole.
“It motivates us, it really does,” Wilson said of Feld’s legacy. “Although we lost Josh, we really only lost Josh.
“The whole team last year was really inexperienced. With Josh and (running back) Tyler Roth (now a senior), we had a couple of guys that pretty much did all the work. But we’re returning almost everybody from last year.”
Wilson said that senior Taylor Brard will likely start at quarterback, supplanting junior Keelan Willison.
“He’s an incredible athlete,” Wilson said of Brard. “But there will probably be some committee-playing. We’re looking strong at quarterback.”
Last year’s Crusaders struggled to recover from losing graduated seniors Travis Roth and T.J. Mitchell, who led the Crusaders to an 8-2 record and a Southern Section Division 2 semifinal berth in 2008.
“This year, just having the mental aspect and believing you can do it is a big difference,” Wilson said. “They didn’t have that last year after losing the guys from the year before. They didn’t believe they had enough to do anything, and that can be devastating.”