To describe last season as up and down for the Shandon High 8-man football program would be an understatement.
The Outlaws played in four games where the margin of victory was greater than 30 points, winning two of them. After opening the year with a 36-0 win on the road at Faith Christian, Shandon returned home and lost 52-20 to Riverdale Christian.
And so the story went, as the Outlaws ended the year with a 4-4 record, finishing 2-2 in the Coast Valley League.
This season, coach Marc Sandall hopes that despite a roster that features only four returning players from a year ago, his team can find the consistency that leads to success.
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“This is going to be a young varsity starting group,” Sandall said. “With that being said, I’m looking for those guys to not be intimidated and ask questions and have fun. We’re starting at ground zero. It’s kind of exiting.”
Shandon does return its two leading tacklers from last season in Michael Portney and Josh Monks, who each had 43 tackles and one sack in their junior campaigns. Portney also led the Outlaws in rushing, tallying 793 yards and eight touchdowns.
“We’ve got some pretty good skill players coming back and some good size on the line,” Sandall said. “But, we got a lot of kids that have never played football before. We gotta open our arms to the young kids, we gotta help them and nurture them along.”
Shandon has seven underclassmen and five freshmen on its roster. The Outlaws will only suit up 17 players this season, so Sandall will have to rely on some inexperienced guys to make plays.
“We are on the short end of the stick in a lot of aspects of the game,” Sandall said. “But our kids don’t know when to stop and they’ll lay the smack down. We will be competitive.”
To combat the lack of size and experience, Sandall went a different route for his summer program.
“We did it a little different than normal, building quickness and speed,” he said. “Hopefully that will turn over into some long drives. If we can get some kids around the corner, that’ll help.”
Shandon, which tied Valley Christian for second in the league last year, has its sights set on Cuyama Valley, which went undefeated in league play and 10-1 on the season, falling to Joshua Springs in the CIF-Southern Section 8-man Division II championship game.
“This community has a never-say-die attitude, and they won’t,” Sandall said. “They’re gonna bring everything they have for four quarters.
“The kids are buying into the discipline that I have. Everything that comes with having a successful football program, they’ve bought into it.”