Senior running back Duy Tran-Sampson is among the large group of returning players who hope to help Claremont to a playoff berth this season.
One of the first things Jose “Coco” Jarin wanted to address when he took over as head football coach at Claremont High School was its non-league schedule.
The Wolfpack had quality competition in the Palomares League but the teams it faced in non-league play did little to prepare them for more important games and hardly generated any buzz on campus or in the community.
El Rancho, Hemet West Valley, Covina, Bell Gardens. Nothing against those schools, but they are hardly compelling non-league opponents. Yes that other game was Damien, but the schedule needed work.
The Wolfpack went 5-0 last year in non-league play, but were never the same once non-league play started. They finished 7-3 and were 2-3 in league. That tied them for fourth with Claremont but the CIF took a 3-7 Ayala to the playoffs INSTEAD of Claremont. That had to have been a slap in the face and was another indication the schedule had to be addressed.
Yes Claremont lost to Ayala head-to-head, but at 7-3 Claremont would have been in the running for an at-large berth had it not been for the weak schedule.
“We got off to that 5-0 and our guys got a little too high on themselves,” Jarin said. “We weren’t as good as we thought we were.”
The first two opponents were a combined 1-11. And the five foes were a total of 18-34. Take away 7-5 Covina, by far the best of that lot, and Claremont played four teams that were 11-29.
Claremont had also been losing players from the feeder middle school who were opting to go to other programs nearby.
The best way to get those kids back? Put those schools on your schedule and beat them. And that’s just what Jarin did.
Claremont football enthusiasts now have some non-league foes for whom they can get excited. Damien is once again there and that could be quite a rivalry.
Then there are Riverside Norte Vista, Pomona, Alta Loma and Upland. Yes, the one and only Upland. So this year’s opponents were a combined 35-21 a year ago. That’s a major upgrade.
Credit those schools for wanting play Claremont.
“We want to make this a place kids want to play football,” Jarin said. “We want to show them were a good place to go not just because of the academics but because we’re a pretty good football team too.