New Montclair High School football coach Eric Kennedy has his work cut out for him – and he knows it.
The school’s football program has forever suffered because of lack of a feeder program.
He had been on the coaching staff of previous coach T.J. Fiorenza as defensive coordinator. But by the time he was formally appointed head coach, several of the school’s marquee players had jumped ship and bolted for other schools. Among those junior Roy Wiley, named the Bulletin’s Newcomer of the Year last fall.
The Cavaliers, 4-6 overall and 0-5 in league play a year ago, head into a new season with a lot of unknown players expected to contribute.
Instead of focusing on what he doesn’t have, Kennedy chooses to focus on the positive.
“We have a great group of kids and they have come in here every day with a good attitude and they have worked hard,” he said. “We’re really going to build on that.”
Kennedy does have some quality help on his coaching staff which includes two assistants that were head coaches last year – Luis Garcia (Don Lugo) who will serve as offensive coordinator and Randy Reams (Ayala) who will coach running backs and coordinate the passing game.
Fiorenza has stayed on too and will direct the freshman team.
Kennedy will be banking on his team’s balance at each position, with no dominant player. Returning starters asked to shoulder a big load this season will include senior linebacker Jason Le, junior nose tackle-offensive lineman Diego Sanchez, senior corner-receiver Jesse Ramiez, senior defensive end Gonzalo Pelayo, senior free safety Eddy Lugo and senior running back Matthew Mendibles.
Among the newcomers is sophomore quarterback Gabriel Tamba, the starter on the freshman team last year.
Other promising newcomers include sophomore tight end-defensive end Evan Richardson and senior receiver Andres Nunez.
The good news is that other than front-runner Colony, there appears to be balance in the Mt. Baldy League with most of the other teams also losing their top players.
Montclair opens the season on Aug. 26 against San Gabriel, a team it defeated 36-0 in its first game last year. The first league game will be Oct. 7 against Ontario.
When it came to the CIF’s new football division alignment, the Cavaliers were put into Division 12 which also includes Ontario. Kennedy thinks its the perfect place for his school.
“We’re in with schools comparable to us as far as resources, socio-economic background, participation, school enrollment,” he said. “It really puts us on a level playing field and I think we can compete should we make the playoffs.”