Sometimes a team has a lot of ups and downs when it is playing under a new coach. It often means new offensive and defensive schemes, different position coaches as well and a new way of doing just about everything.
For the Chino Cowboys there was no such learning curve last year when Jesse Ceniceros took over. The Cowboys went 9-3, were second in a tough Hacienda League and advanced to the seconds round of the Central Division playoffs before losing to Summit which went undefeated in the regular season.
Good news for the Cowboys and their faithful fan following – the squad returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense. So yes, the Cowboys should be a team we’re talking about for the next several months.
“You never know what’s going to happen in a first year but I was confident in the system that I run and it has been successful everywhere I have been,” said Ceniceros, who came to the school after seven at Norwalk. “We have the same kind of kids here and they really bought into it right away.”
That “system” is the double wing as Ceniceros is a disciple of veteran coach Don Markham who made that his trademark.
The star of the offense, Da’Creh West, is one of the few graduated starters. He ran for 1,826 yards and 21 touchdowns a year ago. That lead role will now go to junior Andrew Almazan, who ran for 764 yards and seven touchdowns. He stands just 5-foot-7 but worked on strength over the summer to prepare for the larger role in the offense.
Ceniceros compares him to now graduated Chaffey back Mikey Dean who led the area in rushing yardage despite a diminutive stature.
“He is very much in that mold,” Ceniceros said. “He knows how much we’re expecting of him this season and he worked hard to get ready for that workload.”
Among the other top offensive players returning are quarterback Angel Herrera and center Steven Lopez, both seniors.
“Lopez really is the quarterback of that line. He makes all the calls and he’s a very smart kid,” Ceniceros said.
The Cowboys have also been bolstered by the return of senior Brandon Serrano, a lineman who missed all of last season with a back injury sustained in a weight room accident.
There are plenty of quality players back on defense too, the most notable being senior defensive back Willie Morris, who is being sought after by Division I schools and already is an academic qualifier.
Other top players on defense are senior middle linebacker Adrian Alfaro and senior defensive end Matt Lara, who also could see time at tight end.
Ceniceros is also high on senior defensive end-defensive tackle Christian Noble, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound move-in from Texas.
“I really feel good about this team,” Ceniceros said. “I believe we have quality players at every position and there isn’t any reason we can’t compete for a title.”
The season gets underway on Aug. 26 with Chino traveling to Damien.