Cardinals ready to turn the page

These previews will be sporadic – pretty much done right after I talk to the coaches. Just got off the phone with San Bernardino football coach Nick Monica, who took time out of a lovely Thursday evening at the Cheesecake Factory to talk shop. Hopefully his wife wasn’t too annoyed.

Anyway, the Cardinals, after a pretty solid 4-5 record in Monica’s first season in 2007, slipped a bit in 2008, registering a 2-8 record which saw them lose to Pacific, giving the Pirates their first victory since 2005. Needless to say, the San Berdoo brass are happy about putting 2008 in the rearview mirror.

“We are just happy that last year is over with,” Monica said. “I love those kids to death, but it still didn’t feel like my team. Now, in my third year, I feel as if this program is mostly made of my kids.”

There are plenty of huge dudes among those kids, especially on an offensive line that averages about 285 pounds per man according to Monica’s calculations. It’s a young line, with four juniors and one senior, 6-foot-4, 285-pound guard Trivyon Bland. Massive 6-6, 325-pound junior Robert Nimmo mans the other guard position.

San Bernardino, which will employ a spread-option offense, has plenty of athletes to run in the space that it hopes the offensive linemen will create. Aarein Booker – who signed with San Diego State last February – thrived in the offense and Monica hopes that Vanzell Richardson, a 6-2 wide receiver receiving D-1 interest, can have similar success in the system.

The key for the Cardinals, however, is a defense that was gashed for 34.8 points per game overall and 44.2 points in league, can hold its end of the bargain. That defense could be without star defensive end Tramaal Chandler, who has some academic issues to take care of before being allowed to play, but Monica is expecting a better effort from everyone involved.

“I’ll try to put it nicely, but we have a lot of paybacks to give,” Monica said. “A lot of teams beat us and beat us bad. We’ve been working hard and counting down to (the opening game) September 11. We started at 200 and have worked our way down.”

San Bernardino’s schedule (Home games in CAPS, league games with *)

Sept. 11 – at Jurupa Valley
Sept. 18 – YUCAIPA
Sept. 25 – at Fontana
Oct. 2 – APPLE VALLEY
Oct. 9 – BARSTOW
Oct. 16 – at Cajon*
Oct. 23 – COLTON*
Oct. 30 – at Pacific*
Nov. 6 – ARROYO VALLEY*
Nov. 13 – SAN GORGONIO*