Redlands High School football coach Jim Walker, entering his 20th year at the school, has never been once to mince words. So his bluntness when asked about what his team needed to do to win its first Citrus Belt League title since 2006 was hardly surprising.
“REV is the champion and everyone in the league has to go through them,” Redlands coach Jim Walker said. “We know that to get where we want to be, we have to beat REV. We stress that all the time.”
Redlands hasn’t beaten its crosstown rival since that CBL championship season of 2006, losing a showdown of league undefeateds 37-7 last year. But with several key starters returning from last year’s team, the Terriers are confident in their ability to bring the Smudge Pot back to Redlands High School.
Jeff Strycula’s first year at Miller was what you would call awkward. Hired in late May after spring football practice after Jeff Steinberg took the job at Corona Santiago, Strycula never felt comfortable with his veteran team, a team that had come off a Citrus Belt League title the year before.
“I never really felt that it was my team last year,” Strycula said. “I came in late and I don’t think there was much unity last year. I feel a lot comfortable right now – I feel like the program is completely in my control. I feel like there’s more of a team concept this year, that everyone is on the same page.”
Miller was up and down last year, losing its first three non-league games before running through four straight wins in Citrus Belt League and taking a 27-7 halftime lead over Rebels. The Rebels then ran out of gas, blowing the 20-point lead to the Terriers and two of their final three games.
On the surface, it won’t seem like much has changed as far as Colton High School football is concerned. The Yellowjackets will still run their double-wing offense, using a physical running game and an assortment of athletic playmakers on defense to great success. But they’ll have a new guy overseeing that.
Longtime assistant Rick Bray, who has served as an assistant at Colton 21 of the last 25 season – the last 11 with Harold Strauss, is the new guy in charge of the Yellowjackets, taking the place of the legendary coach in the spring. And while Strauss – who is now concentrating full-time on his role as Colton’s athletic director – will not be on the sideline, his influence will remain.
“I’m not going to change much, because there’s really not much to be changed,” Bray said. “Things worked pretty well here. We’ll do some tinkering here and there, but Harold had this running pretty well.”