As far as enthusiasm goes, this year’s Fontana High School football team is one of the best that Tim Pike has been around. Pike, a longtime assistant who was hired in the spring to replace Lance Ozier, is enjoying coming to work every day and working with his enthusiastic players.
“I have a great bunch of kids,” Pike said. “It’s just fun sitting back and watching them get after each other and compete. They are great around campus, great in the classroom and really want to learn on the football field.”
While the eagerness to learn is a positive for Fohi, the amount of material they have to absorb is one of the more daunting tasks the Steelers – who went winless last year – face in their final year of the Citrus Belt. Of the 75 kids combined between the JV and varsity teams, Pike estimates that nearly half have not played football.
“It’s great that they are coming out and want to play, but a lot of these kids haven’t played before this year,” Pike said. “We are having to go over a lot of basic fundamental things to get these kids familiar with what’s going on. But as a staff, we enjoy teaching.”
The Steelers do have quite a few starters coming back, as they have 16 kids that started at some point returning. That is probably the best card Fontana, which hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 2003, has going into competition against the other five teams in the league, especially considering that the Steelers only play three home games.
Fontana’s returning strength starts in the line, as seniors Eric Avalos (6-2, 235) and Jose Escobar (6-0, 280) will be the main guys paving the way for the Steelers’ option attack. Two smallish junior quarterbacks – Joe Luna (5-7, 155) and Paul Muniz (5-8, 155) – will vie for the starting position, with fullback David Alvarado (6-1, 215) and tight end Richard Tibbels (6-0, 210) set to see a lot of attention.
Alvarado and Tibbels are also two of the main returners on defense, as they will play linebacker along with junior Eric Swink, a newcomer that has turned some heads. The Steelers will play many of their players both on offense and defense.
Fontana schedule (Home games in CAPS, * indicates league game)
Sept. 9: at Littlerock
Sept. 16: vs. Summit (Miller HS)
Sept. 23: vs. Granite Hills (Apple Valley HS)
Sept. 30: at Bloomington
Oct. 7: PICO RIVERA EL RANCHO
Oct. 14: at Redlands*
Oct. 21: at Yucaipa*
Oct. 28: MILLER*
Nov. 4: vs. Redlands East Valley (Citrus Valley HS)*
Nov. 10: EISENHOWER*