San Bernardino coach Nick Monica can count the number of returning seniors he has on two hands. In a competitive San Andreas League, that makes for quite the challenge for the Cardinals as they strive to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
“We have about 8-10 seniors and roughly 43 juniors and sophomores,” Monica said. “Because of that, it’s taken a little bit longer than normal to come together and get that camraderie, that family atmosphere. We had a lot of seniors last year and we’ll have a lot coming back this year, but we are caught in the middle right now.”
Having a lot of juniors isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially when they are guys like quarterback/safety Khleem Perkins. Perkins (6-4, 185) has already started receiving Division I recruiting interest and is rated among California’s top 25 for the 2013 class by ESPN.com.
“Khleem is a stud,” Monica said. “We are looking for big things out of him, both on the field and as a leader. He’s definitely a guy that we are going to lean on both on offense and on defense.”
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.”
Even though Eisenhower has only won two games in Patrick Lord’s first two years as coach, the Eagles are hardly gunshy entering the 2011 season. In fact, Eisenhower thinks that it is in position to turn some heads.
“The number one thing we are thinking about right now is playoffs,” Lord said. “We’ve spent the last two years building up the program and its numbers and we feel that we have a good shot of making a move this year. There’s no reason that we can’t play at a playoff level.”
The genesis of Lord’s confidence is based on a couple of factors. The Eagles have 14 starters returning from last year’s team that got valuable experience in Citrus Belt League play. But the real ace in the hole for Ike is senior offensive lineman/defensive lineman Lalotoa Laumea, who transferred from Compton High School over the summer.
Laumea (6-4, 246) is being recruited by Colorado, Washington, Fresno State and Colorado State, among others and already has been named a team captain, as his hard work has rubbed off on his new teammates.