Above: Damien hopes there are more chest bumps in their future.
By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
First-year Damien coach Greg Gano is no fan of moral victories. But after staying close with Rancho Cucamonga, arguably the best team in the Inland Empire, and going toe to toe with the San Gabriel Valley’s two best teams in Bishop Amat and Charter Oak in consecutive weeks, Gano is feeling all right for a team with a 1-4 record. “I’m not happy we’re 1-4,” he said. “It could be worse. We could be 0-5. It’s a two-edged sword. We have been playing some tough football against great teams. Those leadership plays you need to make at the end against good teams we haven’t made yet. But that will come, the real-part of the season is just getting started.”
Damien led Charter Oak 12-7 at half before losing, 23-20, on Friday. A week earlier, the Spartans gave Bishop Amat all they could handle before losing, 29-20.
“We had a great opportunity to beat Bishop Amat and then they turn around and beat St. Bonaventure,” Gano said. “What does that say about us?
“I felt like we had Charter Oak on the ropes, too. It’s one thing if you’re getting beat by 35 points, that’s discouraging. But it’s not the case with us. We have been in every game except for the (St. John Bosco) loss.”
The Spartans have a much-needed bye week before opening the Sierra League against the two favorites, Chino Hills on Oct. 16 and Glendora the following week.
“We get to start a new season,” Gano said. “We can do very well, that’s what I told the guys.
“We could be more physical. We need to finish games better, but the main thing is that our kids keep fighting. They haven’t quit despite how tough it is to play hard and lose close games. That tells me what I need to know about this team.”
Damien will keep Bishop Amat on the nonleague schedule next year but will drop Rancho Cucamonga and St. John Bosco, Gano said.
“Rancho is in our division, there is no sense playing them,” Gano said. “We might also get Charter Oak and South Hills in our league (if voting goes through in October), so we will probably schedule other area teams.”