A CIF championship in 2012. A semifinal appearance in 2013. A 45-14 first-round playoff loss in 2014.
Which of these is not like the other?
Kaiser’s ears are still ringing from the “wake-up call” it received eight months ago. The Cats’ run a proud football program, something regularly reflected on the scoreboard. Blowout losses are uncommon, even less common in the postseason, where Kaiser strung together a successful five-year run including 11 playoff wins – prior to last season.
“That first-round loss was bothersome,” Kaiser coach Phil Zelaya said. “The players haven’t forgotten about that. But it says a lot about where we’re at against these new teams. All three teams from our league were out in the first round. That’ll tell you something about the competition.”
The new teams to which Zelaya was referring consist of the CIF-SS Central Division that was realigned prior to last season. Every league but the Sunkist was shipped out.
Was Kaiser’s 31-point loss to Bonita, the fourth-place team from the Palomares League, an aberration? The Cats’ 2015 season will go a long way toward providing an explanation.
As for the two pillars of the Kaiser program, the running game will be strong once again. The defense? Zelaya isn’t so sure.
Running back Josh Johnson enters his senior year coming off consecutive 1,300-yard seasons. Of course, last year’s yardage total was compiled in 11 games as opposed to 13 games in 2013, a sign of Johnson’s progress. A Division-I talent, according to Zelaya, Johnson will be running behind an offensive line returning three starters and a fourth player that was a part-time starter last season.
The defense will be without seven of the starters on a unit that allowed 8.2 points per game in league play last season. There is plenty of onus on the four starters who return to a unit that has historically been the backbone of the Kaiser program.
“We’ve got some work ahead of us on defense,” Zelaya said. “Our experience isn’t a strength, but I like we pick things up and I like how hard we play.”