Vars football tackles season with new coach but falls short of goals

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Senior wing back and defensive back Michael Gomez running the ball down the field against the Galileo Lions on Oct. 7. Photo by Leonard Caoili

The varsity football team, with a new coaching staff and minimal players, finished its season in sixth place on Nov. 5.

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The Cardinals held a regular season record of 1–5. The team lost against the Burton Pumas 30–14, Galileo Lions 42–8, Lincoln Mustangs 41–0, Balboa Buccaneers 28–8 and Mission Bears 57–8. Their only win came from a forfeit by the Washington Eagles on Nov. 5.

The team gets ready to run an offensive play against Galileo. Photo by Leonard Caoili

The season started out on a positive note, after the new varsity coaches Matthew Jew and Ronald Ng began creating a team that was strong physically and united mentally through tough conditioning and intensive practices, according to junior offensive and defensive linebacker Jacob Weiss. “I came in with really high hopes because Coach Jew was conditioning the hell out of us,”he said. “It seemed like the form of the players overall was better and we were better than we were last season.”

However, the pressure of the games proved difficult for the team as the season continued. “There were times that I think some of the team members would get down on themselves for one reason or another and that affected our performance,” junior quarterback Ruben Reid said. “If you don’t have the right mindset to try and get better, you’re not going to be motivated to go to practice or try at practice or listen to coaches.”

“It seemed like the form of the players overall was better and we were better than we were last season.”

As games progressed, players struggled to maintain high intensity and energy due to only having 19 players on the team roster. “There were number issues,” Reid said. “We had the least amount of people in any SFUSD school. Most of us had to play both ways (defense and offense) and every play was basically a full on sprint. One of the problems were in third quarters, when we were all tired and still had to work.”

Senior wing back and defensive back Michael Gomez advancing the ball past multiple defenders against Madison Park Academy on Sept. 9. Photo by Leonard Caoili

Because the team did not have any substitutes for tired or injured players, the team avoided hard hitting at practices, according to Jones. This left them less prepared during games, when they have to do hitting and face off against aggressive opponents. Instead of doing potentially dangerous drills, they practiced drills to develop a smarter but meaner defense, such as having five or six players on offense going against the full defense, according to Jones.

These strong bonds between coaches and players are necessary to have a cohesive team.

In addition to practice and game changes, this season’s team chemistry is stronger than before due to the change in coaching staff. During their time on the JV team, most of the juniors had already been with Jew and Ng, the previous JV football coaches who already invested time in understanding each player’s strengths and weaknesses. These strong bonds between coaches and players are necessary to have a cohesive team.

The team huddles after the game against Madison Park Academy. Photo by Leonard Caoili

The coaches also gave more trust and responsibility to veteran players, pressuring them to step up and lead. This season’s team had great, enthusiastic leaders such as seniors Evatt Carrodus, Kenny Dzib and Michael Gomez, according to senior team captain Reece Jones. These team leaders enhanced the family aspect of the team and made sure everyone is on the right track during practices.

Compared to last season, this year’s team prioritized getting to know each other on and off the field, helping them play with more unity. Therefore, they refreshed the tradition of team dinners before each game. “It brings us all together because we laugh and we joke around… and it relaxes us before the game,” junior linebacker and wingback Matthew Lee said.

Despite the disappointing finish and challenges of this season, many of this season’s players plan to play on the team next year to redeem themselves.