Elsie Allen confident it will snap slump

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A corps of returning starters and newcomers committed to getting better should make Elsie Allen more competitive. Beating an opponent or two is the Lobos’ goal after last season’s winless campaign.

“Everyone’s been very determined. Our focus is there,” said linebacker and running back Cory Shelton.

Elsie Allen has more athletic players this season. The team also has shown greater unity off the field, notably during summer conditioning. None of that means Elsie Allen will win for the first time in two years. But the Lobos clearly are more confident.

“I believe kids bought into it this year. I see a lot of positives,” said coach Larry Arterberry. “We’ve meshed a lot better than last year. Our goal is to be competitive and get some wins this year.”

Deep at running back, Elsie Allen looks to move the ball on the ground more. Returning starters Marlon Whitmore, Shelton and Daniel Bratsberg will share rushing duties with transfer Robert Bellino and first-year football player Chris Thorp. “We’re more athletic on offense than we have been in the past. We have more guys that we can go to,” Arterberry said.

Another newcomer is quarterback Eric Flores, a senior who led the junior varsity last season. An improved running game would give Flores more opportunities to find open receivers when he does pass. David Nwagbara and Rocky Chanpheng are back at wide receiver.

Both the rushing and passing games could get a boost from an offensive line with three returners. Danny Gutierrez, Jorge Inocencio and Bryant Carlson started last year, and joining them is transfer Shaun Montecino.

“Our linemen have improved their strength and are coming together as a team,” Shelton said.

Speed is the Lobos’ primary asset on defense with the linebackers counted on to stop the run and limit big plays. “We’re quicker than we were last year. I think our linebackers will probably be our strength,” Arterberry said.

Shelton, Whitmore and Bratsberg all return at linebacker, with Bellino and Thorp expected to play big roles as well. “We’re going to stop the run and force teams to pass,” Shelton said.

Blowouts were all too common last season. Elsie Allen’s closest game was a 30-point defeat. The defense has worked hard on pursuing plays and tackling better, according to Shelton. “All of that has improved a lot. I think we will do a much better job at that this year,” he said.

Faster and stronger than a year ago, Shelton reflects the hard work Elsie Allen players put in during summer strength and conditioning sessions, Arterberry said. “We’ve been pushing harder compared to last year,” Shelton said. “We’re a lot more optimistic.”

Said Arterberry: “We had more guys turning out. You get more guys in there believing in what you’re trying to do, that helps. We’re just trying to get stronger and faster and learn the game a lot better. We want to try and turn this around.”

As a senior captain, Shelton said he owed himself and the team a greater commitment to improving and helping Elsie Allen win some football games.

TEAM PREVIEW

ELSIE ALLEN
Coach: Larry Arterberry (3rd season, 1-19 record)
2009 record: 0-10, 0-7 NBL (8th)
2009 JV record: 2-8
Returning starters: OFFENSE (8): RB Marlon Whitmore, Sr.; RB Cory Shelton, Sr.; RB Daniel Bratsberg, Sr.; WR David Nwagbara, Sr.; WR Rocky Chanpheng, Sr.; C Danny Gutierrez, Jr.; OL Jorge Inocencio, Sr.; OL Bryant Carlson, Jr.
DEFENSE (8): LB Whitmore; LB Shelton; LB Bratsberg; DB Nwagbara; DB Chanpheng; DL Gutierrez; DT Inocencio; DL Carlson.
Players to watch: RB Marlon Whitmore: Is the top returning rusher, should lead a deep corps. WR David Nwagbara: Senior is expected to be the top receiving target.
Newcomers to Watch: QB Eric Flores: Takes the helm as a senior after leading the junior varsity last season. RB/LB Chris Thorp: Has been an athletic addition and a quick study in his first year playing football.

SCHEDULE
Date – Opponent – Time

9-10 – vs Vacaville Christian – 7:30 p.m.
9-17 – at El Molino- 7:30 p.m.
9-24 – vs San Rafael- 7:30 p.m.
10-1 – vs Santa Rosa – 7:30 p.m.
10-8 – vs Cardinal Newman – 7:30 p.m.
10-15 – at Rancho Cotate – 7:30 p.m.
10-22 – vs Maria Carrillo – 7:30 p.m.
10-30 – at Piner – 1 p.m
11-5 – at Ukiah – 7:30 p.m.
11-12 – at Montgomery – 7:30 p.m.

BY THE NUMBERS
3:
Returning two-way starters on the offensive and defensive lines
4: Wins over the past five seasons
16: Returning starters