Football preview: Elsie Allen’s coach laying foundation for improvement

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Elsie Allen quarterback Jalen Busby scrambles on a broken play during practice Wednesday. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

Elsie Allen quarterback Jalen Busby scrambles on a broken play during practice Wednesday. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

No NFL player takes the field before signing a contract, and the same is true for every Elsie Allen player this year.

Consider it a social contract. Each player will commit to maintaining a baseline GPA and certain levels of study-hall and community-service hours. Most important, in the eyes of new head coach Madison Lott, is the commitment to practice time. As stated in the contract, if a player misses practice during a game week, he must sit out at least two quarters of action. Miss two practices and you watch the game from the sidelines.

“As the coach, I’ll probably get a lot of pushback on this,” said Lott, who takes over for the retired Larry Mahre. “It’ll probably be something where the kids challenge that clause in the contract. But we’re trying to implement this so the kids will have some pride in the program.”

Lott has reason to believe it can work. He’s also the Elsie basketball coach, and his hoops players have carried GPAs better than 3.0 the past two years.

When Mahre announced his retirement, Elsie Allen turned to offensive coordinator Ryan Thompson as his replacement. But Thompson subsequently was hired as vice principal at Piner High, meaning he couldn’t coach at Elsie Allen. So Lott, an assistant football coach for four years, agreed to take over. He is under no delusions about the state of Elsie Allen football.

The Lobos had high hopes when they moved from the North Bay League to the Sonoma County League last year, but they simply were not competitive. It wasn’t just their 0-10 record, or their 0-6 mark in league play. They were outscored 500-30 in those 10 games. They haven’t won a league game since 2005 (the Lobos played as an independent team in 2011).

Lott knows it doesn’t have to be like this. His basketball team has been much more competitive recently. So have Elsie Allen boys’ soccer, and track and field, among other sports.

What has been lacking in football, he’s convinced, is the commitment.

“Our basketball program, we get 30-some kids working in the summertime, JV and varsity teams,” Lott said. “We don’t even get 30 kids out for football in the summertime. The biggest problem we’ve had is not holding kids accountable. Kids are used to not going to practice, then showing up expecting to play. I want to show them the expectations are different. I’m not saying the record will be better.”

On the contrary, Lott is prepared to hit rock bottom. He feels he needs to establish the proper mindset at Elsie Allen, even if it drives a few kids from the program.

On the field, the Lobos are quick but undersized. They have a good quarterback in Jalen Busby, and some solid receivers to catch his passes. They might get pushed around on both sides of the line, though.

Fortunately for Lott, he believes he has a lot of talented young players — if he can get them to stay in the program.

One problem at Elsie Allen, Lott said, is that the varsity has been forced to pull up numerous JV players in recent years. That left too many freshmen playing JV ball; they got run over and frequently demoralized, and some quit the sport.

Lott is petitioning the SCL to eliminate the JV team and go with varsity and freshmen squads at Elsie.

“We have 26 freshmen that are coming out for football, another 15 to 16 sophomores in the program and a good junior class,” Lott said. “I hope they can form the foundation of what our stamp will be on the program in the next few years.”

Phil Barber can be reached at hil.Barber@pressdemocrat.com

AT A GLANCE

Coach: Madison Lott (1st year)

2012 record: 0-10 overall, 0-6 SCL (7th place)

2012 JV record: 0-10

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jalen Busby, Jr., QB — Returning starter is 6-4 and athletic, with a very good arm.

Julian Galvin, Sr., WR/DE — Third-year varsity player is one of Lobos’ leaders.

Manny Cordova, Jr., DT — At 6-2, 300 pounds, provides needed bulk on undersized line.

Ritchard DePaz, Jr., MLB — Good blitzer was playing at high level at end of 2012 season.

INSIDE SCOOP

The Lobos will run a spread offense to utilize their speed, though Lott hopes to pass a little less than in 2012.

GAME NOT TO MISS

Friday, Nov. 8, vs. Piner: These two foes have carried their rivalry over from the NBL.

ALL-TIME HIGHLIGHT

Some call it the biggest local upset ever: Elsie Allen 16, Cardinal Newman 7 in 1996, which ended Cardinals’ 18-game win streak.

SCHEDULE

Aug. 31, at Drake, 2 p.m.

Sept. 6, at Tomales, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 20, vs. Emery, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27, at Healdsburg, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4, vs. El Molino, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 18, at Petaluma, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 25, vs. Analy, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 1, at Sonoma Valley, 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 8, vs. Piner, 7:30 p.m.

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