By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
On day two of late summer practice for Elsie Allen, a few players were spotted wearing “Lobos Pride” T-shirts.
A simple and noble slogan.
Things will have to take a rather drastic turn this season for the Lobos to avoid a repeat of last season’s nightmare, when “pride” took a backseat to the reality of a 1-9 season in which the Lobos got outscored 434 to 62 in total points and finished last and winless in the Sonoma County League.
Enter second-year head coach Madison Lott, who is trying to build the foundation for a football program at a school that hasn’t had much of one for two decades. The Lobos have never won more than four games in a single season and over the past four seasons have won a total of two games.
“We are just trying to be competitive for four quarters for 10 games,” Lott said. “You saw the scores from our games last year, right?”
Those scores surely made any Lobos fan wince, including losses of 68-0 to Piner, 65-0 to Analy, 52-0 to Healdsburg, 55-6 to both Sonoma Valley and Petaluma and 52-6 to Tomales.
“Last year was tough,” senior linebacker and defensive leader Ritchard DePaz said. “The part that got to me was that some of our players lost faith after the first quarter in games.”
According to Lott, the death of a coach forced several coaching changes on his staff and the team lost momentum and a negative attitude became endemic with each loss.
“I’ve brought in some new coaches with a more positive attitude that will lead to a more competitive atmosphere,” Lott said. “I want the kids to not focus on wins and losses but on our progress.”
One of the few bright spots last season was a 34-0 Lobos win against Willits for their lone victory. Elsie Allen plays at Willits this year and hosts an Ygnacio Valley (Concord) team in a weak preseason schedule that also includes Deer Valley (Antioch) and Emery (Emeryville). The Lobos’ first four games might give them just the spark they need going into SCL play.
“We are tired of losing and people think we are a joke and the team is tired of hearing it,” senior quarterback Jalen Busby said. “We need to show some school spirit.”
The fortunes of the Lobos will rest largely on the arm and feet of Busby, who according to Lott is the best player on the team and a great athlete. The problem last season was the porous offensive line led to Busby ending up flat on the turf or running for his life much of the time.
“Last year teams would just stack the box against us because they knew we couldn’t throw the ball because we couldn’t block,” Busby said. “This year our offensive line is a work in progress. We have the weapons on offense at the skill positions but it depends on the offensive line.”
Lott concurred that the Lobos have speed and athletic ability at the skill positions but said that they will be at a constant disadvantage in the trenches due to a lack of depth and undersized lineman.
“We have a spread offense and can get the ball out on the perimeter but we have a lack of strength and are undersized in the interior,” Lott said. “We are going to have to do some Houdini stuff this year to win some games.”
Lott said he was disappointed that some of his players, especially some of his returning starters, did not work out during the summer and came to practice out of shape.
“It should have been a good summer for us to gel together but some of our players didn’t take the summer as serious as others,” Lott said. “It was a lost opportunity, very disappointing.”
“I thought we could be very competitive in the non-league games but now I don’t know where we stand regarding how prepared we will be,” Lott added. “We have a lot of experience coming back but I don’t know how valuable it is if the kids don’t want to put in the work.”
Both Busby and DePaz said they were also disappointed that some teammates weren’t dedicated to the team with their summer conditioning.
“Some people (approximately half the team) didn’t show up and didn’t put in the work and it’s pretty disappointing,” Busby said. “We wasted our whole summer but now we are going to have to work extra hard to make up for it in a short amount of time.”
Even so, with the skill players and speed on the outside Elsie Allen should have a chance to register at least a few wins in 2014 and possibly be in many of its games till the end.
“As the coach at Elsie Allen if you win a couple of games in a season it looks very good, but if you hate losing it is a tough place to coach,” Lott admitted. “I can tell you that we will be a better team this year than we were last year .
“How much better, I don’t know.”
ELSIE ALLEN LOBOS
Coach: Madison Lott (second year)
2013 record: 1-9, 0-6 in SCL (last place)
2012 JV record: 0-6
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jalen Busby, Sr., QB/S
Returning starter at QB with athleticism and strong arm. Figures to benefit from corps of speedy receivers, including Santa Rosa transfer Raysean Barrios, but will have to cope with a patchwork offensive line.
Ritchard DePaz, Sr., RB/LB
Third-year starter and second team all-SCL selection at linebacker, DePaz is the heart of the defense. He led the team in tackles and sacks. At RB, he led the Lobos in rushing TDs last year.
Bradley Greiner, Sr., WR
Second team all-SCL selection last season. Has good hands and was Busby’s favorite receiver with more than 600 yards receiving. Spent the summer at Stanford taking classes and practicing with Cardinal incoming freshman.
Adan Argueta, Sr., OL/DL
Third year as a starter on both sides of the ball. At 6-1, 225, Argueta is one of the bigger lineman and is responsible for calling the sets on the O-Line. Lobos will go as far as the offensive line will take them behind Argueta’s stewardship.
GAME NOT TO MISS
Circle the second game of the season, Sept. 5 against visiting Ygnacio Valley of Concord as a chance for the Lobos to get on track early against a team that was also 1-9 last season.
Coach Lott said last season’s lone win, a 34-0 drubbing of visiting Willits, was the highlight of the program’s 20-year history because it was the first time the Lobos shut out an opponent.
Aug. 29 Deer Valley 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 5 Ygnacio Valley 5 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Willits 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Emery 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Piner 2 p.m.
Oct. 3 Healdsburg 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 10 at El Molino 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 24 Petaluma 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 31 at Analy 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 7 Sonoma Valley 7:30 p.m.
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