Led by a trio of linebackers, the Cordova High School football team is looking to make some noise on defense this season.
All seniors, the three returning linebackers returning this season to run the Lancers’ 4-3 base defense is strong side linebacker Michael Gonzalez (6-foot-1, 190-pounds), who also starts at right offensive tackle. He is followed by middle linebacker Kenny Haney (5’11, 195) and weak side linebacker Jason Johnson (6’0, 185).
Last season, Gonzalez had 70 tackles, while Johnson had 68 and Haney 58. Johnson also had two fumble recoveries.
“Kenny is getting some looks from some (colleges),” said Cordova head coach Darren Nill of Haney. “There are several schools that are interested in Kenny.”
Nill considers Gonzalez as “the most seasoned we have” in terms of seniors who played extensively as juniors last season.
At the line, Nill, who calls the defense, states that the Lancers will use “players by committee” in the trenches. That includes the offensive linemen will be shuffled onto the other side of the ball. Those players are Zariahn Zimmer (6’2, 290), who plays offensive left tackle; Fidel Romero (left guard), sophomore Austin McCoy (center) and Joseph Salcedo, a junior who started as a sophomore last season. But McCoy’s season was cut very short when he broke his leg in the Lancers’ first game of the season against Pioneer of Woodland, and was out for the rest of the season.
“The offensive linemen will be playing defensive tackle,” Nill said.
Looking to start at defensive end is Clifford Bright (6’0, 220), a junior who started as a sophomore last year. Bright had 58 tackles and three quarterback sacks last season. Josh Colvin (6’3, 185) will play the other defensive end spot. A junior who also played as a sophomore last season, Colvin played extensively in the second half of last season. Another player expected to see time at defensive end is Kelechi Njoku (6’0, 210).
When the Lancers use a nose guard on defense, most of the reps will go to Zimmer.
In the secondary, Terrell Johnson returns as the Lancers’ strong safety. Last season, Johnson lead Cordova in tackles at 100, plus two interceptions. Vying for playing time at the same spot is Tyreke Tate, a junior at 6’0 and 190.
At free safety, another sophomore makes the move for the Lancers in Alvin Banks (5’11, 170), who Nill calls “very talented.” Banks is projected to be a two-way starter; he’s also one of the Lancers’ wide receivers.
“He’s that talented,” said Nill of Banks.
Tonight, Friday, has finally arrived for the Cordova High School football team.
The Lancers will open the season against Rio Americano at Lancers Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The Rio Americano-Cordova junior varsity football game will play prior, and is slated to start at 5:15 p.m.
The contest against the Raiders is the first of three pre-season home games for Cordova. But next Friday, the Lancers trek to San Joaquin County to play at Chavez of Stockton.
After next week’s contest, Cordova will host Rio Linda (Sept. 9th) and Vista del Lago of Folsom in a battle of schools in the Folsom-Cordova Unified District on Sept. 16th.
After the Vista del Lago contest, the Lancers will hit the road again for their final non-league game, at Foothill on Sept. 23. Then the Lancers will have the bye week. Cordova starts Sierra Valley Conference action on Friday, Oct. 7th when Galt pays a visit to Lancers Stadium.
The Lancers play two of their five conference games at home; the other will be hosting El Dorado on Oct. 21st. Cordova will play at Union Mine (Oct. 14th), Liberty Ranch of Galt (Oct. 28th) and closes out the regular season at SVC rival Rosemont on Nov. 4th.
Last Saturday, Cordova football fans had a chance to see the varsity and junior varsity football teams in action in a controlled scrimmage against the Capital Christian grid squads.
Last year, Cordova went 5-5 overall and 1-4 in the SVC.
In November 2014, Measure H was passed by Rancho Cordova residents, allowing a half-cent tax local sales tax measure.
The generated money from the taxes is approximately $7.2 million annually in revenues that goes into the city’s general fund. Parts of the money are being used toward 48 approved projects submitted by a range of individuals, organizations, businesses and community partners.
One of those partners is the Cordova High School football program, which now has state-of-the-art helmets and shoulder pads.
The program was given $385,000 to be spread out over the next three years. One-third of the money, approximately $106,000 was used to purchase Riddell Speed Flex, high-tech helmets that have a head impact monitoring system for all of the Cordova varsity and junior varsity football players.
The technology from Riddell measures the head impact severity. When an impact exceeds a predetermined threshold, an alert is transmitted to the sideline staff, who can then examine the player for symptoms of a concussion. The helmet records threshold hits that are in the upper 1 percent of all hits from that position.
The trainer and his/her staff receive the alert, and notify the coaching staff. That player is pulled off the field to be examined. The helmets don’t diagnose concussions.
“It’s just one more tool that training staffs and coaching staffs can use to keep their players safe,” said Cordova varsity football coach Darrin Nill. “They are much better than what we just got rid of. Up until last year, we were using shoulder pads and helmets, although good quality, nothing like this. It’s just really fantastic … it’s the latest and greatest.”
Inside each helmet has a special plastic casing and the skull padding that is part of the head impact severity.
The National Football League (NFL) uses the Riddell Speed Flex helmets. Colleges across the United States are also using the helmets, along with the Cordova football program.
Nill said there are no complaints from his players on the varsity and JV levels.
“My kids love wearing those helmets,” Nill said. “They said it feels great. They think they look great. If it translates to them playing great, I’m all for it.”
In a press release from Maria Kniestedt, who works for the City of Rancho Cordova, “Head injury and concussions are a great concern among parents, leagues, and schools – especially at the youth and high school levels … both the JV and Varsity football teams at Cordova High School will be wearing helmet technology that keeps them safer.”
Rancho Cordova Mayor David Sander added, “We believe the City of Rancho Cordova is the first city in the nation to fund this helmet technology to keeps its students safer.”
The Davis High School varsity football team has similar helmets, but only for its varsity football team, according to Nill.
Sander added, “The Community Enhancement Fund grants will ensure Rancho Cordova’s priorities happen that much faster. This year’s applicants showed creative and innovative ideas that will continue making us a vibrant community that values opportunity, partnerships, and fun.”
For the past 10 days, members of the Cordova High School football team has been battling each other in various drills in practices.
But tomorrow, Saturday, the Lancers will see different faces.
Cordova will host Capital Christian in a controlled scrimmage at Lancer Stadium at 9 a.m. Cordova head coach Darren Nill and his assistant coaches will have an opportunity to evaluate their players on offense and defense.
Last season, Cordova went 4-6 overall and 1-4 in the Sierra Valley Conference. But this season, the Lancers are looking to earn a Sac-Joaquin Section playoff berth.
The Lancers’ spread offense will be directed by sophomore quarterback Xavier Johnson, taking over for three-year starter Unique Perez, who set many school passing records during his career as a Lancer. Perez graduated last spring. Johnson’s back-up will be senior Justin Martin, who will also see time as one of the Lancers’ wide receivers.
“I think the difference is Xavier can see the read game better than Justin,” said Nill of his two signal callers. “I still think both are going to get a lot of playing time. Just because we’re giving the reps to Xavier that Justin is done. His (Martin) main job is to push Xavier, who can’t let up now just because he’s getting the No. 1 reps going into the first scrimmage. I think Justin is constantly improving every day.”
The two quarterbacks will have many weapons to throw the ball. One of them is wide receiver Angel Garcia, who accounted for a good portion of the Lancers’ touchdowns last season. Another wide out is Alvin Banks, one of four sophomores on the squad. He made the all-tourney team for Cordova, which won the 7-on-7 Rosemont passing tournament two months ago.
More wide outs for the Lancers are senior Elijah Morgera and junior Tyreke Tate. And those are just to name a few wide receivers for Cordova.
“We’re just going to wear people out,” Nill said. “We can sub continuously at receiver. We’re going to break some people in the second half (of games.)”
On the ground, running back Deante McCullough is expected to carry the ball quite often for the Lancers.
“He has a fifth gear that burst and we haven’t seen at the school in years,” said Nill of McCullough, who rushed 16 times for 110 yards and one touchdown as a junior last year.
Other Lancer running backs are Terrell Johnson and Kenny Haney, both seniors. Nill refers to Haney more of a power back who could be opening holes for the running game.
“Kenny will run you over,” said Nill of Haney. “He’s not looking for a hole; he’s looking to put you on your back.”
Another running back for the Lancers is junior Kelechi Njoku.
On the offensive line, Cordova will use a tight end in Isaiah Wimberly, a senior who is an even 6-foot and 180 pounds.
“Fifteen percent of the time, we’ll be in a tight end position,” said Nill of using Wimberly in certain situations.
Guiding the line also include left tackle Zariahn Zimmer, who stands 6’2 and 290 pounds; left guard Fidel Romero; center in sophomore Austin McCoy; right guard Joseph Salcedo, a junior who started as a sophomore last year, but broke his leg in the Lancers’ first game last season; and right tackle Michael Gonzalez (6’1, 190), who, along with Zimmer, started last year.
A preview on the Lancers’ defense will be in next Friday’s issue.
After Saturday’s scrimmage, Cordova begin preparations for its home and season opener against Rio Americano one week from today, Friday, Aug. 26th.
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Now it’s all business for the Cordova High School football program.
After players had the option of working out at the school’s weight room and take part in voluntary conditioning drills during the Sac-Joaquin Section’s dead period the last three weeks, the Lancers’ varsity and frosh/soph football teams gathered Monday to kick-off conditioning. On Wednesday, both teams put on the shoulder pads for the first time this season.
“The kids looked good,” said Cordova varsity head coach Darren Nill of Monday and Tuesday’s conditioning drills. “The strength and conditioning coach Vince Mini (owner of Mini’s House of Pain in El Dorado Hills, who him and his staff have worked with the players in the weight room over the summer) came up to me and said ‘I think you guys are going to have a great practice.’ We went out to practice, and sure enough, the kids were fired up for practice. They were excited to be there.”
The Lancer varsity grid squad has also been working on special teams; kickoffs, kick-off returns, punt, punt returns and point after touchdowns (PAT)/field goal and PAT/FG block.
“We have been doing 15 minutes of special teams, 10 minutes all summer,” Nill said. “(Tuesday) was a concentrated, special teams practice; we spent a good hour on just special teams.”
According to Nill, there are now 104 players combined on both squads. There were 10 players who showed up on Monday; four on varsity and six on the frosh/soph squad.
Nill said that the four players for his squad have not worked out with the team over the summer, as they were busy playing on the Cordova High School boys basketball summer team. The coach noted that before those players are handed their football gear, they would need to run 45 miles. That is the same number of miles that the other varsity players ran throughout summer workouts.
“We have team rules, and they have to do a lot of running,” Nill said. “That’s not so much for them … that’s for the team. The team needs to see that these guys really want to play. Team rules come before wins.
“They missed a lot of hard work during the summer. They are in the process of doing that running. All four of them are good athletes.”
Both the Cordova varsity and frosh/soph football teams will play their first scrimmage on Saturday, Aug. 20th, when they host Capital Christian. Admission to watch the controlled contests at Lancer Stadium is free.
A breakdown on this year’s varsity football team will be in next week’s issue.
From the end of the Fourth of July weekend until July 15th, the Cordova High School varsity and junior varsity football teams spent their time in the weight room and field working on plays on offense and defense, as they had prior to the holiday.
But on Saturday, the public will have a chance to meet members of both squads.
The Lancer football teams, along with the school’s cheerleaders and band, will take part in Meet the Lancers festivities. The event will be held at Village Green Park in Rancho Cordova from 6 to 8 p.m.
“We have 94 kids in our program,” said Cordova varsity football head coach Darrin Nill of the varsity and junior varsity squads.
In addition, the Cordova Jr. Lancers’ football teams and coaches are also scheduled to be present.
“We will represent the entire football community in Rancho Cordova,” Nill said.
Another treat for Lancer football fans is the varsity football team will be donning its new uniforms. Plus, show off some new gear that they will be using for the new season.
The grid program will also be selling its spirit wear for the upcoming season.
Nill noted that many food venders would be present at the park during the Meet the Lancers festivities.
“It’s a real feel good type of community event,” Nill said.
The Sac-Joaquin Section’s “dead period” started July 18th. High school football teams, along with fall sports teams in volleyball, girls tennis, girls golf, water polo and cross-country, can continue to their workouts but only voluntary such as weight training and conditioning, and without the use of a ball, with the exception of cross-country.
“We have 30 to 45 kids showing up regularly for conditioning and weight training,” said Nill of players showing up during the dead period the last two weeks.
Next Monday, the dead period officially ends when practices for football and the other CHS fall sports teams officially start. The gridders will go through conditioning for two days and end the week with donning the shoulder pads.
Nill said he, his coaches on both levels and the players are more than anxious to get the 2016 season underway.
“We’re starting to get more kids out for weight training (this week),” Nill said. “The kids are starting to hang around a little bit more. Getting a lot more texts, lot more phone calls from kids, just staying in touch.”
Cordova will kick-off the season on Friday, Aug. 26th when it hosts Rio Americano in a non-league game. The Lancers play three of their five non-league games at home before starting Sierra Valley Conference action.