A week before students fill the Glendale College campus for the start of the fall semester, the vacant campus has only one sound echoing throughout: the sound of preparation.
Not preparation for the thousands of students, but preparation for the 10 games the Vaquero football team will play this season. The sound of helmets crashing in the hot August sun is the music of a mini-camp head coach John Cicuto and his staff run to get the players ready for the season.
Last year’s team went 2-8 and placed second to last in the Southern Division of the Western State Conference.
“Last year we had only six returning players and there was a tremendous lack of experience,” Cicuto explained. “We had to rely on the freshmen a lot.”
Although the bulk of the team is freshmen this year, Cicuto has a few key sophomores returning for the Vaqueros.
The defense is anchored by the defensive line, which will prove effective against other schools’ rushing attacks. The defensive line has a few returning players headed by sophomore Robert Elisha and a strong freshmen core.
Another strength for the Vaqueros is the linebacker position, which is led by a strong group of freshmen. This is good news for Glendale because there was only one interception by a linebacker all of last season.
“It might be the best class of freshmen linebackers we have had in a few years,” Cicuto said.
The nail-biting for the coaching staff begins when looking at the defensive backfield.
“Our main weakness would be in the secondary,” Cicuto said. “It’s a critical area against the pass and the one question mark we have on defense.”
The only stable option for the Vaqueros is sophomore defensive back Steve Porter, who bulked up over the summer from 210 pounds to 222 pounds.
“We’re hoping for Steve [Porter] and Robert [Elisha] to really anchor the defense for us,” Cicuto said. “The freshmen will have their growing pains, but hopefully they can develop at a pretty fast pace.”
For the offense, the quarterback position will most likely be manned by third-year player Kenneth McDanial, who red-shirted his first year. He is a very athletic player and playing at the receiver position last season gives him a better perspective of the catcher’s mind.
“He will present a lot of problems to the other teams with his running ability,” Cicuto said. “Our offense is geared towards our quarterback’s abilities and tendencies.”
McDanial will be protected by a strong offensive line led by Sarkis Bedoyan, who Cicuto thinks has the ability to be the top offensive linemen in the state this year.
The run, which has been a Vaquero staple for the past few years, will remain an asset for the team.
“Our running backs are a real strength because Christopher [Berroud] is coming back and Justin Tyler is returning as well,” Cicuto said. “We also have a good freshmen group at the position with Samuel Ledford and Brandon McCullough. Both should be really strong at this position.”
The receivers are all freshmen though, which can pose a problem for McDanial who will likely be out of the pocket for most of his pass attempts. Cicuto seems to believe the receivers of this year will outperform those of last year’s. McDanial seems to be content with his receivers.
“The receivers look good and seem like they will be ready,” McDanial said.
McDanial seems optimistic on how the team will do this year and feels encouraged by what he sees with his offensive line. “Our offensive line looks good so hopefully they will get the job done,” McDanial said. “I will give the team leadership and courage.”
Compared to the teams of the past, Cicuto says this team brings more work ethic to the table than any team in the past five years. That should be a sign of things to come.
The results of the season will depend drastically on whether the veteran players can mentor the younger players into winners. “It is imperative that the sophomores set the tone for the rest of the team,” Cicuto said.
If the team fails to adapt on the go and get the young group ready each game, the promise of a hardworking team will slowly fade and the results will mirror those of last year.
The first chance for the Vaqueros to prove themselves is on Sept. 4 against Orange Coast College at Newport Harbor High. The first home game will be Sept. 11 against San Diego Mesa College at Moyse Stadium at 1 p.m.