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Still Some Bite Left: Tigers Believe They Have Enough Talent For Another Title Run PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 17 July 2014 01:08

M. Terry / SFVS.

Good Buddies — San Fernando center Nick Maldonado (left) said he and rest of the Tigers’ offensive line plan to protect new starting quarterback Robert Gonzalez.

If only they could stop time. If only the San Fernando High Tigers could put the last two football seasons on a loop and keep re-living the wonder and glory of winning back-to-back City Section Division II football championships, along with an undefeated season and an 18-game winning streak.

But time does move on. Another season dawns, bringing new challenges and new challengers wanting an opportunity to yank San Fernando out of the throne it has grown comfortable sitting in.

Rest assured the Tigers do not plan to give up their title without a cat fight.

Coach Robert Garcia may have said goodbye to Division II Player of the Year Cris Solano (headed to Nevada Reno University) and other outstanding seniors like Charles Bell, Jose Camargo and Johnny Nunez, all major players on last year’s 14-0 team. But he also says ‘welcome back’ to returning All-City first team selections Nick Maldonado at center and Oscar Salazar at defensive back; running back Alex Gonzalez ( who scored the winning touchdown against South Gate in the 2013 title game), just a sophomore; productive receivers Ronal Munoz and Oscar Tapia; and more than a sprinkle of sophomores and juniors from the junior varsity eager to earn their own bling.

“We’ve still got leadership on the team,” said Garcia, entering his third season. “We’re returning four offensive linemen — Maldonado, Daniel Velarde, Eduardo Solis, and Jaime Cruz. Those guys have been on two championship teams. On the offensive line and defensive line we’re gonna be real tough. And as everybody knows, it starts in the trenches.”

Maldonado, a senior, doesn’t turn 17 until October. But he anchors a front five given the responsibility of giving Gonzalez and the other running backs space, and keeping new starting quarterback Robert Gonzalez upright.

Playing on back-to-back championship teams has given Maldonado a blueprint on how to keep things rolling in Tiger Town.

“Two years ago when Daemon [Thompson] was here, we won the first championship. Last year we didn’t know what was going to happen because we didn’t have Daemon. And Cris came out of nowhere. Now Cris is gone,” Maldonado said.

“This year its time for the offensive line to show we are capable of winning without other skill players. No matter who’s in the backfield with the ball, we’re gonna try and give them as much time to throw as possible, and as many (running) gaps as possible. This whole summer has been hectic. But we’ve been getting stronger, conditioning and learning our plays. I feel really confident about our Oline. Everyone feels confident. We have a lot to prove, but I feel we’re going to be achieving a lot of things.”

Gonzalez, 17, a senior, did get into five games last season and said he feels comfortable running the offense. Gonzalez should not be expected to equal Solano’s recordsetting season of 4,162 yards passing and 43 touchdowns (against five interceptions). But it will be interesting to see if he can grow and thrive in a jungle of high expectations.

“Cris is a great guy who taught me a lot. I’m using some of the stuff he taught me this season, and my coaches are making [reach] the best of my ability,” Gonzalez said.

“Obviously, filling his shoes is quite an honor. But I want to make a name for myself.”

San Fernando will definitely be tested, starting with its season opener against Sierra Canyon, and other nonleague meetings with Taft, Poly and Arleta on October 10. Valley Mission League foes Sylmar and Panorama are also lining up to take their shot.

“Everybody that faces us, it will be like a championship game for them,” Garcia said. “All the kids know the expectations now, what it means to be a San Fernando Tiger. We’ve got to give it our all every game. Any team that comes in here can beat us and we can do the same. We’re not afraid of anybody. And we know what it takes to win.”

Yes the confidence is high.

"There’s a reason why we’re targets and it’s a good reason,” Maldonado said. “Hopefully we can get a third ring, and I am confident we’ll make it as close as possible. It will take a lot of practice and some time, but I feel confident.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 July 2014 02:23

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