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Are Regents Out Of Their Depth? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer   
Thursday, 19 July 2012 02:32

Reseda Coach Alonso Arreola And His Staff Have A Massive Rebuilding Job Ahead With The Two-Time Valley Mission League Champs For The Upcoming Season

MIKE TERRY/SFVS

They Have Work To Do -- Seniors Tony Hernandez, Milton Aguilar and Lyle Fair (l-r) are integral to the rebuilding of the Reseda football team in 2012.

It was the final home game of the 2011 season – Senior Night – when Reseda Football Coach Alonso Arreola got his first glimpse of what he would be facing in 2012.

"On our Senior Night, we have the underclassmen line up and face each other like a tunnel," said Arreola, flashing back to the regular season finale against Panorama last Nov. 10.

"You throw in some cheerleaders, and you have a good tunnel to go through. Last year, when we had all the underclassmen line up, it was like six of them. So we had to put the entire cheerleading squad up there so we could have some kind of tunnel. And it was the longest senior night ever; we graduated nearly everybody."

Meaning the football cupboard at Reseda wasn't just bare; there were dusty cobwebs and singing crickets.

On the surface, the Regents – who have won the last two Valley Mission League titles and 12 consecutive league games – may be in for a struggle. Right now Arreola and his staff are hard-pressed to find those on the roster who have played in 12 league games.

"It doesn't feel like our very first year here because we have everything set, as far as our schemes are concerned," said Arreola, entering his eighth season. "And the culture of the program has changed. So it doesn't feel like the first year at all, because there was so much learning on both ends, from the kids, to myself, and the coaching staff.

"Where it does feel the same [as a first year program] is that you're looking at a bunch of brand new faces you don't know much about. That's the biggest thing."

The learning curve will be high, and the depth chart will be low. So far, for summer practices, Reseda is getting a consistent turnout of 56-60 players, hardly enough bodies to field both varsity and junior varsity teams. And while the Regents – who have seven returning players, five of them starters – are trying to figure out who they are and what they have, there is the level of competition they face after being moved to from Division II to Division I last year.

"I'm not going to give you any clichés. But in the grand scheme of things, we're gonna be such a young team. We're just trying to get these guys to be able to compete, and put them in the right situations where they will be successful. We will start worrying about all that positioning stuff during league and the later part of the season," Arreola said.

"Right now we just want to focus on getting through July, getting into August, going through the [preseason] scrimmages, and get these kids going, let them experience varsity football. We only have seven guys from last year that have gone through it. I don't concern myself right now with where we're at in the division. We just want to get these kids to a competitive state."

If the move to Division I was the only challenge facing Reseda, that would be plenty. But there are other, burgeoning situations are that are beyond the coach's control.

Arreola noted how the school's student population overall fell below 2,000 last fall; how he is getting fewer players coming out for football, and how he has fewer coaches to work with them; and how he is still waiting for the school to name a new athletic director with the start of the 2012-13 fall term less than a month away.

Still, getting a brand new team to gel and defend its league title will keep Arreola and staff busy.

Last year, in achieving an 8-3 overall record and reaching the playoffs, the Regents showed a nice balance on offense, averaging 140.4 yards rushing, and 161.8 yards passing. It was one reason Reseda recovered from an early 1-2 start to win seven straight, and post a second consecutive undefeated league record.

The offense was spread around to plenty of good hands. Quarterback Kwamhe Davis threw for nearly 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns. He had two solid receivers in Xavier Ubosi and Tony Montes, who combined for 54 catches, good for 954 yards and seven touchdowns.

On the ground, Jonathan Washington was the leading rusher with 548 yards and five touchdowns on 78 carries. Other key contributors included Ian McDowell, with 273 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries, and James Ellison, with 215 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.

All are gone.

Arreola said he would turn over the quarterback chores to Chris Ahmed for now.

"He's got tools; he's a big kid and has a strong arm," the coach said. "He's smart. But he doesn't have any experience. He played on the JV last year, but didn't get much at quarterback. And he didn't finish at quarterback because he didn't as well as he wanted to. But this year he's working hard, been to a few camps and that's helped him."

But that doesn't mean Arreola is going to let Ahmed just sling the football all over the field. He expects it will take time for the passing game to develop.

So the offensive philosophy will be a simple one, at least in the beginning.

"The bottom line is, we have to be able to run the ball. That's going to be our first option, and it may have to be the second option," Arreola said.

He said he has a couple of leading candidates for the backfield. Lyle Fair, a senior, was used primarily on defense last year at inside linebacker but will move to running back. And one of very new faces getting a long look this summer is Malik Poche, a senior.

"He is a kid with a troubled past," said Arreola, without elaborating about Poche. "He's always wanted to play football, but hasn't always been on the right path. Fortunately for him, with the guidance of his grandfather, he's done really well. He finished up his last semester with a 3.5 GPA.

"He reminds of me of a couple of kids we had in the past, Chris Bellard and Marquis Madison. He's that type of back – shifty, strong and tough. I think a lot of his toughness is from what he's gone through. He's been a bright spot in the summer."

The offensive and defensive lines are the Regents' primary source of strength. Three-year starter Tony Hernandez, who's listed at 6-3 1'2 and weighs 260 pounds, is one anchor. Milton Aguilar, who measures 5-10 and weighs 210, is light for a tackle and defensive end but will play there, he said, "Because we're really short on linemen."

Aguilar, Hernandez and Fair are either all very shy or taking their cues from the coaching staff as none displayed any swagger when taking about the upcoming season.

"I primarily played defense last year. Playing offense, so far, is pretty cool," Fair said. "Last year it didn't matter, because we had people who could run the ball. But this year they need me (to run the ball). I'm ready."

Hernandez has tunnel vision in regards to how the Reseda offensive line will find success.

"If we continue putting in the work, we'll be able to create those holes. But we all have to work as a unit. We all have to understand that we have to work as a team, be on the same page," he said.

Milton also kept it simple. "How do we repeat as league champs? Put in the work, the hard work, be dedicated, and take care of what we need to in school," he said

The nonleague schedule, which begins at home against Granada Hills on Aug. 24, also features Los Angeles Jefferson, Cleveland and Los Angeles Fairfax – four teams that, historically, are similar in depth and talent level to Reseda and should show the Regents how the 2012 season could shake out.

At least Senior Night won't take as long this time around.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 19 July 2012 02:39