Last Update: Thursday, December 12, 2013
|Lots To Like About The Lancers|
|Written by Mike Terry Contributing Writer|
|Thursday, 31 October 2013 04:39|
Grant High Is Enjoying Its First Winning Football Season In Seven Years, And Players And Coaches Are Looking To Continue The Success
M. Terry / SFVS
Enjoying Their Senior Moment - Grant football players (l-r) Drake Caldwell, Daleshawn Jackson and Edwin Pineda, all seniors, have helped the Lancers to their first winning season since 2006.
Often during a football season there is a team that rises up seemingly from nowhere and put together a fun, perhaps a historical year.
You can't say the Grant Lancers' 6-2 record in 2013 is particularly historical. But it sure has been fun.
It's definitely a turnaround from 2012, when the Lancers stumbled through a 3-7 season. In fact, this is the team's first winning season since 2006.
So perhaps the Lancers were due some good fortune. Head Coach Rudy Delatorre, now in his fourth year, certainly feels that way.
"When I took over I told myself it would take three years to turn the program around," Delatorre said. "Last year I was really disappointed we went 3-7. I thought that would be the year we would step up. But everyone told me 'wait one more year.'
"All these kids have been with me since the 9th grade, the ones who are seniors, and we're senior-heavy. They've really bought into the program; they're understanding what we're trying to do. All this, all the hard work they do, is them buying into it."
Grant is certainly 'seniorheavy,' as Delatorre said. Twenty- one of the 30 listed roster players are seniors. And the team's success this season has as much to do familiarity as it does physical maturity.
The Lancers are not the biggest or most physical squad out there. Less than 10 of them weigh 200 or more pounds. So they truly need to depend on and trust each other as a team. That, more than anything, has currently propelled Grant to second place in the East Valley League, and has them in position to get a top four seed in the City Section Division II playoffs if they can win their final two games against Poly on Friday, Nov. 1, and Canoga Park next week.
Linebacker Edwin Pineda, 17, a senior, said he felt things would be different this season during the spring and summer workouts.
"I did think we would have a good team," said Pineda, who leads the Lancers with 42 tackles. "You could see all the hard work my teammates were putting in so, yeah, I kinda knew from the beginning."
It has also helped that quarterback Daleshawn Jackson, 17, a senior has been with the team the whole season.
Jackson, who also plays basketball, initially planned to skip the 2012 season and concentrate solely on hoops. He did play in eight games last year, passing for 767 yards six touchdowns (with seven interceptions) but blames himself for the team struggling to find an offensive rhythm.
"Honestly, I think we would have been better [last year] if I was there for the whole season," said Jackson, who has thrown for 1,023 yards and 16 touchdowns (against six interceptions) so far in 2013. "The reason being, I'm the quarterback of this team, and I should have been here leading my team. And I apologize for that. But we've got a good team this year, 6-2. And we're gonna keep trying to get better.
"We put in a whole lot of hard work during the summer to now; we've improved a whole lot. We feel like much more of a family. That's one reason we're doing much better. That's really it … we have special team, what can I say? I think we can go far in the playoffs, maybe win a championship. We're gonna keep working hard to get better and better. Our goal is to win as many games as we can. A lot of people have doubted us, but we've proven them wrong."
Linebacker and running back Drake Caldwell is the closest thing the Lancers' senior group has as an "outsider." Caldwell, 18, came to Grant two years ago from Beaumont, TX. He did play football in the Lone Star State, but was happy when his family decided to relocate to California.
"I did play back in Texas but it's different," said Caldwell, who's rushed for 605 yards and 11 touchdowns. "The players I played with in Texas were like twice my size, really big. I come out here and mostly everybody's my size."
What has uplifted Drake about the Lancers this season is the commitment the team has made to the game on the field, as well as off.
"I think things are better this year because of the chemistry," Caldwell said. Last year a lot of people didn't feel we had a chance against teams, and would give up whenever those teams scored. This year we've kept our heads high and keep trying. We don't let things like that get us down."
The two losses were to San Fernando and Arleta, two teams that have lost one game between them. Both losses have a couple of common themes. Both Arleta (270 yards) and San Fernando (356 yards) had big rushing days against the Grant defense. And the Lancers were very careless with the ball in both games, seven turnovers against San Fernando, and five turnovers against Arleta.
"They were tough losses," Pineda said. "But we've stayed focused throughout the season, to get back up. We know we didn't play our best against [in those games], we could have played better."
But the Lancers have won four straight since the Mustangs beat them back on Sept. 27. They have gotten the school and community excited about their prospects. And the deeper the Lancers go into the 2013 season, the bigger the future potential payoff for the team, Delatorre, and his staff.
"I thought it would be three years, but it was the fourth year we've had a big change," Delatorre said. "We're getting more Pop Warner kids now, and if we're winning I hope we get more kids coming out."