The Wolf Pack suffered from a thin roster in 2012, and the Pack went 1-9 for the season, including a 1-4 Tri-City Athletic League record.
Only a few players from that team are back this year, and they expect that new head coach Chris Myers and a new coaching staff will build up a winning program.
Senior quarterback Garrett Morris said that the team used the summer to build confidence and unity and get prepared for the season ahead.
Morris is one of just seven returning players, with 11 seniors in all.
“Everybody’s getting ripped, everybody’s practicing, everybody’s getting better,” Morris said. “Everybody knows what they’re doing. Last year we had that issue, not everybody knew what they were doing. This year everybody is listening to the coaches, taking coaching from them, and we’re getting better day by day, running the same plays, getting it right.”
Myers said he had about 30 players on board for the summer program, and a roster of 40 when practice started two weeks ago.
“With the coaching change there have been kids with a wait-and-see attitude to see what’s going to be different from what we had in the past,” he said.
Myers said the limited amount of available players coming out for the team makes everyone an important part of the squad.
“We’re not in a position to cut kids because we don’t have big numbers,” Myers said.
Morris will lead the double-wing offense while juniors Kyle Hunt and Daryn Higaki will compete for the backup quarterback job and play linebacker as well.
Running backs include seniors Kepa Saaga, who made the all-Tri-City Athletic League second-team last year, and Calvin Ogamba and juniors Lautaime Aleilafaleula and Chance Wilson.
Senior Cody Correia will anchor the offensive and defensive lines, with senior Bob Lopez, Antonio Orosco and Eddie Castillo among the returning linemen.
Myers also has big hopes for junior kicker Ivan Terriquez, who has been consistently splitting the uprights from midfield in practice.
The coach said incoming juniors have proven to be skilled on offense and defense, and he still plans to put them in different positions around the field as West gets into the pre-league season.
“We’re not going to specialize guys. We’re just going to play,” Myers said. “Mix them up, see where they do best.”
Myers added that he’s also looking for leaders among the juniors, because he expects this year’s sophomore team will have plenty of talent to bolster the varsity team in 2014.
“They were a good team last year as freshmen and underachieved a little bit,” he said.
West begins with a Zero Week game on Friday, Aug. 30, at Beyer High in Modesto. The Wolf Pack’s first home game will be Sept. 6 against Liberty High of Brentwood. West will take the week off after the Sept. 27 Crosstown Classic at Tracy High, and then get into Tri-City Athletic League play.
Anchoring the lines
In his third year of varsity football, Cody Correia has grown into the role of a team leader. It’s a perspective from which he can see why West will have a good year.
“I think it’s more in the energy and our attitudes,” he said. “We’re all trying to make each other better.”
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound lineman plays both sides of the ball, and is at the center of West’s defensive threat.
“Defense is more my home,” Correia said.
Correia is enthusiastic for the upcoming year after he developed his strength, technique and speed over the summer, but figures his character changed as well.
He hopes that he can influence the new Wolf Pack players.
“When you become more of a leader you can help out more,” he said. “I can tell it’s made a difference in all of us.”
Bruiser in the backfield
The same traits that make West High junior Lautaime Aleilafaleula a threat at linebacker have also convinced Wolf Pack coaches to let him start as fullback.
Coach Chris Myers recognized this summer that the 5-foot-8, 265-pound Aleilafaleula has the explosive power to punch the ball through the most stubborn defensive lines.
“He is a bowling ball when it comes to playing linebacker and running back,” Myers said. “He’s hard to bring down and he punishes people.”
Aleilafaleula said that he gladly seized the opportunity to play on offense and get more touches on the ball for the Wolf Pack.
“This is my first year running the ball, and I’m really excited,” he said.
Senior quarterback Garrett Morris said he looks forward to handing the ball off to fullback — who is strong and can take the hits from defenders.
Aleilafaleula said he just expects to be part of a strong offense.
“I trust my linemen to make a hole, and they do,” he said.
Myers said Aleilafaleula is expected to be a leader to his teammates on both sides of
“There were some guys who really stepped up and the team rallied around them,” he said. “One of them was Lau.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or email@example.com.