It’s good to be back.
You may have noticed my byline missing from the paper for a few weeks. Having an operation for a torn retina will do that.
The procedure was performed on Oct. 3 and after nearly five weeks of essentially doing nothing, much of the time looking down — all on doctor’s orders — I returned to work on Monday.
Hey, five weeks off is great, but you can only watch so much “Adam-12″, “Gunsmoke” and “SportsCenter”.
It reminded me of an episode of “Twilight Zone” where a character is given everything he wants by his “guide” and then has second thoughts.
“I don’t belong in heaven, see. I wanna go to the other place,” he says to his guide, who replies “Heaven? What ever gave you the idea you were in heaven . . . This is the other place!”
One thing I missed while being forced to sit it out in “the other place” was covering high school football. Since 1990, I’d missed just two Friday nights.
Turns out I missed a whole lot of struggling. For just the sixth time since 1980, no city team qualified for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs and for the first time since 1982, none finished with a winning record.
Regardless, I missed keeping tabs on the city teams and their players, putting into perspective the good and the bad. Better late than never, here’s a look back at each of the squads.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the Indians extended their likely state-record streak of no postseason play to 75 years, though that’s misleading. If the SJS had had its current seeding plan since starting the playoffs in 1970 (Armijo was in the Central Section in 1937) the Indians would’ve qualified at least 11 times and possibly another seven when they finished at .500.
It’s hard to say one 1-9 team (2012) is better than another (2011), but this year’s Indians were vastly improved under first-year coach Karl Finley.
For starters, they nearly doubled their point production (78 to 133), more than tripled their rushing yards (637 to 2,014) and had nearly 1,000 more total yards (1,252 to 2,228). Their defense gave up a few more points (392 to 410) and total yards (3,781 to 3,866), but that’s misleading.
Thanks to its increased scoring punch, the Indians spent less time under a running clock, giving opponents more time to move the ball and score.
Depending on whose stats you use, running back Damian Simpson rushed for more than 1,000 yards or fell just short. Either way, the senior had a dynamite season, turning out five 100-yard games, including a season-high 193 in the 48-34 win over Fairfield that snapped a 12-game losing streak.
The Indians may not have had the most exciting offense – with Finley being hired less than two months before the start of workouts, being fancy wasn’t an option. They proved it by setting a school record for fewest passing yards in a season with 226.
Even with two previous seasons (1972 and 1975), it’s hard to imagine the Falcons squad having a tougher time than the 2012 squad that went 1-8. Eric Barber wasn’t hired as coach until July, just weeks before the start of practice, and dealing with his seriously ill father also cut into his time with the team.
Defense was easily the team’s biggest shortcoming. Despite playing just nine games, the 2012 Falcons set school records for giving up the most points (389), rushing yards (2,897 — by 459!) and total yards (4,029).
They were shutout in back-to-back games (42-0 by both Benicia and Bethel) for the first time since being blanked in the final three games of the 1983 season.
But if points can be earned for surviving and persevering, the Falcons lit up the scoreboard. With what was likely the smallest roster in school history (24), they routinely ran out of steam, but not out of heart.
As the Mustangs’ fifth coach in five years, Sarj Singh endured some rough spots before his squad outlasted Armijo 36-21 in the season finale.
Rodriguez missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005 and at 3-7 had its lowest win total since 2004 and third-lowest in school history.
Simply put, the Mustangs had trouble moving the ball. They didn’t top the 1,000-yard rushing mark as a team until playing Armijo and their 2,356 total yards ranks as their third-worst.
Among the bright spots was receiver Arron Short, who caught 20 passes for 582 yards, a school-record 29.1 yards per catch, and eight TDs. Quarterback Jacob Hurt emerged late in the season to throw for 538 yards and seven touchdowns over the final three games.
Here’s hoping the folks at Rodriguez will finally understand the power of continuity. The team would’ve been much better off rehiring John Bent in 2011 and Jason Ott in 2012 and will be way ahead of the game if it brings back Singh for 2013.
And here’s hoping the school district will go through the hiring process as quickly as the rules allow so that Armijo, Fairfield and Rodriguez won’t have to endure another embarrassing season in 2013 and give more students a reason to transfer out of the district to play for someone else.
As far as postseason honors go, Vanden made out nicely with Kenny Brand being named SCAC Lineman of the Year, Elijah Williams being co-Defensive Player of the Year and four Vikings making the first team.
But the biggest postseason honor is playing in the postseason and Vanden is missing out for the first time since 2006. A midseason four-game losing streak did the most damage, three of the loses coming by a total of 17 points and none of the six defeats by more than two touchdowns.
Running back Ren Littlepage crept over the 1,000-yard mark (1,005) by getting 206 yards against Fairfield. Sophomore quarterback Jadon Brisendine had at least one touchdown pass in every game and finished the season by throwing for 1,726 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Christian Basden became Vanden’s all-time receptions leader as his 34 catches give him 88, topping the 79 by former teammate Cody Holbein. Basden’s 481 yards put him at 1,172 for his career, which ranks third.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.