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Wednesday, Aug 27 2014 11:34 PM

HS FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Foothill

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The Foothill High football team end their practice Wednesday.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Foothill High football coach Jason Oliver.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Joe Fonceca, Foothill High football.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A Foothill High receiver gets his had on the ball as the defender moves in during a recent practice.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Michael Evaro, Foothill High football.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Samuel Zapada, Foothill High football.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Randy Rodriguez, QB, Foothill High football.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Foothill High football coach Jason Oliver speaks to his players to end a recent practice.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Foothill High football players run wind sprints to end practice recently.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Foothill High football coach Jason Oliver speaks to some of his players during a recent practice.

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    A Foothill High receiver attempts to gain more yards after a reception during practice Wednesday.

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BY CAMERON MILLER Californian staff writer cmiller@bakersfield.com

Many emotions haunted Foothill's team in 2013: Disappointment, anguish, self-doubt.

That's what a 1-9 campaign will do to a group of even hard-nosed, gritty young men and an experienced coaching staff.

Related Info

HS FOOTBALL PREVIEW:

COACHING STAFF

Jason Oliver

Head coach, second year at Foothill, 1-9 record; fifth year overall, 17-26

n Assistant coaches: Cassius Hooper, defensive coordinator; Greg Torres, OL; Dallas Plater, special teams; Robert Haskell, WR/DB

KEY PLAYERS

Randy Rodriguez

Quarterback, senior

Foothill is counting on Rodriguez, who endured a rough transition from the freshman squad to the varsity level last season, to vastly improve in his second year as the starter. Oliver said the game has slowed down for Rodriguez, which should allow for quicker progressions and better reads.

n Michael Evaro, RB/LB, sr: Perhaps his squad's most important two-way player, Evaro will be a safe, sure target for Rodriguez and the undisputed leader of Foothill's young defensive unit.

n Joseph Fonceca, OL/DL, jr: Blessed with size that recent Trojan squads haven't seen, Fonceca figures to be an imposing figure on an offensive line that lacks overall beef and a defensive front that loses several key tacklers.

SOUTHEAST YOSEMITE LEAGUE * DIVISION IV * 2013 RECORD: 1-9, MISSED PLAYOFFS

KEYS TO THE SEASON

n The going gets rough: With a difficult slate of games to begin the season, Oliver and his staff will definitely know what type of team they have by the end of September. The Trojans start off with three road contests before returning to Ned Permenter Stadium to play Wasco, and they end their non-conference schedule with a rivalry game against East.

n Circled games: Speaking of rivalry games, Foothill has several east-side foes on its schedule, including traditional foes East and Highland and neighboring school Mira Monte. "Rivalries are rivalries," Oliver said. "Those games are huge, those are championship games, in our mind. We have to win those games."

n Hoping for return to roots: Foothill is a storied program but is still seeking its first winning season since 2007. Unless there's a big turnaround from last year, the Trojans will have to wait a little while longer to edge over the .500 mark.

But perhaps the most important emotion the Trojans experienced was the one that never departed their minds: hope.

For a team that scored 69 total points and notched just one victory in a season that hit somewhere near rock bottom, the 35-man roster is remarkably positive and upbeat.

"Losing's never easy, but losing that many games really didn't keep us down too long," junior lineman Joseph Fonceca said. "We knew we had some key returners coming back, so going 1-9, it just motivated us for this year."

That attitude started right at the top with coach Jason Oliver, who knew he was walking into a tough situation at Foothill when he took the job a year ago -- but not "18 players on varsity" tough.

Oliver, who starred at BHS and USC in the 1990s, realized that he was in for a total rebuild and promptly returned to the basics: strength and repetition.

"What I did say after the 1-9 campaign was 'Meet me in the weight room,'" Oliver said. "We had a good offseason workout, and the kids are focused -- they bought in. I don't think anyone on our campus enjoyed 1-9, so I think it motivated our kids to realize that it takes hard work to get better, and that's what we intend to do.

"It was tough, it was frustrating at times. But you knew it was coming... You have to get back to hard work, and through hard work, good things happen."

One Foothill player who certainly has embraced that mantra is quarterback Randy Rodriguez, who returns as the signal-caller after a rough first year under center.

The Trojans will likely go only as far as Rodriguez will take them, and Oliver is pleased with his senior leader's development in the offseason.

"He's done a great job (thus far)," Oliver said. "He's motivated; he's come a long way in his maturity. Hopefully, that will translate into the huddle and the games. I couldn't be happier with the progress he's made just in his maturity level."

Rodriguez, one of only six seniors on the team, admits that though watching the losses pile up was disheartening, he never lost faith and remains confident that targets like classmate Michael Evaro will allow the Trojan offense to get off the ground in 2014.

The unit only scored seven touchdowns in all 10 games last year.

"It was tough ... it was tough," Rodriguez said. "But Coach Oliver did a good job of motivating us so we don't put our head down. He kept us pushing forward and focused.

"Leaders have pushed the younger guys, and (we) haven't let the negativity get to us."

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