Western Sierra enters league play with confidence

Spirits high in spite of 1-4 record
By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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2018 Football Preseason Standings

Encina Prep (0-0, 2-3) lost to Johnson 34-20 

Foresthill (0-0, 2-3) loss to Johnson 42-6 (Sept. 14)

Valley Christian (0-0, 1-3) lost to Coral Academy, Reno 34-20 (Sept. 15)

Delta (0-0, 1-4) lost to Esparto 33-7 (Sept. 14)

Western Sierra (0-0, 1-4) loss to University Prep 55-0

Woodland Christian (0-0, 1-4) loss to Bradshaw Christian 41-21


MAHENY PARK – The Western Sierra Collegiate Academy lost it’s final preseason game at home Friday against University Prep 55-0, but the optimism among the Wolves remains high entering Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League competition this week.

Coming of a bye week in which Western Sierra head coach Greg Roeszler said was time spent working on tackling, the defense did show improvement, but there is still work needed.

“So I see that they’re not getting hurt; I see that their spirits are not broken and they’re beginning to learn more about football,” said Roeszler. “We still can’t tackle. We have a 100-pound freshman kid trying to tackle. So we have to tackle a lot better.”

Size is not one of the Wolves’ strong points. Senior quarterback Aiden Lucia is the second largest player on the team at 6-feet-1-inch and 185 pounds.

The upside of opening SMAL play at Foresthill (2-3), is the Wildfires have just one player listed at more than 200 pound. And Foresthill has just five seniors on its roster, WSCA has four.

Since most of the teams in the Sac-Metro do not field junior varsity teams, many of their rosters are filled by underclassmen. Last year’s league champion, Woodland, also has just five seniors and four players listed at 200 pounds or heavier.

“I totally expect us to compete in league,” said Coach ‘Roz, who admits having no previous experience with the SMAL. “I expect us to have a winning record in league and go into Woodland Christian playing for a playoff spot. And that’s what we’re telling these kids every week.”

The preseason records do not stand for much in small-school football. Many of the SMAL schools have to play larger schools in preseason because of the limited number of small schools with football teams.

On the talent side, Western Sierra has, by far, the most prolific passing quarterback in the league in Aiden Lucia. He has 10 passing touchdowns, but those are offset by 11 interceptions.

Part of the reason for the turnovers is a ground game that is virtually nonexistent. The Wolves have a total of 247 yards gained in five games and 135 of those yards are credited to Lucia. Billy Sokol, listed as the club’s running back, has only played in two games.

“(University Prep) would not let us throw the football. They rushed three and dropped eight and said ‘You’re not going to throw the football on us,’” Roeszler said. “So we have to have enough of a running game when that happens so we can move the ball.”

The academy’s offensive and defensive linemen consist of four sophomores and two juniors. Only one tips the scales at more than 200 pounds.

The other offensive bright spot is junior wide receiver Chris Delaloye. He leads the SMAL in receptions, yardage and TD receptions. He is fearless and talented, but he and Lucia have made up the lion’s share of the Wolves’ offense.

It also comes as no surprise that Delaloye and Lucia are also among the tackling leaders on defense. Joining them are senior cornerback Oscar Hernandez and junior linebacker Samson Haefele.

“We lost a lot of players, a lot of seniors and that left a lot of juniors; people went to other schools so it’s just a fresh start for us again,” said Haefele, citing the difference between this year’s team and last year’s playoff club. “And a lot of new kids and that’s probably the biggest difference.”

After the 55-0 loss Friday, Haefele told his team in the postgame huddle that the game was fun again. He encouraged his teammates to keep working and to pull together for league play.

“I’m seeing us work harder; I’m seeing us do our jobs; I’m seeing us give better effort on offense and on defense and doing our best,” Haefele said afterward. “I’ve seen guys stand up and step forward and be leaders, and that’s what we need on this team.”

Like Coach Roz told his players, as far as he is concerned the Wolves are now 0-0. It all starts again Friday in Foresthill.