Experience Returns for Cordova Football

By Mike Bush  |  2017-08-31

Cordova quarterback Tyreke Tate looks to find room to run against Capital Christian in last week

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) – A group of returning players gives the Cordova High School football team momentum this season.

Tonight, Friday, the Lancers will host Chavez of Stockton at Lancers Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

Prior to the season opener against Rio Americano last Friday – see elsewhere in this section on the game – Cordova football head coach Darrin Nill talked about the squad after his Lancers On Aug. 18th, Cordova scrimmaged at Capital Christian.

“You had some positive surprises, and some negative surprises,” Nill said.

One of the positives was the Lancers’ consistency on moving the ball on offense. “We moved the ball well on them,” Nill said.

On the other side of the ball, the Cougars were more physical than the Lancers.

“I think that surprised our guys,” said Nill of the Cougars.

Spearheading returning players are senior quarterback Tyreke Tate (6-foot, 187 pounds), who led the Lancers’ defense at free safety that led to a share of the SVC title with Liberty Ranch and El Dorado last fall.

Joining Tate, who will continue to play the free safety spot, is wide receiver Calvin Augusta, second in the SVC in receiving last year and like Tate was all-SVC player. Augusta also play defensive back. Junior Alvin Banks is back at wide receiver and defensive back, another all-SVC player.

“That kid can just flat out play football,” said Nill of Banks. “He’s a fantastic athlete; he can throw the ball, he can catch the ball. I think if he could throw the ball and catch it himself, he probably would.”

Looking to carry the ball on the ground is senior running back Clifford Bright, who will be one of the Lancers’ defensive ends and a three-year starter. Joining Bright in the backfield will be junior Raymond Fite, who started as a sophomore last season. Fite is also listed as a defensive back, a spot he made all-SVC.

On the offensive and defensive line for the Lancers are seniors, starting with center/defensive tackle Austin McCoy (6-foot, 260) and offensive/defensive tackle Michael Castillo (6’1, 245), left guard/defensive tackle Joseph Salcedo (5’9, 270), another three-year starter and right guard/defensive end Josh Colvin (6’3, 200).

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Raiders Rally to Beat Lancers in Opener

By Mike Bush  |  2017-08-30

Cordova defensive back Raymond Fite (12) picks off a Rio Americano pass that was returned for a touchdown in the Lancers

RANCHO CORDOVA, CA (MPG) – A two-point lead was something that the Cordova High School football team was looking to expand in the fourth quarter against Rio Americano in the season opener.

But the Raiders were the ones who came away with a 42-35 win over the Lancers at Del Campo High on Aug. 25th. The loss was tough for Cordova, which had a combined 488 total offensive yards against the Raiders’ defense.

Entering the final quarter, Cordova (0-1) led 27-25. But two interceptions by the Raiders’ defense led the way toward touchdowns. On top of that, two kickoffs were returned for touchdowns.

“What cost us the game was our lack of effort on the kickoffs,” said Cordova head coach Darren Nill. “Those are just back-breakers.”

That helped the Raiders score 17 points in the final eight minutes of the game to secure the victory. An 8-yard pass, plus the extra-point kick, gave Rio Americano a 32-27 lead. A rushing touchdown and two field goals cushioned the Raiders’ lead to 45-27.

The Lancers cut the lead toward the end of the quarter when quarterback Johnele Sanders threw a 75-yard pass. Cordova opted and converted on the 2-point conversion, but that was all of the Lancers’ scoring in the game.

In the first quarter, both teams scored a touchdown each, but failed on the extra-points, for a 6-6 score. Then in the second quarter, Sanders completed a 25-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Calvin Augusta. Add the extra-point, and the Lancers had their first lead of the season at 13-6.

After the Raiders scored to cut the lead to 13-12, the Lancers added a 5-yard touchdown run to increase their lead to 20-12. But Rio Americano returned the kickoff 100-yards to trim into the Lancers’ lead to 20-19, all in the second quarter.

“We’re making some personnel changes on our kickoff,” said Nill of the kickoff team that allowed the touchdown. “Trying to get some more hungry kids out there, some more physical kids, to stop that type of thing.”

Sanders hit Augusta again, this time on a 73-yard pass, midway through the third quarter to increase Cordova’s lead to 27-19.

The Lancers had four fumbles in the game, all in the first half. But lost the ball only once to the Raiders.

“I thought that Rio Americano came out and outplayed our guys in the first half,” Nill said.

Sanders completed 7-of-9 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown in the game. He also rushed 11 times for 102 yards and another touchdown. Raymond Fite had three receptions for 99 yards.

On defense, Augusta, from his defensive back spot, had 12 tackles and outside linebacker Yusef Pugh had nine.

Tonight, Friday, Cordova will play its first home game of the season at Lancers Stadium against Chavez. The Stockton school fell to Mountain House, 33-12, in the season opener on the Mustangs’ field last Friday. Game time for today’s game is 7:30 p.m. 

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Falcon Women Looking to Defend Big 8 Title

By Richardson, Ronald   |  2017-08-23

The Folsom Lake College women’s soccer team will open their fifth season on Friday night, August 25, at Cabrillo College in Aptos with hopes of continuing their phenomenal run of success.  Since their inaugural season in 2013, the Falcons have won four straight conference titles – three as members of the Bay Valley Conference and one (2016) as co-champions of the Big 8 Conference – and have qualified for the CCCAA state playoffs in each season.

The 2017 Falcons feature several returning starters from their 2016 team, including Big 8 all-conference 1st team forward Keionna Claypoole and all-region defender Megan Trent at center back. Other key returnees for the Falcons include forward Andrea Martinez (2015 Bay Valley Conference “Freshman of the Year”), midfielders Paige Verneuille and Britney Johnson, outside back Jimena Jovel (who sat out 2016 with an ACL tear), and forward Kaylin Johnson.

FLC head coach Donny Ribaudo is also excited about the crop of new players on his roster.  Freshman midfielder Riley Spitzer (Oakmont HS) and freshman forward Shayla Merene - who recently moved to Folsom with her family from Bowie, Maryland – are expected to provide valuable minutes for the Falcons.  Sophomore transfers Tiara Webb (forward, Univ of San Francisco) and Rachel Roberts (defender, San Diego Christian College) also look to have an impact. 

Coach Ribaudo predicts the Big 8 to be another dogfight for the title with Diablo Valley (2016 co-champions) and Santa Rosa (3rd place in 2016) leading the way.  The Falcons will open their home schedule on Friday, September 1 with an afternoon match against Solano College, their first of 11 home matches. 

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Women’s Tennis is Back

Source: Gold River Racquet Club  |  2017-06-28

Caitlin Whorisky and Ashley Weinhold team up against their competition. 
-- Photo courtesy of Gold River Racquest Club.

From July 23 to 30, some of the world’s top up-and-coming women tennis players will be playing in the FSP Gold River Women’s Challenger. This year, these women will be playing for $60,000 in prize money and be part of the US Open Wild Card Series.

For the fourth straight year, the tournament will be part of the US Open Wild Card Series. The top American female player with the best performance over the course of this series will receive a Wild Card entry to the main draw of the US Open in New York at the end of August worth $43,000 for the winner.

The $60,000 FSP Gold River Women’s Challenger will have a singles main draw of 32 players and doubles main draw of 16 teams. The main draw of the tournament begins Tuesday, July 25 and the final match of the tournament will be Sunday, July 30. The qualifying tournament begins Sunday, July 23.

These matches will be played throughout the day and early evening during the tournament. General admission is complimentary during qualifying events and main draw day sessions. Admission is $10 for Thursday to Sunday evening sessions. Tickets for these sessions are available at www.goldriverchallenger.com or at Gold River Racquet Club on match day. Gold River Racquet Club is located 2201 Gold River Drive, Gold River.

USTA Pro Circuit tournaments are a series of professional tournaments with prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 and WTA ranking points. The challenger level tournaments are just a notch below WTA events, very similar to Triple AAA baseball, like the Sacramento River Cats. Every year there are ladies from 10 to 12 different countries that will have a world ranking of 100 to 400.

For up to date information about or during the tournament, go to www.goldriverchallenger.com.

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Trio Looking to Make Impact in Cordova Football

By Mike Bush  |  2017-06-22

Kiran Pooni gets ready to catch the football during a workout at Lancers Stadium. The junior is one of two girls on the Cordova varsity football team, and three in the program. 
-- Photo by Mike Bush

On a warm afternoon earlier this month, the Cordova High School varsity and frosh/soph football teams descended onto the turf at Lancers Stadium.

After spending more than an hour pumping iron inside the school’s weight room, the players on both teams worked on drills in T-shirts and shorts participated in offensive drills that ranged from 7-on-7 to running plays. Among the players were three girls on both teams.

For the first time since Darren Nill became the Cordova varsity football coach in 2015, the Lancers have two girls on the varsity team and another on the frosh/soph team. Kiran Pooni and AJ Williams are vying for playing time on the varsity team and Yancy Alfaro on the frosh/soph team.

Pooni is already a proven student-athlete at Cordova. Last winter, the incoming junior started at midfielder on the Cordova varsity girls soccer team. She also played on the school’s junior varsity girls basketball team.

“Kiran came up to me during the (last) school year and said, ‘Coach, I’m really interested in playing football,’” said Nill of his conversation with Pooni. “She said she wants to do it. I asked around campus, and have been told she’s one of the best female athletes on campus. I felt pretty sure she knew what she was doing. She can handle herself.”

Pooni added, “I’ve always had an interest in it. I wanted to show people that just because you’re a girl don’t mean you can’t do things that guys can do.”

Williams and Alfaro came out when the Lancers started their practices earlier this month.

“I saw AJ the first week of practice,” said Nill of Williams, who will be a senior when the 2017-18 school year starts in early August. “She showed up and said she wanted to play.”

Williams, who will be a senior when the 2017-18 school year starts in early August, added, “He’s helped me step-by-step… he’s been very helpful.”

Pooni and Williams, along with Alfaro, worked out at wide receiver and defensive back in practices. Those are the spots that the trio would be listed when the season starts toward the end of August.

The male football players on both teams have embraced all three players, Nill notes. The girls are treated the same way as the boys.

“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” Nill said.

Williams added, “They’ve treated me like one of the team. They don’t even care that I’m a female.”

When practices first started earlier this month, Nill felt that the girls felt intimated. But they stood their grounds in practices and weight room.

“AJ, what I like about her, is her grit,” said Nill of Williams. “She came out and had some problems; running, health. I don’t think she was probably hydrated when she first came out. And I thought for sure after that first practice we’d never see her again. And she kept coming back out, and I applaud her for that.”

Williams added, “Football has been very good.”

Pooni admitted that she had limited confidence when practices first started. But as each days and time in the weight room and football field passes, she’s continued to build her self-esteem to a higher level.

In fact, the coaches Pooni has been working on punting and kicking for the Lancers. After all, she did a lot of kicking on the girls soccer team last winter.

“It’s much more intense,” said Pooni of football. “You have to have a lot more focus.”

Pooni and Williams, along with Alfaro, and Cordova open the season on Friday, Aug. 25th against Rio Americano at Del Campo’s field.

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The Face and Future of Area Rugby

Story and Photo by Shelly Lembke  |  2017-06-15

Nick Freitas collects forms from girls and boys from Williamson Elementary who are interested in signing up for the rugby program.

Nick Frietas is a coach, ambassador and all-round representative for area youth rugby. Freitas grew up near Auburn in Applegate. With a degree in fine arts, his wife, and fresh from the film industry, Freitas has returned to the area to spread his passion for rugby.

Artist and athlete, Freitas likes to stay creative and on the move. When it comes to unwinding, he still seems to stay in motion. “We love to go to the river, we like to hike, bike, swim, basically anything active. I also fancy myself and inventor and painter. Having a BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) I like to experience as many art forms as I can. Athletes can be artists and artists can be athletes. Unfortunately, often our society forces kids to choose one or the other, which I feel is doing us all a disservice.”

Employed by Rugby NorCal, Freitas is Youth Development Officer for Sacramento Valley and his days are full. “I'm either chasing down leads for schools, sports clubs, churches, after school programs, etc. to help implement offering flag rugby in their program. I also help start leagues like the one about to start here in Rancho Cordova. My goal is to get as many kids as possible to play the game at least once. Sometimes I refer to myself as the Jonny Appleseed of Rugby.”

While Freitas wants to bring the sport to the whole area, Rancho Cordova is Ground Central for the group’s development of youth rugby. “Short term goals are to get flag leagues up and running through schools, parks and after school clubs such as Boys and Girls Club and YMCA,” said Freitas. “We are also offering for the first time in many years, youth rugby teams in Rancho Cordova. We are very excited about this. We will be offering a summer flag league and in the fall and winter we will have teams that will compete in the Rugby NorCal tackle league. We will have an under 10, under 12 and Middle School teams for both boys and girls.”

Keenly aware of Rancho Cordova’s sports legacy, he sees rugby as complementary to other established sports. “I want to build on that sports legacy. I have seen the caliber of athletes in this city and I believe we would become the next hot spot for professional rugby players. Fifteen of USA Rugby’s players are from Northern California. The national talent development already has their eyes out here, we just need to show them Rancho Cordova athletes. I also believe that Rancho Cordova can be a shining example of how rugby can help build positive community focused on working together.”

Freitas sees major possibilities (including college scholarships) for Rancho Cordova and the Sacramento area. “Ideally I want to see a school league and a competitive club. If we are talking 10-year plan I would like to see a professional rugby team in Rancho Cordova, which could be closer than you would think. Absolutely! The city of Glendale, CO [built] one of the nicest rugby stadiums in the country and because of this Glendale is called “Rugby Town USA.” I believe Rancho Cordova could show them what a “rugby town” really looks like.”

Acres of land at the former Mather Air Base have been leased from the county to build a world class rugby complex, spotlighting Rancho Cordova and Sacramento County as a sports destination. “Yes, the rugby complex will be an amazing addition to the City,” commented Freitas. “A huge benefit will be it bringing in the international rugby matches. USA Rugby is scouting for a new home and we could be a viable option for them, which would have a massive impact on the economy of the City. The complex will also offer a premier training facility for rugby players and teams from around the state.”

In the meantime, Freitas has more pressing concerns. While the reception from local cities, especially Rancho Cordova, has been warm, he appeals to teachers, students, parents and officials to get involved. A home field for kids is what he needs most. “Don’t worry we'll train you. But most of all right now we would love a little land. While the complex is being built, I’m trying to get a bit of land to set up an after-school rugby facility. This would be a place for kids of all ages to come after school, play, practice rugby, eat some healthy food and get assistance with homework. So. my call would go out to anyone who might have some land so we can build our little field of dreams for the kids.”

Fast paced, fun, and inclusive, rugby stresses safety, camaraderie, respect and teamwork, with studies showing far fewer injuries than “mainstream” sports, points out Freitas. For more information see www.rugbynorcal.org and www.lancerrugbyclub.org.

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Rancho Cordovan Named Flag Football Hall of Famer

By Shelly Lembke  |  2017-06-08

Willie Sloan poses with his well-earned awards from his team. “Gridiron Gamers based out of North Sacramento. The team I played on is a top level competitive local, and travel team,” says Sloan. We have played as far down south as San Diego, to as far as up north as Tacoma, WA, in various 8 men full contact flag football tournaments.”
-- Photo courtesy Willie Sloan

Willie Sloan first came to Rancho Cordova in the 1980s. Ever since then he has continued to be a presence in the sports circles of the City. After his mother read media accounts, the family purposefully moved to Rancho Cordova during the Cordova High football program’s powerhouse days, specifically so Sloan could play here. Although it’s been decades since Sloan played football at Cordova High School, he has remained an active and avid player, including making the switch from full contact to flag football. That dedication to the sport recently resulted in Sloan earning an inaugural place in the Central Valley Flag Football Hall of Fame. Sloan graciously gave the following in a recent interview.

Q: Please tell me about yourself. How did you come to Rancho Cordova, how are you still involved?

A: I came to the City of Rancho Cordova from New Jersey in 1982 via my father retiring from the Air Force. I also, still currently reside within the City of Rancho Cordova. I am involved in a few little things at the moment within the community of Cordova Villa, but I am always open and looking to be more involved within the community and/or City of Rancho Cordova. I am currently one of the organizers for what we call the “Villa Reunion.” The Villa Reunion is a group of us from my old neighborhood who decided last year, that it would be nice for our community to organize, and try to bring the community together once on year (1st weekend in June) for a community reunion and barbeque picnic. This year, after a successful year last year, will be our second year.

Q: How did you become involved in sports here and what was the experience like for you?

A: I became involved in the sports in the City of Rancho Cordova by way of attending Cordova High School in the Mid 80’s (1985). However, even before then I have always been involved in sports in general since I was a little kid. The experience of sports however, was nothing like I have ever experienced before my arrival to the City of Ranch Cordova. The City of Rancho Cordova, just carries so much weight, legacy, tradition, city and community love and support that even [to] this day, I have yet to see being matched.

Q: What lessons from sports did you take with you into your adult life and everyday world?

A: The biggest thing the I took from being involved in organized sports the is the ability to “want to work with others” if you want to be more successful, and the willingness to be accountable/responsible for your part. In my adult life, that has since translated into being more of people person, not being afraid to ask for help if I ran into a challenge I know I could not achieve on my own, and being accountable, taking personal responsibility and knowing thing will always work out in the end.

Q: What do you think about youth and adult sports available in the area?

A: Youth and Adult sports in the City of Rancho Cordova, as well as any other city if very important. It not only promotes the idea and development of how to work with each other on the youth level, but it also provides comradery on the adult level.

Q: Who should be involved and why?

A: I feel as many people should be involved if they love the sports scene. I just turned 50, and I’m still looking for sports activity to play since my retirement from flag football. I think sports are good connection barrier for people ranging from all ages. Youth to adults and even seniors. The personal and live interaction can do wonders for those who aren’t really into the whole social (media) scene.

Q: What additional things would you like our readers to know about you?

A: I love spending time with family and friends. Lifelong friendships are important to me, so I tend to hold them close, as well as my family. I love laughing and acting goofy when I’m with my fiancé, the times we spend together are special. I come from a family of 5 women, and I’m the youngest and only boy, so I’m very spoiled. I’ve been playing full contact flag football for over 20 years. Since being inducted into the CVFA Flag Football Hall of Fame June 2016, I have since announced my retirement. However, I am always looking for a way to get back out there…”

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