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CHS football has work ahead this season

Win or lose, Friday night was bound to be big for Cole Weaver. The Claremont High School senior had ascended to starting quarterback following the departure of Reggie Retzlaff, who decamped to be a third string QB for Corona’s Centennial High. So after preparing all summer, Weaver had to face Claremont’s rival Damien in his, and the Pack’s, football season opener.

It did not go very well. The Spartans were unstoppable, scoring 35 points in the first half on their way to a decisive 42-7 victory.

However, Weaver showed some serious potential by thinking on his feet and demonstrating admirable discipline. 

Claremont has a young team, with 26 members of last year’s squad having graduated in June. Unfortunately, some of that inexperience manifested itself in injuries Friday night, which is the last thing the Pack needs while looking to develop the program.

To be fair, Damien has a very talented team, led by running back Jermaine Barner, who had 16 carries for 247 yards and two touchdowns. The Spartan’s quarterback, Jordan Barton, had seven completions, for 111 yards and one touchdown.

Coming out of the gate, Claremont showed some potential and was only down 7-0 when Barner made his first TD, a 50-yard sprint with 22 seconds left in the first quarter. But Damien tacked on 21 more points in the second quarter, taking the wind out of Claremont’s sails.

Claremont’s lone scoring drive came in the third quarter. Damien was on Claremont’s two-yard line, but got called for two personal fouls—one after the whistle—which brought up 2nd and 30. Claremont’s Bradan Pichay snagged an interception and Claremont went into action. Next up, Isaiah Love rushed for 50 yards, taking the Pack deep into Spartan territory. Weaver rushed the ball for a crucial first down, which brought Claremont to the 11-yard line. He then passed to Love, who made a clean catch in the end zone.

If the Pack can play like that as the season progresses, they will be very competitive, but as if to put a nail in this rivalry’s coffin, Barner returned Claremont’s kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown, the final points of the game.

Coach Shane Hile, who is in his second year leading the Wolfpack, saw Friday’s game as an opportunity for some pretty green players to gain much-needed field time.

“We are an extremely young team, so for a lot of these kids it’s a learning experience. It’s their first varsity game. It was their very first Friday night under the lights. So just gaining that experience will help them out a lot,” he said.

Asked about the contrast between the game overall and the Pack’s lone drive for the goal he was fairly blunt.

“The execution was there [during that drive],” he said. “That is the whole object of this game, to sustain that execution through 48 minutes of a football game and obviously we did not do that full 48 minutes. But there were glimpses, from a very young football team.”        

Coach Hile admits that it will be a tough season with then newly rearranged Palomares League. “It’s a tough league no doubt about it. They brought in Colony and Alta Loma, which are good football teams.”

As the team improves he will be relying on Weaver to guide that progress.

“Cole is doing a great job for us. He is really working hard and is being a leader for the football team. He may be inexperienced in the quarterback position but he is only going to get better. He is doing everything we could ask.”

Tuesday was an unusually mild late-August afternoon as the team ran drills at CHS with Coach Hile watching from the sidelines.

“We have a lot of kids who play both sides of the ball so we put a heavy emphasis on conditioning,” he said. “We also need to work on tackling. It was not where it needed to be [Friday] so I will be putting a heavy emphasis on that this week.”

Next up is a home game Friday night against Diamond Bar, one of the two teams, along with South Hills, that left the Palomares League.

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com