Bold move for Fresno Unified in football: No offseason full contact

Bullard’s head coach Donnie Arax, center, greets the Central High coaching staff midfield after a scrimmage game against Central High at Central High on Friday night, August 17, 2012, in Fresno. (ERIC PAUL ZAMORA/THE FRESNO BEE)

In the most progressive move yet in the north Valley to reduce football injuries — specifically concussions — the Fresno Unified School District on Tuesday adopted a policy to prohibit full contact in the offseason.

That means no tackle in pads will be allowed outside of August, when practice begins, through the teams’ final games of the season, in November or December.

Offseason tackle in gear is commonplace at the high school level in summer camps and scrimmages.

“It’s tough for me to make this concession because I’m a dinosaur, we hit more than any team in the area and I’m going to miss it,” Bullard coach Donnie Arax says. “But I think it’s a smart move because this concussion issue isn’t going away. This is a great sport and we’ve got to establish measures to keep it so we don’t start losing kids. Parents in suburban schools are not going to let their kids play football if we don’t make changes.” Read more →

Application process closes for Reedley football; Mendota’s Mejia in the mix

The application process closed Friday for the football coaching vacancy at Reedley High, where Myles Bacon resigned a couple weeks ago.

Dan Ascanio, the North Yosemite League school’s athletic director, says candidates will be interviewed next week, with the hiring announced a week later.

An intriguing consideration: Beto Mejia of Mendota, who confirmed he’s been contacted by Reedley’s administration.

Mejia is an ideal fit for the Pirates, but this promises to be a difficult call for him, should he be offered the job. Mejia has gone 21-3 with two Central Section Division VI titles in his only two years with the Aztecs after going 29-1 with their junior varsity.

And he’ll be loaded next season with an experienced, accomplished cast, featuring two-time Bee All-Star running back Edgar Segura. He’s primed for a 3,000-yard, 50-TD season, Mejia says, and just last week participated in the U.S. Army Combine with 500 of the nation’s top juniors in San Antonio, Texas.

Bacon, a Reedley graduate, went 11-20 in three seasons, including a 2-8 mark last year. He was not forced out, Ascanio said, adding that Bacon will remain at the school as a teacher.

Easily forgotten: The day Clovis West conquered mighty De La Salle in football

Clovis West’s Ryan Oustad eludes the Clovis East defense during the 2004 Central Section playoffs. (Photo by Eric Paul Zamora/The Fresno Bee)

Among all the gaudy numbers associated with Bob Ladouceur, the legendary De La Salle-Concord football coach who announced his retirement today, are his 236 consecutive wins against Northern California competition since 1991.

Rarely mentioned is this one: Clovis West 30, De La Salle 12 — at Concord, no less — on Sept. 11, 2004.

Clovis West, of course, is a member of the Central Section. And the Central Section, of course, is affiliated with “Southern California” in only one regard — state playoffs.

We all know Fresno, Clovis, the Central Valley — all are truly part of NorCal.

And, fact is, the Central Section belongs in NorCal, also. It isn’t in large part because NorCal high school administrators won’t vote it in, thereby conveniently avoiding Central Section competition and state playoff positions the existing NorCal schools would expect to lose.

But not to be forgotten — though it so often is — Clovis West 30, De La Salle 12 behind coach Jim Hartigan, quarterback J.J. Jelmini, a Golden Eagles defense that pilfered five turnovers and Ryan Oustad, who returned the second-half kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown.

De La Salle had defeated 149 straight California foes and won 86 consecutive home games entering that Saturday contest.

Ladouceur, the most successful prep football coach in U.S. history, steps down with a 34-year record of 399-25-3 — a national-best .938 winning percentage.

Games notes for Clovis North vs. Long Beach Poly

Notes/thoughts from tonight’s CIF State South Regional matching Clovis North (12-1) and Long Beach Poly (11-3) at Long Beach City College’s Veterans Memorial Stadium:

** This 64-year facility accommodates 11,600 fans and has a combination of aluminum bleachers and fixed chairbacks only on its west side. Clovis North fans are sitting to the north; Poly’s to the south.

** Love to know when the last time Poly and it’s 96-year program — with a state second-best 720 wins all time — has lost twice to Central Section teams in the same season. The Jackrabbits were beaten 29-6 here by Bakersfield Sept. 14. They’re 10-0 since.

** Last week, Poly defeated Mater Dei-Santa Ana 35-17 for the Southern Section’s coveted Pac-5 Division title. Mater Dei’s Chase Forrest passed for 316 yards. He’s the latest in a long line of Monarchs quarterbacks, including Matt Barkley and Matt Leinart. But, in talking to a few people who have seen both Forrest and Clovis North’s Christian Rossi, they say Rossi is clearly a cut above.

** Rossi has been exceptional both in accuracy, decision making and elusiveness while passing for 2,487 yards and 26 touchdowns with seven interceptions and a 63.5 completion percentage.
“He somehow prolongs plays by running around,” Poly coach Raul Lara says. “You can’t bring him down. Obviously, we’re a little concerned.”

** Clovis North senior wide receiver Marcus Rose (31 receptions, 616 yards, 5 TDs) has never been better than last week, when he caught six passes for 105 yards and a TD in the Broncos’ 27-10 win over Central for the section D-I championship. That was a highly acclaimed Grizzlies secondary he burned. And he’ll encounter another tonight.

Christian Rossi story: not an easy one to tackle

Generally, profiling the local football star is a simple, enjoyable, positive process for all — from reporter, to athlete, to parents, to school and community.

But there are exceptions.

Let’s examine today’s story in The Bee about Clovis North quarterback Christian Rossi.

I’ve long known about prominent Central Section athletes whose parents had them repeat grades before high school — a practice effectively used as youth sports “redshirting” with the motive of growing stronger, playing better and, ultimately, landing a college scholarship.

I’ve published two indepth investigations on this in the past, one about 5 years ago and the other about 20 years previous.

Rarely have parents said their decisions were athletically motivated, typically pointing instead to the immaturity or young ages (or both) of their children.

This was also the explanation used by Rick Rossi, Christian’s father.

I’ve been told in the past couple years that there were several Clovis North athletes who had been held back. I did not know until this week that Rossi was one of them.

And that, consequently, led to interviews that, while going well, were a bit strained.

It’s a sensitive issue. But when a family chooses this route — particularly involving a high-profile, achieving athlete at a high-performing, achieving school — they’ve got to know there will be consequences. And that includes publicity.

Christian Rossi has proven — especially as a 17-year-old baseball player competing mostly against opposition his age or older last spring — that he really didn’t need the bonus year to succeed in athletics.

That said, there is no doubt his increased maturity level, awareness and calmness — especially on the football field this fall — has benefited.

Tonight will present perhaps his greatest challenge to date — the section’s Division I championship in wet conditions at Veterans Memorial Stadium against Central, which will be breathing fire after losing 50-7 to Clovis North six weeks ago.