By Patrick Cochran
After finishing the 2013 football season 8-3, the City College Rams are working harder than ever to complete the 2014 season undefeated and add another state championship to head coach George Rush’s resume.
The Rams began weightlifting as team in mid-January, and by early March, the team had hit the field.
There are a plethora of questions about this squad, beginning with who will replace star quarterback Turner Baty.
Baty had a great 2013 season, throwing for 3,120 yards and 30 touchdowns. He will continue his college career at UC Davis, and the Rams need somebody to step up and fill the important position.
The top two competitors for the quarterback position are sophomore Anthony Rodriguez, a tall, lean, sophomore quarterback from Stockton, and redshirt freshman Jeremiah Peralta, a local player from San Bruno.
Rodriguez has the lead right now due to his experience, and head coach George Rush was impressed by Rodriguez’s skills and intangibles.
“Anthony has great pocket presence,” Rush said. “He is a very intelligent player and is able to handle the pressure in the pocket.”
Whoever coach Rush ends up deciding to start at quarterback, he wants to make that decision by the beginning of fall training camp so the team has time to adjust to the new starter.
Despite the competition between the two for the all-important job, Rodriguez and Peralta are close.
“We are like dance partners,” Peralta said.
“We are friends on and off the field,” he said.
During the Rams’ May 2 practice, both quarterbacks were working while the team practiced plays.
Rodriguez had one pass in particular that was very impressive.
With the defense rushing toward him, Rodriguez dropped back in the pocket and without his feet set, winged a pass 40 yards downfield to wide receiver Matt Hughson that landed right in his hands while he was in mid-stride.
The Rams will need plays like that if they want to be undefeated.
“A bowl game isn’t enough for City College,” Rodriguez said.
Rams offensive coordinator Dan Hayes, who also serves as City College’s athletic department chair, said the team is bringing in many good players.
“There are a bunch of players we are excited about,” Hayes said. “We bring in some of the best players in the city and the Bay Area.”
Hayes doesn’t believe City College’s accreditation problems are affecting the caliber of player the program is attracting.
“When players come here, they come because they believe in our football program, and our great history,” Hayes said. “Even though the (accreditation) process is negative we make sure when we meet concerned student athletes and their families, (we) let them know we are confident that we will beat this and get this accreditation.”
The best returning player on the defensive side of the ball is safety Shalom Luani. As a freshman last season, Luani made numerous big plays on the field, both in coverage and in the backfield.
He’s type of player who can record a defensive touchdown, interception and sack all in the same game, Luani will most likely end up playing Division I football.
“We are working so hard this spring. Winning the state championship is our main goal, and to do that we have been working hard to make improvements,” Luani said. “On both offense and defense, we are adding some new stuff, others just different looks. This season we just have do it right this time.”
The Rams know a bowl game will not serve as a fitting finale for the upcoming season. A state championship and quite possibly the National Junior College Championship are the team’s only goals.
If they want to do that, they will most likely need to go undefeated during the 2014 season, and to be undefeated they need to work as hard as possible today.
“You play to win, don’t play to come in second place,” Rush said. “Doesn’t mean you don’t have a great experience, but you play to win.”