By Minter McHugh
After a heartbreaking loss in the championship game last year to Bakersfield College, the City College Rams football team is gearing up for a new season with hopes, goals and expectations all in search of another title.
The Rams have won the national championship nine times, and are bringing back quarterback Turner Baty, who was part of the 2011 championship team.
Losing in the championship game was certainly a devastating blow to the Rams last season, but coming up short is not a trait of Baty’s. When the stakes were highest, Baty elevated his game.
Baty threw eight touchdowns in the 2011 playoff game against Fresno City College, and threw five against Mt. San Antonio College in the Championship game.
Bringing in Baty – who left City College after his championship season to accept a scholarship from the University of Kansas – is a big boost for the Rams. Baty has one year of eligibility left.
“It feels good to be back, for me its a second chance to make a dream into a reality,” Baty said.
Head coach George Rush is excited for Baty’s return and hopes he will provide leadership early in the offseason.
“I’ve always been a big Turner [Baty] fan,” Rush said. “He’s a proven quantity and you know what you’re getting.”
Like Baty after his freshman season with the Rams, every sophomore scholarship received last season was a Division I scholarship.
“The top 5 guys are all gone,” offensive coordinator Dan Hayes said.
City will have a lot of fresh faces in the lineup with most of last season’s pivotal players leaving for Division I schools.
The upcoming season will feature 45 freshman coming in from high school, but Rush is optimistic about the incoming players.
“This is probably the best freshman class we’ve recruited from top to bottom since probably 2000,” Rush said.
Baty realizes that though he will be playing with brand new players, they still share the same purpose on the field.
“We may be young but we all have a common goal in mind and will do whatever it takes to win another national championship.” Baty said.
With the new faces coming in, the few returning players will have an advantage on the depth chart before summer practice sessions begin.
Center Chris Carter and tight end David Hedlin will be the only players returning who have played a vital role in the Rams offense. Wide Receiver Zac Schuller hopes to get the nod after not getting much playing time last season.
Hays said the team isn’t looking to make any changes to the style of offense from last season, but they will be looking to adjust the speed in which the team operates.
Rush is counting on defensive ends David Tameilau and Dan Filimona to provide experience from starting last season, while defensive end Tavita Faaiu—who redshirted last season—will get his chance to play.
Linebacker James Hickmon will return for his sophomore year and linebacker Nick Holt will get to play for Rush after transferring from the University of Montana.
Rush likes the situation at the defensive back position due to the past play of returning sophomore Maurice Cannon.
“Maurice Cannon has a chance of a really good sophomore year,” Rush said.
Cannon does not believe he will do anything different from last season.
“I just try to work hard and get better everyday,” Cannon said.
Rush believes that the accreditation issue at City it isn’t affecting his recruiting and praises his coaching staff for the job they have done in selling the program to incoming students.
Though it is too early to tell who is going to sit and start, the Rams will have their training camps during the summer to begin their position battles.
“Its something that’s just going to have to play out during the summer and the fall camps,” Hayes said. “It’s just going to be a lot of competition, at every single spot.”
With practice already underway, Rush likes his team’s chances at becoming the No. 1 ranked team going into the upcoming season.
“I like our chances,” Rush said. “You know what they say, everybody is good on May 1st.”