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Colusa High thriving under second-year coach Theriault
The first season in the Paul Theriault era of Colusa High football was an unequivocal success as the RedHawks' new coach brought with him an exciting offense and rejuvenated a struggling program.
Colusa went 1-19 in the two years before Theriault arrived, but he led the RedHawks to a 5-6 season and a playoff berth, where they lost to Modoc in the first round, 48-22.
Entering his second year at the helm, he faces new challenges after losing all but seven players from last year's squad.
Starting quarterback Kyle Cervantes and the team's top two rushers, Andrew Rodriguez (1,848 yards, 21 touchdowns) and Connor Herrick (1,023, 10), graduated but Theriault doesn't expect the team to miss a beat.
"I feel like we're quite a bit better at this stage in the season than we were last year," Theriault said.
Five of the returning seniors started for the RedHawks and one of the non-starters, quarterback Jose Santana, spent almost an entire year preparing to take over behind center.
Santana started one game last year when Cervantes sat out with an injury. He went 5 for 8 with 137 yards, a touchdown and an interception during the RedHawks' 45-13 victory over Maxwell, and he also rushed for a touchdown.
"He is a pretty committed kid. During the summer, he was throwing two or three times a week with me," Theriault said.
Starting in October 2012, Santana arrived at school early and threw to some of the players who will play key roles this year. Tight end R.J. Phillips and running backs Ryan Abele and Estevan Frias joined Santana in the early-morning throwing sessions.
"I'm completely dedicated to the team. Everybody is enthusiastic about the season and we want to win," Santana said.
Only one starter, Fernando Amador, returns on the offensive line, but several juniors are quickly acclimating to the system, including Santana's younger brother Rigo Santana who will start at center.
"We've yet to practice at home, but we're getting closer as brothers," Santana said.
Jonathan Cervantes, Cesar Buenrostro, Tanner Ruggieri, Ryan Manning, B.J. Windsor, Josh Byrd and Jon Lugo are competing for places on the line, which will be smaller and more athletic than last season, Theriault said.
Theriault's modified wing-T offense will have several players stepping into new roles or moving up from the junior varsity team. Frias started at wide receiver last year and will join Abele as the primary running backs, and juniors Alex Belmontes and John Barron will contribute at fullback.
Abele, who finished fourth in the Northern Section in the 100 meters at the track and field finals in May, rushed for 811 yards and seven touchdowns on just 78 carries last year.
"We have a skilled group coming up and they're definitely putting in the same amount of work," Abele said. "It makes everyone compete for their position and the competition makes us better."
New defensive coordinator Lane Davis is tasked with shoring up the one glaring weakness the team had last season — the RedHawks allowed more than 35 points a game. Davis brings in a 3-5-3 defense which will take advantage of the team's speed.
"Our defense is a lot better this summer — definitely a marked improvement," Theriault said. "We have a lot of experience on our coaching staff."
Abele, Phillips, Frias, Jordan Wilson, Belmontes, Rigo Santana and Barron make up the linebacking corps in Davis' defense.
The team's defensive struggles in the second half of games have been a motivating factor for the RedHawks during practices, Frias said.
"We've been working to finish the game and not give up," Frias said. "In the long term hopefully that will turn into a section championship."
CONTACT Kirk Barron at 458-2121 or email@example.com