Fresno City College
|Head Coach: Tony Caviglia
(3rd Season, 19-3)
2000 Record: 10-1 (5-0 in Valley Conference)
2000 Bowl Game: Lost to City College of San Francisco in Hawaiian Punch Bowl (Nor-Cal Championship Game), 41-7.
Tony Caviglia knows how to win at the junior college lever. This much can be said without much disagreement. Prior to his arrival in Fresno, Caviglia built Chabot College in to one of the Bay area's most successful programs, accumulating a 22-10 record in three seasons. In 1997, Caviglia's Gladiators only lost to CCSF by three points, by far the closest anyone had played the CCSF Rams all regular season.
In the early 1990s, Fresno City was a strong program under head coach John Volek. However, following Volek's departure to become the head coach at Sacramento State University, the Fresno City program hit some rough waters. In 1998, the season before Caviglia's arrival, the Rams went 4-6 with a freshman tailback named Maurice Morris carrying the offense on his back. It didn't take long for Caviglia to get the program back on track, posting a 9-2 record in 1999, including a 4-1 mark in the Valley Conference, good enough for second place.
Despite the team's success in 2000, finishing the regular season unscathed, Caviglia and his staff believes that the 2001 Fresno City Rams will be their best team yet. The Rams are absolutely loaded with talent and could be the team that pushes CCSF for the Northern California Championship. The 2000 season is an ancient memory for these Rams, and they're ready to come storming into the 2001 season.
The coaches on the offensive side of the ball don't try to hide their excitement with the group that they have to work with. They have a good blend of talent and experience and will be ready to roll in 2001.
Their strength starts in the offensive backfield, where the Rams have a pair of running backs that will give a lot of teams headaches. Rodney Davis (5-11, 215, Dos Palos H.S.) and Pete Hingano (6-0, 230, Sanger H.S.) are both strong, powerful backs with great speed to boot. Davis was slated to be a featured back in 2000. As a senior a Dos Palos High School in 1999, Davis ran for 1,807 yards and 37 touchdowns. In his first game for the Rams in 2000, he ran for 146 yards on only 13 carries, showing what he was capable of. However, an early ankle injury forced Davis to sit out much of the season. He should be back on track in 2001. Caviglia described Pete Hingano as "our best football player." The big Tongan has 4.5-forty speed at his size. The Rams' backfield will give opponents nightmares in 2001.
As if the backfield wasn't strong enough, the offensive line that they will be running behind appears to be very strong as well. Leading the group is returning center Justin "Jumbo" Bridger (6-3, 290, Clovis H.S.). Bridger is a career center who started there for the Rams as a freshman. Caviglia described him as "intelligent," in addition to being strong and physical. Joining Brideger up front is fellow sophomore James Martin (6-5, 310, Clovis West H.S.). Martin started at quick tackle for the Rams as a freshman and will remain there in 2001. He has great feet and can pass protect very well. The Rams have several other sophomores that will compete for spots along the O-Line along with the incoming freshmen.
Tight end Aaron Austin (6-5, 255, Dos Palos H.S.) will be an outstanding sixth offensive lineman, in addition to being a great receiver. Austin is expected to be among the top tight ends in the state in 2001. He is being recruited by numerous universities for his combination of size and athleticism. He runs very well and has great hands. Basically, he has everything you would want in a tight end.
At receiver. the Rams welcome a a group that will make a huge impact in 2001. Maurice Washington (6-3, 200, McClymonds H.S., Oakland, CA) came to the Rams from Fresno State University. He has legitimate 4.4-forty speed and according to Coach Caviglia is "the real deal." He did well for the Rams as a freshman in 2000 and should do great in 2001 with the Rams new quarterback (more on that in a moment). Joining Washington will be sophomore Lamonte Jones (6-0, 185, Fresno H.S.), who was a non-starter last season but will start this coming season. Also likely in the mix will be University of Nevada bounce back Willie Johnson.
So with all of this talent, who will be leading the troops at quarterback? Although we don't make a habit of discussing freshmen before they play at the collegiate level, remember the name of Mark Heatherington (6-3, 210, Buchanan H.S., Fresno). The big, strong armed freshman had an outstanding career at Buchanan and the early word is that he could break a number of records at Fresno City before his career is complete (interestingly, many of the FCC passing records are held by new Monterey Peninsula head coach Mike Rasmussen). His is definitely a name to remember for the next two seasons.
The defensive side of the ball is equally talented and experienced, if not more so than the offense.
The Rams' defensive lines is expected to be one of the best in the state as they welcome back two starters, an talented back-up, and a Division I bounce back. Rocky Faga (6-3, 320, Kaimuki, Hawaii) and Justin Bradshaw (6-0, 270, Clovis H.S.) both return after outstanding freshman seasons. Faga plays nose guard for the Rams and did very well at that spot last season. In addition to possessing a huge frame, Faga also moves very well. In high school, he was voted Hawaii's Defensive Player of the Year. Bradshaw played a three technique for the Rams and was very effective. He is very strong and moves well. Ulu Faumuina (6-3, 275, Kaimuki, Hawaii), a high school teammate of Faga, played some in 2000 and is expected to play more in 2001.
The D-Line got a huge boost when the Rams learned that defensive end Kealohamakua "Loa" Emmsley (6-4, 290, Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii) would be bouncing back to the Rams from the University of Hawaii. Emmsley had to leave UH for a variety of personal reasons, but he is ready to get back into football. He will play one season for the Rams before returning to the university level. He has a great motor coming off the edge and will create a lot of problems for teams this fall.
The Rams' linebackers are very talented and experienced as well. Leading the group is sophomore Max Steward (6-3, 215, Redwood H.S., Visalia). Steward is the Rams' defensive leader, making the adjustment calls on the field. He runs very well and can hit like a truck. The University of Nebraska has already taken a liking to Steward and will likely recruit him this season. Joining Steward are fellow sophomores Eric Elbert (6-3, 225, Clovis West H.S.), a converted quarterback and Brandon Wheeler (6-3, 220, Edison H.S.), who sat out the 2000 season for personal reasons.
In the secondary, the Rams have a pair of outstanding cornerbacks in LaVance Ray (6-0, 180, Clovis H.S.) and Danny Jones (6-0, 190, Edison H.S.). Ray was an eleven game starter in 2000 for the Rams and is a player that Coach Caviglia calls "legit." He has outstanding speed to compliment his great frame. Jones was a Prop 48 at Fresno State before playing for Merced College in 2000. Jones is expected to start. Cameron Worrell (6-0, 200, Chowchilla H.S.) was also a starter a year ago and will likely start at one of the safety positions.
The Rams are loaded with talent in a conference that will be extremely competitive in 2001. Will the Rams be able to put up another 9-1 or 10-0 regular season? It will be tough with their schedule, but I believe they have the talent to do so. Fresno has traditionally been known as a "running team," but don't be surprised to see the Rams known for their passing game in 2001. I expect the Rams to make a serious push at returning to the NorCal Championship game. We will get an idea of what the Rams are capable of when they scrimmage Southern California power Allan Hancock to start the season.