It will be a reunion of sorts when Ridgeview hosts Frontier on Friday night.
First-year Wolf Pack coach Rich Cornford was the Titans’ head football coach for nine seasons before taking a position as frosh/soph coach at Ridgeview prior to the 2017 season.
Third-year Frontier coach Chris Bandy was the offensive coordinator for Cornford for three seasons at West, and spent eight seasons in the same capacity at Ridgeview under current Wolf Pack defensive coordinator Dennis Manning.
“I still live like a half-mile from Frontier, and I can hear (Frontier public-address announcer) Tom Myers on the loudspeaker Thursday during the freshman games, so it has some significance for sure,” Cornford said. “All three of my kids graduated from (Frontier), it’s a great school. Chris is a really good friend of mine, and I definitely respect him as a coach.
“When he was looking into the job he asked me about it. I told him what I felt were the positives and negatives of the place. They have some good young kids over there and they’re bringing that program back.”
Bandy downplayed the personal significance of coaching against his friends and former coaching partners, but not the game’s importance.
“I think the first year when I coached against (Ridgeview) it had a little bit of a special deal, but because it’s a non-league game we’re all just trying to get better every week, and just kind of approach it as a preseason game and seeing what we’ve got and what we’re made of,” Bandy said.
“I like playing Ridgeview because it’s always a good test on how we match up with speed. And before we get to league we have to find out where are weaknesses are matching up, and finding guys that can cover guys, and guys that can run down guys that can really scoot. So it’s a good test for us to see where we’re at this early preseason part of the year.”
On the heels of a 21-13 loss to Liberty last week, Cornford says he learned plenty about his Wolf Pack squad.
“I think it’s important that you test your resolve here and you find out how your team is going to respond to that,” said Cornford, whose team trailed 21-0 midway through the second quarter to the Patriots. “Obviously, we were down early in that game, but our kids really fought back and fought back hard.
“So I feel like some of the questions about our endurance and our resolve has been answered, that hey, we’re going to be able to battle every team for four quarters. So that’s nice to know. Now the question is, hey, can we get off to a better start. Because of these first two weeks (including a 44-21 victory over Stockdale in Week 1) we’ve struggled a little bit in the first quarter.”
Frontier struggled in a season-opening 38-13 loss to state-power Ventura-St. Bonaventure, but overcame the loss of starting quarterback Travis Plugge in Week 2 to defeat Paso Robles 20-10.
“Our defense played really well,” Bandy said. “Our linebackers and D-line have been exceptional so far this year. Offensively, we had some miscues. I think we fumbled twice on the first six offensive plays, and gave it away so we didn’t get off to a great start. But we felt like we settled down a little bit in the second half and got some things going, late in the first half, early in the second half.”
That’s when Plugge suffered a fractured wrist, trying to brace his fall early in the second half against Paso Robles. He’s expected to miss at least four to six weeks, according to Bandy.
Senior Isreal Chaverria, who started the final three games for the Titans last season, finished off the victory and will get the start this week.
“This week we’ve really focused on simplifying some things and making sure we take care of the ball better,” Bandy said. “That’s rule No. 1 and it’s all about the ball. And also creating turnovers on defense. We’re playing well, but we haven’t got many turnovers, so we’re working on that.
“Although we’re going to lose our quarterback for an extended period of time with a fractured wrist. But our back-up quarterback is great. He played a lot last year so I’m not too concerned about that. We just have to clean up the mistakes.”
SO MUCH FOR GROWING PAINS
With the graduation of Tyreak Walker and Yoncanni Sandoval, who combined for more than 3,500 yards 50 touchdowns last season, Kennedy coach Mario Millan didn’t think this year’s team would be as explosive this year.
But two weeks into the 2019 season, the Thunderbirds (2-0) have outscored their opponents 118-6, more than last year’s team which had a 110-14 differential in the first two weeks en route to capturing the Division V championship.
“The first two games have been a real pleasant surprise for us considering we lost almost the entire offensive unit,” Millan said. “We thought on offense we’d be a grind-it-out, a-couple-yards-at-a-time kind of team. But all these guys, and some of these pieces that were not around last year, have really stepped up their game.”
Senior Francisco Medina, who rushed for 568 yards and three TDs last year, has already rushed for 343 yards and three scores in just two games.
Kennedy faces its toughest test of its early season Friday when the Thunderbirds host Highland (2-0), which held off Shafter last week for a 21-16 victory.
“We’re 2-0, they’re 2-0,” Millan said. “They’re a very good team. They play fast and they’re well-coached. They’re no-huddle and they make adjustments on the fly. So this is going to definitely gonna be a real test for us it terms of just our maturity because a lot of our guys didn’t see time last year, on the field. Now they’re being faced with their first really up-tempo, flying-at-you kind of team. And we’ll see who can take their punches and not fold.”
It also figures to be a test for the Scots.
“We know Kennedy has obviously been a good program the past five or six years,” Highland coach Michael Gutierrez said. “They have a lot of momentum going as far as scoring lots of points, so we’re excited for the challenge. Our kids are getting ready to play and they’re excited to go up there and have tough competition to see where we are.”