The last two years for Jerald Pierucci were not ideal, but they did clear the way for the 1994 Shafter graduate to return to his alma mater.

After a year away from coaching high school football while an assistant at Bakersfield College, Pierucci is back home and ready to get the Generals back on track.

“Shafter is one of those places that likes their home-grown people,” Pierucci said. “They like seeing their guys come back. Look at our past coaches; they have almost all been Shafter grads. The city is really rallying around. There is a buzz and itching for something special.”

After Shafter’s 3-7 season in 2015, Pierucci understands the need to win now. But there is also going to be a learning curve.

The Generals’ offense will be led by an experienced line and returns starting running back Nick Perez. Shafter will usher in a new quarterback in sophomore Alex Aguilar.

“He’s got a really nice arm,” Pierucci said. “He has all the tools to be a really good quarterback.”

Pierucci quickly realized that despite the down season a year ago, his team has a desire to return to winning ways.

“They are hungry. I don’t know how to explain it,” Pierucci said. “It’s the hunger to win and do well because they have been grinding. We are really learning to be ourselves. We are learning to be champions and doing the little things.”

Without dominating size at any position on the field, Shafter will need to play as a whole and get maximum effort to have a successful season. But that all seems all right to Perez.

“We are not as big as some other teams in the league,” Perez said. “But if we come together and do everything we are told to do and everyone does their jobs, there is no reason why we can’t exceed everyone’s expectations. We have really high expectations for ourselves.”

Shafter

2015 at a glance

3-7, 1-5 SSL

League titles: 22

Section titles: 2

Coaching staff

Head coach: Jerald Pierucci 

First season at Shafter; 8th overall, 35-35 record

Assistant coaches: Robert Patterson, OL; Acie George, DB; Clint Kirschenmann, LB; Rob Miller, RB; Jose Munoz, DL; Larry Whitby, DC; Fortino Valdivia, WR.

Key standout 

Nick Perez, sr, running back, linebacker

Has bought into the new coaching staff and become a leader on and off the field. A solid student and weight room guy who will get plenty of carries if Shafter is to be successful.

Top returners 

Steve Perez, Sr, WR/DB: Tall target who will help bring in a new quarterback into the system.

Robbie Poznoff, Sr, WR/DL: Solid body who will be a focal point on the defensive line.

Tyler Alexander, Sr, OL/DL: Experienced and solid lineman with the stocky frame needed for a sophomore quarterback.

Mike Osorio, Sr, OL: Another big man up front who will need to protect the young quarterback and create opportunities in the run game.

Best-case scenario 

Pierucci was hired early in the offseason, and his wise use of that time leads to a team that’s more cohesive than most with a first-year coach. Early games against Mira Monte and Foothill, which combined to win three games in 2015, allow the Generals to get off to a winning start. Then, Pierucci’s understanding of the South Sequoia League from his time at Bakersfield Christian eases the transition, and Shafter puts an exclamation point on a promising building season by beating archrival Wasco in the season finale for the first time since 2006.

How to get there 

Pierucci has said sophomore quarterback Alex Aguilar “has the chance to put up Brandon Jones-like numbers,” referencing his record-setting quarterback who led BCHS tot a state championship game three years ago. But Aguilar will need to find comfort in the pocket while leading the offense, meaning the offensive line needs to keep him upright, and Perez will need to make the transition from platoon running back to a feature back who can help out in the passing game, both catching passes and blocking. On the other side of the ball, Shafter needs to turn around a defense that gave up 39 points in five of the team’s seven losses a year ago.

Top group 

Offensive line

Shafter returns three starters on the offensive line in Tyler Alexander, Juan Terranza and Mike Osario. None of the players on the line possess a lineman’s prototypical size, but they are strong and experienced.

“The biggest thing about them: Our scheme is technical, but not difficult,” Pierucci said. “I feel that what we have done with them is we have been going hard since January. It has helped the learning curve. Starting early with them will be the biggest thing for us. They love playing with each other and are a strong, physical group. They play with a nastiness, and that’s great.” 

He said it

“Shafter is one of those places that like their home-grown people. They like seeing their guys come back. Look at our past coaches, they have almost all been Shafter grads. The city is really rallying around. There is a buzz and itching for something special.”

-Shafter coach Jerald Pierucci

2016 schedule

Aug. 26: at Mira Monte

Sept. 2: at Highland

Sept. 9: at Foothill

Sept. 16: Golden Valley

Sept. 23: Kennedy*

Sept. 30: at Arvin*

Oct. 7: at Taft*

Oct. 14: Bakersfield Christian*

Oct. 28: Chavez*

Nov. 4: at Wasco*

*SSL game

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