ESCONDIDO — Ric Aschbrenner wasn't sure what was going to happen.
After San Pasqual High School lost its third straight football game, 22-6 to Orange Glen two weeks ago, Coach Mike Dolan had called a meeting at 9 the next morning. The players were down--some had cried after the game--and the coaches also were upset. Something had to be changed.
"The coaches had done everything they could do," Aschbrenner said. "So it was time that the players took it upon themselves to become a better football team."
So Aschbrenner did something out of the ordinary, according to Dolan. He started hollering.
"He's usually a quiet kid," Dolan said.
Said Aschbrenner: "Yeah, I yelled at them a little. I told them, 'If you don't think you can do it, then get out.' We had to start doing it ourselves."
Maybe the outburst was unusual for Aschbrenner. But the leadership role was not. Aschbrenner is used to that, although he normally leads by example on the field. Aschbrenner went back to leading the way he usually does last Friday against El Camino, Avocado league rival.
Aschbrenner had a school-record 26 tackles, seven of which were solo tackles. The previous record of 25 was set in 1977 by Scott Case. Aschbrenner, The Times' player of the Week, has 81 tackles in 4 games.
San Pasqual still lost, 21-14, but the players and coaches generally believed that it was their best performance of the season thus far and that the team would have won had they not fumbled three times within their own 30-yard line. Each fumble led to an El Camino touchdown.
"We talked (last) Saturday again," Dolan said. "I asked (wide receiver) Chris Nattoli how he felt. He said, 'Coach, I feel kind of good, but I feel kind of bad, too.' That's how I feel. We won the battle, but we lost the war."
Why did Dolan and the other players feel good about the game? The positive attitude that had developed from the meeting the week before had a lot to do with it.
"Since that meeting, practice is different," Dolan said. "(Ric) made some valid suggestions as to how we could function better as a team. Because of that meeting, the players were a lot more motivated.
"We're a two-platoon team. The offense and the defense practice separately most of the time. One of the things Ric suggested was to do more things together."
Fullback Dave Emerson said that practice has been much more spirited this week.
"The motivation factor is much better," Emerson said. "Most of us feel we can go as far as we want."
Aschbrenner helped to keep the motivation high with his play against El Camino.
He plays an inside linebacker position that the coaches call the "rover." He calls most of the defensive plays and reads the formation, much the way a quarterback reads a defense. Aschbrenner then calls out where he is going to line up and the other defensive players adjust accordingly.
Against El Camino, Aschbrenner had to stop both the fullback option and the quarterback Eric Robinson, as well as drop into pass coverage.
Dolan said Aschbrenner did all three well.
"He forced (Robinson) to roll out and then chased him down on both sides of the field," Dolan said. "He chose where to be. It's his job to make a lot of tackles, but the hard part is doing that job. And Ric does it as well as anybody we have had here."
Said Emerson: "I didn't know he had that many tackles, but I knew he had a lot. It kind of fires us up when we're standing on the sidelines, and we see Ric and the rest of the defense shutting down the other team."
San Pasqual High
Height, Weight, Class: 6-0, 175, Sr.
Last Week: Made a school-record 26 tackles in San Pasqual's 21-14 loss to El Camino.