Ventura County high school football coaches are finding that a winning record doesn't guarantee a good turnout the following season.
Consider Oak Park. The Eagles have only 11 players on this year's roster after going 10-2 and reaching the second round of the Southern Section Division IX playoffs.
Fillmore, which finished 6-4, has been touted as one of the favorites to win the Tri-Valley League championship. But second-year coach Curtis Garner had only 18 players to work with on the first day.
The school rallying cry has become: "Hey, kid, do you want to play?"
Nordhoff, meanwhile, is turning players away despite last year's miserable 1-9 mark. The Rangers have 39 players on the varsity team and 45 on the junior varsity.
"When I took the head coaching job three years ago, I had a five-year plan," Coach Cliff Farrar said. "One of our goals was to have 80 players between the varsity and junior varsity teams. It's not a guarantee for success, but it helps."
Nordhoff has posted a 5-15 overall record in two years under Farrar. But receiver Trevor Matheson convinced his friends that you don't have to be Farrar-sighted to see the Rangers are headed toward success.
"Matheson did a real good job recruiting his friends," Farrar said. "He got six players to come out for the team. His reward will be more wins."
Flash in the pan?: It's the most asked question by Tri-Valley League coaches: "How good is Fillmore?"
If their junior varsity record is any indication, they're pretty good. The Fillmore junior varsity teams have won consecutive league titles with undefeated records and are 17-3 overall.
The Flashes lost their top running back--Anthony Chessani--to knee surgery but have two experienced players to replace him. Hugo Virto rushed for 53 times for 286 yards and Mike Kozar had 158 yards in 26 carries.
Quarterback Chad Van Winkle set school records for attempts (173) and passing yardage (1,023) last season.
They also have two behemoths on the offensive line. Strong tackle Ralph Meza (6-2, 270) is a three-year starter and two-time all-league selection. Tight end Steve Palmer (6-1, 205) is also a three-year starter.
"I can believe other coaches wonder how good we're going to be," Garner said. "I won't kid you. We have some talent."
Popular target: Oxnard High standout quarterback Johnel Turner said Nebraska, Colorado and Ohio State head his list of colleges he would like to attend.
But they aren't the only schools interested in him. "Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska send letters," he said, "Then it's UCLA, USC, Arizona State and Arizona."
Exchanging ideas: While their team prepared for the Ventura County all-star game this summer, West Coach George Machado and assistant Cliff Farrar held philosophical seminars on the sidelines.
"He would ask me about the run-and-shoot," said Farrar, who has run that offense for the past three years at Nordhoff. "I would draw a few patterns. I picked up a few things about quick calis (calisthenics) and agility drills. My team is already a little quicker. It was a great two weeks to spend together."
Staying home: Leon Palmisano, a reserve for state basketball champion Santa Clara High, hoped to join the roster at either San Jose State or St. Mary's in Moraga as a walk-on at the least. But when he visited both schools in March, Palmisano had the impression that neither coach would be returning. And he was right.
San Jose State Coach Bill Berry resigned and was replaced by UC Santa Barbara Athletic Director Stan Morrison. St. Mary's Coach Lynn Nance was hired by Washington, and he was replaced by UCLA assistant Paul Landreaux.
Palmisano, who had knee surgery before his senior season, was left without a place to play. He sent videotapes to the new coaches and went to San Diego State last week for a tryout but didn't receive a positive response. He has decided to play for Ventura College.
Hospitable couple: The inaugural Kiwanis Seaside Invitational cross-country meet will be held Saturday, Sept. 9 at Ventura State Beach. Buena High Coach Steve Blum and Channel Islands High girls' Coach Debbie Blum are hosting the meet.
They're husband and wife.