It was mostly a downhill year for Pac-Five in the win-loss department in 2017.
That’s because the Wolfpack started off with a fine 27-7 victory over McKinley before losing eight in a row.
Fortunately, Pac-Five bookended its season with a competitive 30-20 loss to St. Francis in the ILH playoffs.
A new season begins Saturday at Roosevelt in the opener of the new OIA-ILH Division II alliance.
“Last year was probably one of the toughest I’ve ever experienced as a head coach,” said Kip Botelho, who is in his 15th season at the helm. “I know every team deals with injuries, but what we had last season you can call it an anomaly … never seen anything like it before. We started the year with 43 players. By midseason, we were down to 25 players and had to forfeit our first game ever in the history of the program.
“We suffered two broken legs, a fractured knee, a broken hand, a couple ACL knee injuries, a separated shoulder, six concussions and whole bunch of sprains and other minor injuries — all to our key players. With all the injuries the team suffered through, I was proud of the way our boys continued to compete and finish the season off. If anything, we learned how to stay together and fight through adversity.”
The Wolfpack are on the young side this season, but the outlook is on the up and up.
“Obviously, we want to stay healthy this year,” Botelho said. “Overall, we are a young football team with 25-plus sophomores. We have a lot of new kids, some in key positions, so our focus is to work hard on fundamentals and technique, learn how to compete and to get better every day. Right now, we are inconsistent. We’ll make one great play, then follow that up with a couple of bad plays. So we are constantly preaching consistency. We would rather be consistently good than occasionally great. We are not very deep, but we do have some scrappy kids who will compete and not back down to anyone. If we can stay healthy, we will be a competitive football team.”
Botelho talked about a handful of Pac-Five’s leaders:
>> Leif Fautanu Jr., two-way lineman: “A three-year starter, Leif is a very gifted and athletic football player. He worked hard in the offseason in the weight room. He can play any position on both fronts. Can long snap and punt. We are relying on his leadership and looking forward to him having a big year.”
>> Evan Ramirez, linebacker: “A three-year starter at linebacker, Evan is an aggressive, hard-nosed football player. He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to practice every day. He will be all over the field and play a big role on both sides of the ball.”
>> Laitin Bradley, linebacker: “A two-year starter, Laitin is one of those special guys that can play a multitude of positions. And he will. He’ll be everywhere on the field for us. We’re expecting a big year from him.”
>> Alex Heim, defensive back: “A two-year starter, Alex is fast and athletic and will play both DB and wide receiver. He has great ball skills and because of his work ethic continues to get better every day. We are looking for him to make big plays this season.”
>> Bruce Shewalter, defensive back: “Bruce is a natural athlete who plays hard and fast. He will play a big role on both sides of the ball. He has range and ball-hawking skills as a defensive back and is shifty and agile as a running back. He’s another one we’re expecting big plays from.”
>> Thomas Obando, two-way lineman: “A three-year starter, Tommy is a physical, old-school type football player. He can play either guard or tackle. We are counting on his leadership and experience to be a force up front.”
Botelho is excited for the new alliance.
“It’s great that the two leagues got together and made it happen,” he said. “It just makes sense on so many levels. Aside from all the obvious benefits of better matchups, renewed fan interest, reducing the safety concerns, the fact that we are getting more games is huge. This is the best thing for our league. We now will be playing a full nine-game schedule as opposed to our current four-game regular-season schedule. Just this in itself is major benefit for the players.”
Next in series: Kalani Falcons.