Barnstormers open 10th season Saturday in brand new NCFL
The Central Coast Barnstormers want their 10th season to be special – and the opportunity is at their doorstep.
After a decade of dominant play in the Golden State Amateur Football League and the Northern California Amateur Football Federation, the semipro organization jumped to the newly minted Northern California Football League, a super class Barnstormers co-owner/player Joffre Longoria Jr. called the state’s “toughest league ever produced.” The NCFL comprises 16 of the top teams from neighboring leagues, including the Pacifica Islanders who won a national title in 2008.
Central Coast’s preseason mantra hasn’t changed.
“All the way up the pole,” Barnstormers second-year coach Greg Garcia said when asked about expectations. “Our goals have always been to win the division, win league and win state. That’s part of the reason why this organization has been so successful. We want to be the best.”
The Barnstormers will see where they stack up right away. Part of the four-team National Conference South Division, Central Coast will open nonleague play at 6 p.m. Saturday against the Central Valley Rams in the Lodi Grape Bowl. The Barnstormers will then face Pacifica, a conference foe, on the road.
“Winning a league title is going to be an extremely hard task,” said Longoria, who starts on the offensive line. “Our sights are on it.”
Central Coast is not short on motivation. The Barnstormers (7-3) last season had their streak of consecutive NCAFF and Northern California championships snapped by the Salinas Spartans, a team largely made up of former Central Coast players. Salinas beat the Barnstormers in the semifinals – nine weeks after becoming the first team to beat Central Coast in the regular season in two years.
“We were trying to three-peat, but it was still a successful season,” Longoria said. “Any time you make the playoffs, it’s a success. Winning league is hard enough. Winning Northern California is tough, especially two years in a row. I don’t know anybody else that’s done that.”
From coaching staff to players, Central Coast is fully revamped for its new league. The Barnstormers return both quarterbacks, Bryan Smith and Rhett Van De Mark, to head their spread offense, plus Derek Morrison at halfback, and veteran wideouts Rigo Munoz, Donta Anderson and Aaron Muro. Longoria said the offensive line is solid.
“We have a lot of talent this year on offense,” he added. “We’re a lot better than last year.”
Defensively, the Barnstormers are strong all around. The veterans include defensive lineman Issac Hernandez and inside linebacker Moses Aguilar.
Garcia is very excited about the team’s newest acquisitions, such as former San Jose Predators Tino Martinez (free safety, rover) and Ron Birdsall (inside linebacker). Central Coast also has a corp of Richmond-based players, who have made an impact. They include receivers Will Bryant and Johnny Walker, tight end Terry Mack and defensive back Anthony Edwards.
“They make the hour drive to practice every day – that’s true dedication,” Garcia said. “We did a great job recruiting this offseason. We’re excited to have this kind of talent. Everyone is working hard.”
Unlike last year, Garcia has a hand-picked coaching staff. He brought back defensive coordinator Jeff Parsley and longtime defensive line coach Joffre Longoria Sr., and welcomed John Garcia and Paul Latzke, who Greg played for and coached with at Gavilan College. Also on staff are Gilroy High defensive coordinator Chris Vassure, Robert Brandt and Dave Clapham.
“We’re a better, stronger team from top to bottom,” Garcia said. “With our talent, we can be successful.”