Cougars are not happy with last 2 seasons, seek revenge in ‘17

As members of the Christopher team stretch before practice, the team’s thoughts are on a season where they want to prove they are better than the 1-9 they were last year and the Cougars believe they have the talent to do just that.

There’s no two ways about it: Christopher is not happy with its record over the last two season.
Three wins over the course of 20 games does not inspire fear in many opponents and does not instill confidence from the school and it is a sore spot for the Cougars.
“I think we have a lot to prove,” said coach Tim Pierleoni. “I don’t want to say anything until I see improvement, especially after the last couple of years. … To say they have some built up from the last two years, I would say yes, I believe that is very true. I think we have a lot to prove.”
This season is about rewriting its reputation.
“That’s the mindset that everyone has is that we’re not going to lose a single game,” said linebacker Joey Bassian. “That’s a huge drive for everyone. We’ve been disgraceful toward the school. It’s the worst record in school history and it’s not fun. It’s not fun to lose. A 2-8 season and a 1-9 season? I’m not going to end my senior season like that.”
Fellow linebacker Anthony Gomez said the push to get better is not a glamorous one, but it is necessary if they want to get over the hump of last season.
“It was a long summer. We practiced a lot and it was really hot. Long and boring, but that’s what you have to do,” Gomez said.
He said it didn’t take long for him to want to get back on the practice field. Gomez said he wanted to get working out and mainly starting to clean up little details so the team could address larger issues.
“I wanted to get back on there fast because I wanted us to start working on the basic basics,” Gomez said. “That way we could get better at the little things to get better at the big things.”
Christopher enters the 2017 season on a mission.
The Cougars were a dreadful 1-9 overall and were shutout in league competition. The losses prompted Christopher to move down to the Pacific Division, a change that some felt should have happened a year sooner than it did.
Nonetheless, the Cougars took their lumps but came away with an experience of what playing at a high level means.
Pierleoni adjusted some things around in the off season, including bringing up the JV players to work out with the varsity as well as changing up coaching roles.
“My coaching staff has done a wonderful job,” Pierleoni said. “My coaching staff is the reason why it’s working out so good
That experience is being passed down to the new players who are coming on this year.
“It helped a lot. We went through that experience in that higher league, so us as juniors when we became seniors with the JV that came up, we were able to teach them what we learned in the higher league. It was easier to catch on and easier to teach.”
Christopher is also starting from a position of experience, as the defense is made up of several seniors in key spots, in contrast to a year ago where many of the starters were juniors.
“We know what we have to do and I think we’re going to try our best to fulfill that,” Gomez said.
Part of having confidence is setting high standards. And even though in reality, the line will not be perfect on every single play of every single game, Gomez said that is exactly the attitude they have to have if they are going to capture a league title and advance in the playoffs.
“You’re not going to see them, I guarantee that. We’re working everyday to stop those guys from touching the quarterback. They’re not going to see him,” Gomez said.
And more than that, Christopher wants to make sure it can establish a run game and move the ball at will.
“One of our basics is we want to run the ball this year. We want to have the linemen be able to move the ball,” Gomez said. “We want the linemen to get off the ball and push the D-linemen. That is one of our goals to be a passing team and a running team.”
Pierleoni said he wanted to put an emphasis on the offensive line this year, so he identified his best players and put them on the line.
“We found some other kids who have stepped up on the defensive side of the ball and that has allowed us to play more kids,” Pierleoni said. “That’s exciting. We’ve taken an opportunity to have some kids who have experience at the varsity level. They’re good tough kids that are smart and that’s what you need to be on the offensive line.”
Leading the charge for the offense will be junior quarterback Ben Sanford.
Sanford saw time a year ago during limited series, but Pierleoni said he wanted to make sure that his back up was ready to go in against A league teams.
As a result, Sanford has walked into the off season with an expectation that he would be in charge of the team this year.
“He stepped up and said ‘I’m going to have to do this,’ he’s been working on what he’s going to have to do,” Gomez said.
And the good feelings are spreading.
“I have confidence in our offense now that they have a strong leader and someone who can take over that role on offense,” Bassian said.
Peyton Mitchell will move from him primary defensive role to a runningback as well. He said he had practiced with the runningbacks last year so he knows the system and was officially moved to a two-way threat.
His teammates have taken notice of the switch as well
“I expected him to do good, but has just always been there for motivation and everything,” Gomez said.
On the defensive line, there is a bunch of experience returning, but there is some new blood that has Christopher excited.
Bassian said sophomore Joe Flemming has stepped up and is playing beyond his years.
“He shocked our team. He came up and I was like I don’t know about this guy but he could hang with us and on the first day of practice, he came in and just destroy. Tore ‘em up,” Bassian said. “But I was like I don’t know. Second day, he tore it up and I was like, OK. He’s the real deal. That goes along with our whole defensive line.”
Christopher opens against Sobrato on Aug. 25 at home. The Bulldogs on paper look to be in much the same way as Christopher does on paper: Winners of just a handful of games the last two seasons, but plenty of seniors coming back.
And from there it only gets tougher.
The Cougars follow that with CCS Division III semi-finalist Live Oak on the road and then travels to powerhouse Carmel the following week.
Christopher finishes up with Woodside on Sept. 15 before taking on Pajaro Valley to open Pacific Division play on Sept. 22.
And don’t forget that the big game this year—the ever important Severence Bell—will count toward league standings.
The goal, the team said, is to keep showing each week that the improvements are there and to not allow big wins or tough losses to affect how things go the next week or for the entire season.
“My dad always tells me, you have to stay with a level mindset,” Bassian said. “No matter if you score a touchdown, you have to come back to ground zero. You have to stay right here at a level, controlled level.”
Kickoff against Sobrato is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Christopher.