Capo Valley seniors determined to avoid another painful ending
MISSION VIEJO - The seniors on the Capistrano Valley football team have seemingly experienced every emotion possible on a football field.
In 2014, the Cougars made a run to the CIF-SS semifinals, where they lost in overtime to San Clemente. It was the deepest playoff run for Capo Valley since winning a CIF championship in 1990.
In 2015, the Cougars had an opportunity to make the playoffs again, but they failed to convert a late two-point conversion and lost, 37-36, to Aliso Niguel in their final regular-season game .
“These guys remember it all," Capo Valley coach Ernie Bucher said. "Some of these guys contributed to that CIF run, and they were all here last year when we were a couple yards away from going (to the playoffs) again. These guys know what it takes to win big games, and they are not happy about last year.”
The Cougars are a much different team than they were a year ago. They have a large group of returning starters, and they are adding players who helped the freshman team go undefeated in 2015.
The players are focused on this season, determined to ignore past successes and failures.
“I don’t think anyone on this field wants to think about last year," senior Devin Jenkins said. “That team didn’t play as hard as this team will. We were really disappointed last year and we will make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
The Sea View League has two new faces this season. El Toro and Dana Hills were placed in the league, and San Clemente and Trabuco Hills were shifted to the South Coast League.
“The league is going to be good this year," Bucher said. “El Toro is the favorite until somebody beats them. Aliso and Laguna Hills are going to be up, and coach (Phil) Skinner is doing things the right way at Dana Hills.
"All five teams can beat each other. It is going to be really exciting.”
Bucher and his staff have set the goals high for the Cougars this season. The last two goals are to win the Sea View League and win a CIF-SS championship.
“Winning league is our goal. Our goal is not just to beat El Toro or Aliso, it’s to get a league championship and win CIF,” senior offensive lineman Matt Slymen said.
The Cougars said they are more confident preparing for this season than in years past. Jenkins attributes the confidence to the combination of experienced veterans and young talent.
“We have a lot of skilled players in every class this season,” Jenkins said.
NO WORRIES AT QB
Cougars quarterback Kevin Brown is considered one of the top players in the county at that position.
Brown recently received a scholarship offer from Cornell and has other Ivy League schools interested in him.
“He is a leader in everything we do, from the weight room to the classroom, to the field," Bucher said. "Having that experienced quarterback is very important to us in a lot of ways.”
Brown threw for 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2015. The 6-foot-4 senior is ready for the spotlight and the pressure that comes with having his name mentioned among the elite quarterbacks in the county.
“I’m excited. I played well last year, but this year I want it all," Brown said. "I want a league championship and I want to be all-league.”
The Capo players take pride in their leader getting the recognition they feel he deserves.
“When he gets these offers and is looked at as a top quarterback in our league, it feels good for us," Slymen said. "He is playing at a high level and we need to play at that level too.”
“He leads the team and has improved a lot from all the camps he has been doing," Jenkins said. "I’m excited to see him play.”
COMING UP TOGETHER
This will be Bucher’s fourth season at the helm of the Capo Valley football program. The senior class is the first class to play all four years with him and his staff.
“I wouldn’t want to play anywhere else for anyone else," Slymen said. "The staff teaches us to be our best as players and as people.”
Some of the team's senior players say they want to win this year and to do their part to ensure Capo’s success in the future.
“Every coach says it, but this really is a great group of kids," Bucher said. "There is no seniors looking down at sophomores and they really respect each other. The seniors know these sophomores could be a force this year and in the future.”
The assistant coaches on Bucher's staff have been with him since before he arrived at Capo Valley.
“It’s been great being able to learn from the same staff for my whole high school career,” Brown said. “Coach Bucher is an amazing coach and I have learned a lot from him.”