One of the area's most successful high school football programs may be struggling, but veteran Colfax coach Tony Martello has vowed to fight on.
"I don't want people to think it's all doom and gloom," said Martello, entering his 18th season. "We're going to have a quality football team this year. We have some impressive players."
Under Martello (159 wins, 12 league titles, three Sac-Joaquin Section titles), the Falcons have been one of the section's winningest programs.
But last year, Martello had his first losing season since his first year, as the Falcons went 4-6, including 1-4 in the Pioneer Valley League. And a few weeks ago, Colfax dropped its freshman program because of a lack of participants.
Colfax's enrollment has declined by nearly 250 students since 2009. At 680 students, the lowest enrollment since the 1980s, it is well below its league rivals.
That's tough on Martello, who prefers one-way players.
"When the economy went south, it hit us pretty hard," Martello said. "Now most of the people buying houses here don't have kids."
Colfax was 21-4 in the previous two seasons, so last year's record was a shocker despite the drop in enrollment and a team of mostly juniors.
"I still felt we had the talent to win," Martello said. "We made silly mistakes at silly times. I've got to take a lot of the blame. I think I approached the whole thing wrong in how to coach them."
Martello is renowned for his innovative passing schemes, and that shouldn't change this season. Returning at quarterback is Mike Wilson, who while taking his lumps last year (19 interceptions) still passed for a league-leading 2,803 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Also returning are the Falcons' three top receivers Kyle Bryant (66 catches, 1,105 yards, five touchdowns), Chas Reisinger (44-521-4) and Chris Harshman (43-584-2).
Martello said Colfax didn't lose a game in several summer 7-on-7 passing tournaments against larger, higher-profile schools, so that was a confidence booster.
"We know how to throw the ball pretty well," Martello said.
But with No. 17 and defending champion Placer and No. 18 Center in the PVL along with Bear River, Lincoln and a potentially improved Foothill, Colfax will be challenged in its bid to return to the playoffs.
"It's all top, no bottom," Colfax said of the quality of competition in the league.
A leg up for Thompson Former Granite Bay standout Tommy Thompson had a unique way of preparing for his freshman season at Indiana, the reigning NCAA Division I men's soccer champion.
The gifted striker played with and against pros for the San Jose Earthquakes' reserve team during the spring and summer, sometimes teaming with Earthquakes rookie Adam Jahn, a former Jesuit star.
Thompson had an assist in a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids reserves May 19 in San Jose and two assists, including one to Jahn, in the Earthquakes' 6-0 win over the United Soccer League's Antigua Barracuda on July 15 at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
Thompson and older brother Tanner (though both are freshmen for the Hoosiers) are playing at their father's alma mater. Gregg Thompson was a co-captain on Indiana's first title team in 1982, scoring both goals in a 2-1, eight-overtime win over Duke.
Gregg's oldest son, Tyler, plays soccer at Stanford.
Making a splash Del Oro graduate Alex Obert was a member of the USA Men's Water Polo Senior National Team this summer that competed in major international competitions in Russia and Serbia and the FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.
The 6-foot-6 junior scored 51 goals last season for Pacific.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.