Sacramento State football players say they are going to take former coach Marshall Sperbeck’s “next man up” philosophy to heart this coming season.
Sperbeck was forced to resign last Friday after seven seasons as the Hornets’ coach because of an internal university investigation of possible NCAA infractions.
Sperbeck has been replaced by defensive coordinator Jody Sears on an interim basis.
While players say the announcement came as a shock and left them reeling, the goals of reaching the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs and winning a Big Sky Conference championship for the first time in school history remain intact.
That sentiment was reinforced at a players-only meeting shortly after Sperbeck’s emotional announcement.
“We realize that no matter how we personally feel, we still have to continue to work hard, still have a season to play for,” said senior-to-be wide receiver DeAndre Carter, an All-Big Sky Conference first-team selection last season. “All our goals that we’re trying to accomplish as a team are still there.”
Linebacker Henry Fernandez, who also will enter his senior season, said Sperbeck was the only college coach who believed he could be a Division I player coming out of high school in Oxnard.
“We got pretty close,” Fernandez said. “It’s unfortunate, but we’re going to rally together. We’re going to stay the course.”
Carter said the team has faith in Sears, who spent the past two seasons as the head coach at Weber State, a conference rival of Sac State.
“I think coach Sears is a capable coach,” Carter said. “He’s been a head coach before. He’s going to bring a lot of energy to our team. He’s been here throughout the spring. On the football side of things, I’m pretty sure most of the schemes will remain the same.”
Sears said he anticipates few changes other than hiring an assistant coach – Sperbeck also coached wide receivers – and a new director of football operations, a position that opened with the recent departure of Jeff Shuman.
“We’re making sure the day-to-day operations are business as usual and that we stay the course,” Sears said. “We’re not changing. We’re running the same calls, same techniques we worked on in the spring. When we get into camp (in the summer), we will pick up where we left off April 12.”
Hornets’ big comeback – It was an impressive four days for the Sac State women’s tennis team last week.
Last Thursday, the team’s 112-match Big Sky winning streak, which ended earlier this season, was recognized as the No. 5 moment in Big Sky history, part of the conference’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Before coming to an end with a 4-3 loss at Montana on April 11, the Hornets’ streak had lasted nearly 13 years, the longest by any team in conference history. It also is believed to be the longest conference-only winning streak in NCAA Division I tennis history.
Then during the weekend, the Sac State women avenged the loss to Montana as well as a 6-1 defeat to Northern Arizona on April 13 by winning the Big Sky women’s title for the 13th consecutive year.
The No. 3 Hornets topped No. 2 Northern Arizona 4-0 in the semifinals on Saturday and No. 1 Montana 4-3 in the finals on Sunday at the Gold River Racquet Club. The decisive victory came in No. 4 singles, where Olivia Boija defeated Laurence Pelchat 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5).
Sac State (12-16) will face top-ranked UCLA (21-2) in the opening round of the NCAA championships May 9 at the Los Angeles Tennis Club.
Aggies spring forward – Quarterback London Lacy completed 17 of 23 passes for 280 yards and hit Derek Baljeu and T.J. King for touchdowns in Saturday’s UC Davis’ spring game.
Lacy, an incoming senior who directed four touchdown drives, is battling community college transfer Turner Baty and incoming sophomore Ben Scott for the starting position.
With 2013 leading rusher Gabe Manzanares sidelined by a minor injury, fullback Dalton Turay and Manusamoa Luuga combined for 149 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Defensive back Quinn Harris and linebacker Travon Brooks each had six tackles; defensive backs Ade Jackson of Christian Brothers and Patrick Wells each added five tackles; and defensive linemen Jess Ayala, Marques Barron and Luke Wood had sacks during the 74-play scrimmage.
Best in the Big West – Sprinter Cekarri Nixon and high jumper Katie Barber, who turned in outstanding performances last weekend at Cal, have been named Big West Women’s Track and Field Athletes of the Week.
Nixon, a junior from St. Francis, finished first in the 400-meter dash in 53.77 seconds after running a leg on the Aggies’ winning 4x100 relay (45.56 seconds) at the Brutus Hamilton Challenge on Saturday.
Barber, a junior from Moorpark, broke Liz Berger’s high jump record of 5 feet, 81/2 inches from 1987 when she cleared 5-83/4 at the same meet.
UC Davis returns to action on Friday when it travels to Sac State for the annual Causeway Classic Dual.
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.