The coach knew it would take time to build a foundation, to change perceptions and the culture.
That time has arrived, and Matt Costa can barely contain his glee. After some lean football seasons in Greenhaven, Kennedy High School is off to its best start – 3-0 – since the star-studded 1990 group was led by quarterback Jared Brown and running back Abbrom Ghoston.
There are no such stars this season, Costa said, but there is something that defines these upstart Cougars.
“If you look up ‘team’ in the dictionary,” Costa said, “that’s this group of guys. We have really good kids who are really fun to coach. We’re excited.”
Costa took over in 2012, when Kennedy posted its second consecutive 0-10 season as he battled low roster numbers and sagging morale. Then came progress: a 2-8 record in 2013 and 4-6 last season.
This season, Kennedy has beaten Oakland 36-16, Highlands 55-40 and Mira Loma 48-0. The Cougars, who visit No. 13 Sacramento on Saturday, know they must play an ideal game to keep up with the prolific Dragons.
Kennedy is led by a fleet of ballcarriers averaging a combined 332 yards a game, including Seth Patterson (402 yards, seven touchdowns), Terrel Barron, Khari Hutt and Daniel Jones. Quarterback Sean Allison is a 4.0 student “and our Doug Flutie,” Costa said. The coach also praised tight end-defensive end Ramar Crump and wide receiver-defensive back Ephram Conner.
The key comes in the trenches – the offensive line.
“I call them the ‘mighty midgets,’ and they’re the smallest and nastiest group of linemen I’ve ever had,” Costa said. “They get after it.”
League openers – With league play beginning this week, two games stand out: Top-ranked Folsom visits No. 5 Granite Bay in the Sierra Foothill, and No. 2 Grant visits No. 10 Franklin in the Delta.
Folsom (4-0) is unbeaten against Sac-Joaquin Section teams since 2011, riding a state-leading 36-game regular-season winning streak with a cast of new stars, led by quarterback Jake Jeffrey and offensive tackles Kooper Richardson and Jonah Williams.
Granite Bay (3-0) has been strong on both sides of the ball with safety Sam Cusano and quarterback Kyle Kraft leading the way.
Grant (3-0) features running backs Deshawn Collins and Mike Green. Franklin (2-1) is paced by quarterback Jacob Lopez and defensive back Lamar Jackson.
Henrichs returns – Scotty Henrichs is playing again, a victory in itself.
The Granite Bay senior wide receiver missed most of his junior baseball season while battling pneumonia-like systems. During the spring and summer, he underwent seven surgeries, including biopsies to remove lung tissue, and lost 40 pounds. Doctors believe he had IgG4, a rare disease that causes inflammation in organs. Henrichs continues to undergo treatment, using football as therapy.
Henrichs caught two touchdown passes from Kraft in Friday’s 42-7 rout of Vacaville.
“Honestly, where he was last spring, I’m glad he is alive, let alone healthy enough to go to school,” Granite Bay coach Jeff Evans said. “For him to come back and be able to play football is a true testament to his character and toughness. What a great kid, a special kid.”
‘Spread air raid’ – San Juan is 2-1 with new coach Jordan McGowan and his “spread air raid” offense.
Romeo Johnson, 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, is thriving as a wide receiver after playing right guard last season. In Friday’s 43-25 victory over Quincy, he caught six passes from Tony Murphy for 152 yards and three touchdowns.
San Juan’s last non-losing season 2008, when it finished 5-5. A big test looms against Golden Sierra in a Sierra Delta League opener. Golden Sierra (2-1) is coming off of a 31-28 win over Colfax as Jeff Gale returned a fumble 52 yards for a touchdown and Reily Prine ran for a 41-yard score.
Scoring touch – El Dorado quarterback Aaron Golmitz has hit wide receiver Chris Volek for three touchdowns in each of the Cougars’ three victories, the latest Friday’s 71-33 romp over Mesa Verde.
High school football coverage
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The Bee’s Top 20
3. Elk Grove
4. Del Oro
5. Granite Bay
7. Oak Ridge
14. Bear River
15. Cosumnes Oaks
17. River Valley
20. Cap. Christian