You could say that, two years ago, when Capital High School hired another new football couch – the fourth in four years — it was shooting for the moon.
The Jaguars just may have struck their target with coach Bill Moon, who is entering his third season at the helm and trying to resurrect a program that had sunk to among the most moribund in the state.
The first team meeting in Moon’s tenure was attended by 17 players. That first season, seven freshmen not just saw playing time, but started. There was no freshman team. There was no JV.
Now Capital has the makings of a football program. The numbers are up significantly, with anywhere from 65 to 78 players sweating through the summer in workouts five days a week. Even that is a big change because, until Moon came, none of the returning players had ever been through a summer workout program.
The team will play a freshman and a junior-varsity schedule.
And those seven freshman starters – they’ve grown to the point where they are now veterans on a squad looking to improve upon the 2-8, 1-5 district record of a year ago.
“We are so far down the road,” Moon said. “We’re where a third-year program should be. We’re not where we want to be, but we’ve come so far from where we were.”
Simply building up the numbers was a lesson in patience and perseverance for Moon, who went about it the old-fashioned way.
“It’s just the same way you get your first date: I asked,” he said.
Moon went through the list of every incoming freshman and gave each a call.
“If he said he was going to Santa Fe, I said fine. If he said he was going to St. Mike’s, I said fine. But if he said he was going to Capital, then I wanted him.”
It’s been a slow-growth learning process.
“We’re committed to one another,” Moon said. “Whatever we get, we’re going to go through this together. I told them, ‘This is going to be painful,’ but they knew that when they stuck together.”
Just changing the team’s mentality took some work, he said.
After winning just one game that first season, Moon said he was in the weight room with one of the veteran players.
“He asked me, ‘Are you going to quit, coach?’ and I started to ask him if he knew something I didn’t, then I realized he was deadly serious,” Moon recalled. “Every coach quits after a bad season. I told him I wasn’t going anywhere unless somebody fires me.”
Now the team is looking at the possibility of not just being competitive, but also of challenging in a district that is likely up for grabs.
The team has 18 starting players returning, led by four juniors who have paid their dues: quarterback Augie Larranaga, split end Adrian Ornelas, split end Manny Segura and tight end Daniel Gavin.
Junior fullback/linebacker D.J. Williams and senior lineman Daniel Banuelos provide additional veteran leadership.
“It’s been a great change,” Banuelos said. “What we’ve learned and everything that we were doing right. We’ve been practicing a lot, but I think it’s worth it. It makes us get used to things being tough and it lets the freshmen know how we do things at Capital.”
Williams joined the team as a sophomore after moving to Santa Fe from Valencia High School and immediately stepped into a starting role.
But really he just joined the team so he would have a chance to meet some people.
“It looked like it would get me in shape, and it’s nice to be on the team and be like our family,” he said.
Now Moon is hoping to get Capital’s record in shape, which is very much a distinct possibility.
“On paper, we’re a very experienced team,” Moon said. “I have three-year starters. But, by age, we’re very young. Our juniors have hung in there and we have a good looking group of sophomores behind them, and a really outstanding group of freshmen and five seniors. We’re getting there.”
This is the first in a series of articles in Journal North previewing the area’s high school football teams.