Bishop Amat head coach Steve Hagerty has a difficult task on hand: rebuilding a Lancer football program that has not reached the postseason since 2004.
Hagerty is well-versed in Lancer lore. He played four seasons for Amat, graduating in 1980, and served as an assistant coach from 1986 to 1991. He went on to become head coach at Paraclete High School in Lancaster, where he won three CIF championships. He added another CIF title to his resume last year as offensive coordinator for Citrus Hill in Perris. His connections with the Amat program and history of winning have Lancer fans excited.
Amat has plenty of talented players and Hagerty hopes that a winning attitude will get them back to the top.
"The biggest challenge is getting kids who are mentally fragile because of a lack of success to expect success," he said.
Hagerty will put a new offensive system into place at Amat, which cracked the 20-point barrier just three times in 2007. The system may include some major changes to Amat's lineup.
"Nobody has a job locked down right now," said Hagerty.
That includes quarterback, where there is a fierce three-way battle for the starting spot. 6-foot-4 senior Nick Lenhart is the incumbent starter. He passed for 1102 yards, 6 TDs and 8 interceptions last year and earned first-team All-Serra league honors as a punter.
Lenhart must fend off Jerry McClanahan, a junior who caught 18 passes as a wide receiver in 2007. Josiah Thropay, a transfer from Monrovia, rounds out the trio. The 6-feet, 4-inch sophomore gave up the starting quarterback spot at his old school to transfer to Bishop Amat.
"I'm not so sure that area is going to be the strength of our team," said Hagerty of the passing game.
The three quarterbacks have received a boost from Lancer quarterback coach Chris Rix. Rix played three seasons for Bishop Amat and went on to pass for over 8,000 yards at Florida State. Rix has already helped the quarterbacks improve, according to Hagerty.
Senior Deshawn Gaisie is competing with sophomore Jay Anderson for the running back position. The 5-foot-9 Gaisie started at defensive back in 2007 but had 10 carries in late-game situations.
Whichever running back emerges with the starting job will depend on a revamped offensive line. The Lancers lost three all-league linemen to graduation. The new line will be anchored by seniors Jason Teter, Jared Arnold and Michael Hoskins.
"We're going to block better than we have before," said Hagerty.
The Lancer defense will look to improve on 2007, when they gave up 32.6 points per game. They return six starters but lose their whole defensive line.
"I think defense is going to be our best strength," said Hagerty. "We have better athletes on that side of the ball."
Senior Isaiah Bowens leads the linebacking corps. The 6-feet, 3-inch, 220-pound senior led the Lancers with 7.5 sacks last season and has committed to UCLA. He'll be joined by fellow senior Jesse Prieto, who had 85 tackles and 4 sacks. Prieto rushed for over 300 yards last year but will focus on defense in 2008.
Brent Seals returns after racking up a team-high 108 tackles in 2007. The 6-foot, 184-pound senior can play linebacker or safety and is gaining attention from college scouts. Seals is one of few players who can boast that his GPA matches his 40-yard-dash time: 4.6.
A plethora of talented and experienced defensive backs provides Seals with support in the secondary. The group is led by returning all-league players Sheldon Price and Justin Gener. The 6-feet, 1-inch, 160-pound Price has verbally committed to UCLA after intercepting three passes in 2007. Price's father Dennis also played for the Bruins and spent four seasons in the NFL.
Gener had 55 tackles and two interceptions last season. Returning starter John Maffie and experienced backup Darien Johnson round out the Lancer secondary.
Hagerty has yet to see his players in full-contact situations, but is encouraged by strong spring and summer results, and his players' efforts in the weight room.
"We're anxious to get into pads so we can tell the character and nature of our team," he said. "I know they want to have success."