Back-to-back bowl victories are hard to top, but the Southwestern College football team has done just that. It now has a brand-new $45 million bowl of its own in renovated DeVore Stadium.
Head coach Ed Carberry said he has an impressive new team too.
“You can’t win without players,” he said. “I’ve never seen a jockey carry a horse over the line.”
SWC was second in the American Mountain Conference last year with a 6-1 record (9-2 overall) and sophomore running back Charles Westbrook said this year’s Jaguars will be just as good – if not better.
“I feel with this group of guys we have the potential to be the number one offense in the state and also the number one defense,” he said. “Be prepared for us to go 10-0.”
Over the last two years, SWC has lost just three games. Last season, the defense finished fifth in the state with 19.2 points allowed per game. Two years ago the Jaguar offense led the state by scoring 45.3 points per game.
Last year’s squad transferred 16 players to four-year schools, including first-team all-conference defensive tackle Alfonso Hampton (Idaho), two-time all-conference linebacker Khaalid Abdullah (Humbolt State) and second-team all-conference quarterback Frank Foster (North Carolina A&T).
Their coaching staff, however, said they have the talent to reload rather than rebuild. Westbrook, who was the Jaguars’ top rusher in 2012, is returning to the team after redshirting at Divison II Southwestern Oklahoma State last year and looked to be in good form after breaking four tackles en route to a 40-yard touchdown during a preseason intersquad scrimmage. Westbrook will look for openings behind an offensive line led by second-team all-conference tackle Ray Samuels.
The defensive line looks to build upon last year’s dominance as 2013 second-team all-conference end Ray Clapper is returning to the team along with Mike Molina, who sat out last year after being named first-team all-conference in 2012.
At the helm of the Jaguar offense is Israel “Tofi” Paopao, a transfer from Division I Florida International University. Carberry said that the 240-pound quarterback’s improvisational skills clinched the battle with last year’s backup, Luis Perez.
“If you’ve been to a Las Vegas show, you’ve got a chorus line out there and then you’ve got a couple people that dance out front,” said Carberry. “Everybody needs a great chorus line or the show doesn’t come off, but Tofi can dance out front.”
SWC will kickoff the season against archrival Grossmont College on Saturday, September 6. Grossmont finished last season 5-6 overall (3-3 National Southern Conf.), but had the top passing offense in the state with an absurd 408.8 passing yards per game and its 551.9 yards per game led the state as well. Carberry acknowledged Grossmont’s history as a powerhouse in San Diego County, but he believes that the game will come down to players’ ability to adjust on the fly.
“It’s like Mike Tyson used to say, everybody has a plan until they’re punched in the nose,” he said. “We have a plan and so does Grossmont.”
Carberry took another page out of Tyson’s playbook in order to cut down on penalties. The Jags were the fifth-most penalized team in the state last year with 12.9 penalties per game.
He said the coaching staff instructed two players to fake a fist-fight during practice.
“If you come off the bench, you’re suspended for that game and the next game,” he said. “We had three or four guys come off the bench to separate or do whatever they were going to do, but it’s another little theatrical coaching point.”
SWC’s defense has a simple plan to beat Grossmont’s high-octane passing attack – keep the quarterback on his back.
“We’ll have our hands full,” said Carberry. “But just like dealing with any quarterback, you got to go hit ‘em. Even Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, they get hit and they start looking around wondering what’s going on.”
Sophomore linebacker Blake Wilson said he wants to prove that Southwestern can compete on the same level as powers like Grossmont.
“We don’t change our game plan for someone else, they change for us,” he said. “We’re Southwestern College and we’re coming out to make a statement. We’re up on the rise and we’re definitely looking forward to taking them on and showing everyone that we are a powerhouse.”
Carberry is excited to start the season off in a new stadium against an old rival.
“I think we’ve invited everybody in Chula Vista,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll all show.”