Nearly all of the coaches, including head coach Charles Spikes, are new to the Jaguar program, but the team itself goes through the standard transition as last year’s juniors take on leadership roles and the team looks for top performers coming up for the junior varsity level.
K.T. Ransom, the Jaguars running back and defensive back coach, is the only varsity coach left from the 2012 Kimball team.
He was also part of the coaching staff that Matt Loggins assembled before leaving for the athletic director job at Clovis West High School in May.
“It’s actually been a pretty good transition,” Ransom said. “We kept everything rolling like he had planned, so we didn’t see much drop off. We kept pressing on with what the initial message was and it hasn’t changed.”
Senior running back Gaige Allen said that the changes have only made team bonds stronger.
“This year we’re more of a family,” Allen said. “We have a new coaching staff and they bring a lot of excitement and bring us more together.”
The team includes a big group of returning seniors, including Allen and All-Valley Oak League second team picks Damon Jackson, a wide receiver and defensive back, and offensive/defensive lineman and kicker Zack Orr.
Spikes said incoming juniors will compete for positions handling the ball. Mirro Bidanian and Malik Ransom are candidates for starting quarterback while Rashaad Cooper and Jacob Taloa are vying for the running back spot.
The Jaguars aim to improve on their 5-5 record from 2012, when the team finished fourth place in the VOL with a 4-3 record, and just missed qualifying for the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Kimball gets into VOL play on Sept. 27 against Sierra High in Manteca — last year’s second-place team.
Spikes expects Kimball’s wing-T offense will be effective even if VOL teams prove as tough as in the past.
“If you run it right, you don’t need big linemen to be effective as offense,” he said. “You can still move the ball.”
He credits summertime workouts with Kimball High weight training coach Damio Towkaniuk for the right strength conditioning program to get the players ready.
“The stuff we do relates well to football,” Spikes said. “We don’t have to be as strong as the Manteca teams, but we have functional strength and we’re explosive.”
He finds out how well that conditioning serves the Jaguars when they go up against some big offensive and defensive lines when Kimball goes on the road on Oct. 18 to face Manteca, and when defending Sac-Joaquin Section Division III champion Oakdale comes to Kimball High on Oct. 25.
Kimball begins its season at home on Sept. 6 against Patterson High. The only other pre-league games will be at West on Sept. 13 and against visiting Tracy on Sept. 20.
Working in the trenches
Damon Jackson figures Kimball’s strong defensive line and solid linebackers are enough to give the Jaguar defense the tools it needs to shut down teams.
Jackson’s own speed and experience as a defensive back will come into play when the Jaguars face strong passing teams like Sierra and Oakdale.
“We’re mainly a running team and most of them run, but the passing, we can cover them really well,” he said.
Defensive back coach K.T. Ransom said that, based on what he saw last year and over the summer, the Jaguar defensive backs will do their part to deny their opponents big gains.
“We’re expecting them to do some really big things this year,” Ransom said.
Jackson plays both sides of the ball and will also play wide receiver and return kickoffs. He’s learned that pass coverage is a matter of staying alert and protecting territory.
“For the corner, you always stay on the outside and keep the outside contained,” he said. “I don’t let nothing outside of me.”
Poised to carry the offense
Gaige Allen was on the verge of being one of Kimball High’s leading running backs in 2012, averaging nearly 81 yards per game in his first two starts of the season.
But a knee injury in the Jaguars’ third game of the year against Tracy forced him on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
The 5-foot-8, 155-pound senior running back, went between team workouts and college skills camps over the summer to get bigger and stronger.
“I’ve been working on the stuff that wasn’t all the way to the top last year,” Allen said. “I’ve been working on my bad habits, and keep getting better and better.”
He adds that a new team attitude will make the difference for the Jaguar offense.
“The blocking team is better and the plays are better,” he said. “We have a lot of playmakers on our team. We have players who can make a change on the field even when I’m not there. I can depend on them.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.