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Chabot sports roundup, Aug 30


By Matt Schwab
New Chabot head football coach Eric Fanene has a ‘can’t wait’ tone of voice these days.
That’s because Chabot will open the season against Siskiyous on Saturday at Gladiator Stadium. All that offseason commitment, team-bonding, weight lifting, and strategizing has led to Fanene’s first game week as a college head coach.
“We play fast and we’re enthusiastic and we play really hard-nosed defense,” Fanene said of his approach.
Chabot is fresh off a strong effort in a scrimmage against Santa Rosa Junior College, ranked ninth in a state preseason poll.
“We went out there and we dealt with them very well,” Fanene said. “We learned a lot about our team. A lot of good players that we were hoping to see do well did well.”
On Chabot’s first offensive play, dynamic sophomore Deangelo Stubbs of Irvington zipped through a hole and raced 70 yards into the end zone: Statement made by Stubbs and the road graders up front.
“Very first play, that was awesome,” Fanene said.
The overall effort seemed like a significant first step for Fanene’s Gladiators. The defense looks stout and the offense is piloted by quarterback Johnny O’Brien, a returning starter who appears to be sitting on a big season, much like Stubbs.
Fanene took over the reins after longtime successful coach Danny Calcagno resigned after the 2016 season. The past six years Fanene has served as Chabot’s defensive line and special teams coach and recruiting coordinator. He played at Santa Rosa and Winona State, and was defensive coordinator at Marin, Mendocino, and Santa Rosa.
Defense is in his football DNA.
“The last couple of years even though we’ve had great defenses, we’ve lived in the shadow of our offenses,” Fanene said. “That’s basically it. I’m a defensive guy. Danny was an offensive guy. Our offense has always been in the top five to 10 in the state.”
Fanene says he wants the defense to be in the top five in the state every year.
Chabot leaned on the run game, but Fanene plans to use the pass to set up the run and to slow the team’s offensive tempo overall. He wants to milk the clock a little more and keep his defense fresh.
“We’re a quick-passing team,” Fanene said. “We ran the ball well (against Santa Rosa), but I wouldn’t say that we’re a pound-the-rock team anymore. We’re more balanced.”
The offensive coaching staff has undergone a near-complete renovation. New offensive coordinator Mike Clark of Vallejo, who was the Diablo Valley quarterback coach last season, has an impressive resume. Clark has coached at the University of Texas and with the Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals in defensive quality control, among other jobs.
“He’s been around,” Fanene said of Clark. “He’s a football coach, that’s his passion. We’re lucky to land him.”
The defensive staff remains intact with defensive coordinator Jerome Manos and line coach Pete Quesinberry. Former Chabot and Northern Arizona player Eddie Horn has returned to coach the secondary.
BOUNCE-BACK O’BRIEN: In the first game last season, O’Brien suffered a shoulder injury on his non-throwing arm, sat out two games and then reinjured the shoulder against De Anza, forcing him out for the season. But he’s ready to roll now.
“Throwing mechanics are fine,” Fanene said of O’Brien. “He’s getting coached up well by our new offensive coordinator. He was slinging it (against Santa Rosa).”
Before going down against De Anza, O’Brien completed 9 of 13 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the game. In four games, he was 53-of-87 passing (60.9 percent) with six touchdowns.
RUNNING MEN: In addition to Stubbs, the Gladiators have a talented cast of running backs, including Mt. Eden product Jocquil Veazey, who ran for 2,058 yards (No. 3 in state) and 22 touchdowns as a senior. “We have a lot of talent,” Fanene says. “Usually Chabot runs with like four or five running backs, and we have like seven and four of them are really good.”
O-LINE BEEF: The offensive line boasts three returning starters: Brandon Finamore of Arroyo (6-6, 285), Andre Johnson of Skyline (6-3, 305) and Sione Hafoka of San Mateo (6-4, 310). Hafoka started last year before suffering a broken arm against Butte. “All three of those guys are getting major Division I interest right now, especially Brandon and Sione. They’re big bodies,” Fanene said. Two freshmen standouts are center Kapu Fonua of Serra (6-0, 286) and tackle Alex Osibin of Dougherty Valley (6-3, 295).
CATCHING ON: Key returner Malik Henderson of Castro Valley was No. 2 in the team in catches last season behind Josh Revay with 28 for 335 yards. Malik Langham of Florida is also looking good. Austin Camel of Stockton and Keoni Keanini of Hawaii are also vying for playing time.
D-LINE POWER: Defensive line is a huge strength area for the team. “D-line is stout. It’s probably the deepest D-line since I’ve been at Chabot the past six years, the deepest we’ve ever had,” Fanene said. “We’ve got some dudes over there.” Tackles Hau Moala of Tennyson (5-11, 255) and Helsinki, Finland import Roope Lindfors (5-11, 240) lead the charges, along with ends Osbourne (Ozzy) Seuteni of Alaska (6-2, 250) and Antrey Singleton of Georgia (5-11, 255), who played tackle last year. The “giant” second group is also of starter quality on a squad that rotates lineman in liberally. “We have guys that are 6-5 and 6-7 that play in the second group,” Fanene said. “We have a good, solid eight that could probably start for any team in the state.”
LINEBACKER ‘LIGHTS OUT’: Devon Vaenuku of Vallejo was starting until he pulled his hamstring, and then Le-Anthony Grey of American Samoa stepped up and was “lights out” against Santa Rosa, Fanene said. “He set the tone of the whole scrimmage. The first play of the scrimmage he just killed the running back, so he’s really good.” Devon's older brother, Sammy, also looked good in the scrimmage. Devon and Sammy also happen to be Fanene’s nephews. Weakside linebacker Ethan Owens of Tracy is one of the most improved players after shirting last year. “He’s been a great, great surprise this year,” Fanene said.
SECONDARY HAMMERS: Free safety Titus Sullivan of Dougherty Valley is a good fit for the new-look defense, which is switching from a base-cover three to an aggressive style in which the safeties are very involved in stopping the run. Dante Griffith-Johnson, a 100-meter track star out of Emery High, is an aggressive and explosive. Top defensive back Lakevion Thomas Jr. of Oakland is a “great kid and great leader.” Fanene said. On the other side, big Jelifer Alphonse of Miami and Karee Khaleel of San Leandro High, an impressive athlete, are vying for the starting spot.
SPECIAL TEAMS: New kicker Jason Castro of Amador Valley is working on his consistency, and Stubbs and DJ Johnson of Florida, who has returned from a knee injury, are both explosive return men.
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Calcagno's Gladiators won six conference championships (2004, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) in his highly successful run, advancing to the state playoffs twice (2014, 2015) and winning the 2015 Bulldog Bowl championship. He was conference coach of the year six times and state coach of the year once. “I’m very lucky to have come after Danny. We pretty much run our practices the same. He left the program in good standing,” Fanene said.


-- Matt Schwab




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