As a team that is consistently in the running for the junior college national championship, the expectations entering every season are typically quite bold for the City College of San Francisco football team.
But the hopes entering this season may be even higher than usual.
"There is certainly more talent here than last season," said coach George Rush, whose 2006 team went 10-2 and played in the state title game, where it lost 49-35 to El Camino of Torrance. "This may be the most athletic team we’ve had here since 2001."
Leading the way for the Rams will be a trio of talented wide receivers who impressed last season as freshmen. Deric Davis, Adrian Hillburn, and Andre Wells all return after combining for 85 catches for 1,330 yards and 18 touchdowns.
But one question mark still remains: Who will throw them the ball? The Rams will miss former St. Ignatius High School star Zac Lee, who will suit up for Nebraska this season, but Rush is high on freshman Jeremiah Masoli, who appears to have the inside track on the starting quarterback job.
Masoli will get plenty of protection from a massive offensive line, including tackle Eric Howard, a 6-foot-3, 320-pound sophomore who is the team’s strongest player. A weight room fixture, Howard has bench-pressed 560 pounds.
Despite a history of explosive offenses, the Rams might be stronger defensively this season as a talented group of returnees will be buoyed by the arrival of 6-5, 260-pound freshman linebacker Gerald Williams, who played his high school ball in Florida. Williams will team up with sophomore Nic Thurston — the Defensive Player of the Game in last year’s state title game — to form a formidable linebacking duo.
Strong safety Rashad Swanson, the team’s leading returning tackler, will be the focal point in the secondary and Donnie Phelps will anchor the defensive line after a solid freshman season at tackle.
"We feel like we have all the pieces here, but anything can happen once we get on the field," said Rush, in his 31st year at CCSF. "We’re very much looking forward to the season, but we also know anything can happen."
» LAST YEAR: 10-2 (5-0 NorCal Conference; lost in the state championship game to El Camino College of Torrence 49-35)
» COACH: Coach George Rush, 31st season
» KEY RETURNEES: More than 30, including WR Adrian Hillburn, WR Deric Davis, WR Andre Wells, OL Eric Howard, RB Austin Curran, P-K Phil Zuvala, LB Nic Thurston, DB Rashad Swanson and DL Donnie Phelps.
» KEY NEWCOMERS: LB Gerald Williams, LB Quantez Hunter, CB Devin Mays, OL Alex Zendejas, QB Jeremiah Masoli, RB Sherrod Austin, WR Carlton Sanders.
» KEY GAME: Nov. 3 at Santa Rosa, 1 p.m. The Rams will look to avenge their only regular-season loss of 2006, a 35-34 heartbreaker to the Bear Cubs.
Sept. 1: at Solano 1 p.m.
Sept. 8: vs. Cabrillo 1 p.m.
Sept. 15: vs. Fresno 2 p.m.
Sept. 22: Bye
Sept. 29: vs. Chabot 1 p.m.
Oct. 6: at Los Medanos 7 p.m.
Oct. 13: vs Feather River 1 p.m.
Oct. 20: vs. CSM 1 p.m.
Oct. 27:vs. Foothill 1 p.m.
Nov. 3: at Santa Rosa 1 p.m.
Nov. 10: at Butte 1 p.m.
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