Bear Cubs are all in to win State


Will Mathis

SRJC sophomore starting quarterback Mitch Hood scans the field during a team scrimmage Aug. 20.

Albert Gregory, Sports Editor

Coming off a 7-4 season and a 2015 North State Bowl win, hopes are high for the 2016 Santa Rosa Junior College football team.

The players’ goal this season is to be a hard-hitting and explosive team that expects to make the playoffs and walk away with a state championship.

“State, that’s all I can say. That’s what I expect from this team,” said Jalen Soto, sophomore starting center and one of the many leaders on this year’s team.

This team plans to go into the season with a group of sophomores who have been playing together for three years at SRJC, including starting quarterback Mitch Hood.

“I’m expecting us to have a lot more team chemistry than last year,” Hood said. “It wasn’t bad last year, but this year we have a lot of three-year guys who all redshirted together. So we had to take that year off and practice together and really gel.”

Hood has all the tools to lead this team’s high-powered, pass-heavy offense. Listed at 6’4”, 178 lbs, Hood has a big arm, good pocket presence, and as a former high school wide receiver, enough athletic ability to make the plays on the ground.

“We are expecting to put up big numbers and hopefully end with a state championship and a ring,” Hood said. “We are all looking forward to making the playoffs.”

Hood plays the game smart; not forcing throws, and runs out of bounds when he scrambles. He believes the team’s football I.Q. is the backbone for this year’s success.

“The strongest aspect of the team is knowledge,” Hood said. “We have guys who have been studying the same playbook for three years.”

Others believe the physical toughness and the many returning players will be the key to winning, like starting tight end sophomore Dominic Carrasco.

“We trained pretty hard this season, even harder than last season,” Carrasco said. “We have a lot of returners, and the people that are filling in the sophomore’s spots from last year are studs.”

Not only the players have high expectations for this season, but also head coach Lenny Wagner believes this team has all the right tools to be great.

“I’m very optimistic. I think we have very good players, but staying healthy is going to be the real challenge, and being smart with our personnel,” He said. “If we can continue to progress the way we are going right now; I really like this team a lot. The kids have great attitudes and there are a lot of hard workers.”

The team held a scrimmage Aug. 21 giving the players a chance to have their first live football action this season.

“It was good,” Wagner said. “We have a lot of film we can break down and grade and evaluate these guys. I kind of feel like we are right where we should be.”

Overall, the scrimmage went well and the team looked sharp on both sides of the ball.

“It was high intensity. The offense did some good things,” Carrasco said. “The defense definitely had some good stops. They stopped us a couple of times near the goal line so overall I think it was a successful day.”

SRJC scrimmages against Chabot College, a team that was in the state championship final four last year.

“That will be a really good measuring stick of where we’re at,” Wagner said. “We try to treat this as much like a game as possible. Typically your team, if you’re good, gets a lot better between game one and game two so we’re banking on that right now.”

SRJC opens its season against Butte College, a team that fought hard and nearly beat SRJC the last two years.

“[Butte] is a very physical, very good team out there and they’re going to battle hard,” Soto said. “We beat them the last two years at home so I expect them to come out here hungry.”

SRJC doesn’t expect this year’s game against Butte to be any different.

“We know that Butte is a championship program and we’re expecting that we are going to have to play nothing less than championship football,” said sophomore running back Ja’Narrick James.  “Last year we came out really fast against them and went up by 23 in the first half and still almost lost because they’re the type of program that’s not going to give up.”

SRJC is slated to face Butte College in it’s season opener at 5 p.m. Sept. 3 at Bailey Field in Santa Rosa.