By GUY DOSSI
For The Union Democrat
The last time the Calaveras Redskins walked off a football field, it was on Nov. 9, 2012. They had just suffered a 44-14 loss to the Escalon Cougars in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships.
For nearly 10 months, the Redskins had to think of that loss and how they had come so far only to see their dreams taken from them on a cold November night.
Now as the dog days of summer are upon the Mother Lode, the Redskins are back at work and using that playoff loss as motivation for the season ahead.
The heart and soul of the Redskins this year is senior running back/defensive back Mike Seawell, who took the loss as a learning experience, and is looking forward to showing all doubters that the Redskins are back.
And better than ever.
“It really hurt, knowing that we got dominated the way that we did,” said Seawell. “It motivates us to get better every day.”
For some Redskins, the offseason started that very next Monday with weightlifting and strength training. Calaveras alumni Keith Enderlein directed a rigorous offseason conditioning program to prepare players for the upcoming season.
Redskin quarterback Justyn Thornburg was one of those players who took advantage of the new program.
“I was here as much as I could be,” said Thornburg. “I was working with Keith (Enderlein), and I was trying to throw to my guys as much as I could during the offseason.”
Thornburg was not the only Redskin using the playoff loss as motivation to prepare for the upcoming season.
Derek Rittenhouse will be one of the five offensive linemen protecting Thornburg this season, and he can already see how the loss has shaped this team into the team they want it to be.
“I think it has made us stronger,” said Rittenhouse. “It’s made us realize that we don’t want to be put in a situation where we are down like that again. I don’t like losing. Nobody on our team likes losing, and that put a fire underneath us for this season.”
Doug Clark is entering his 14th year on the Calaveras coaching staff as defensive coordinator. The playoff loss last season was difficult for Clark and he, like much of the players, had to endure the offseason with that defeat on his mind.
“Losing is never fun, and we take every loss serious,” said Clark. “We learn and try to build from every game, especially a playoff loss. Our guys hit the weight room hard this offseason and came ready to play.”
As a senior, Seawell is taking it one game at a time.
“We want to win each game,” said Seawell. “We take things one week at a time, but it has been a while since we’ve won the Mother Lode League Championship, and we would love to get that back. After we do that, we would love to advance in the playoffs and win a section title.”
The Redskins were last undefeated in MLL play in 2008. In Jason Weatherby’s five years at the helm after taking over for Roger Canepa in 2008, the Redskins have a terrific overall league record. Weatherby, entering his sixth season as head coach, is 40-19 overall, including playoffs, with a 21-4 MLL record. Even with that kind of success, it was difficult to accept a season that fell short of a championship in 2012.
“We felt like we kind of got run over, and Calaveras teams from the past don’t get run over,” said Weatherby. “We have to play tougher than that. We have to play stronger than that. I felt that last year we were more of a finesse team, and we need to be more of a down-your-throat team, so I can see with a different attitude about defense and offense, and get back to the tough hard-nosed Calaveras football that it has been in the past.”
The Redskins will have more of a ground-and-pound offensive attack this season. With more of an emphasis on the ground attack, Seawell will be running behind what he feels is a much-improved offensive line.
“The improvement with the offensive line has been huge,” said Seawell. “The guys up front really work hard and I’m really impressed with them.”
The Redskins’ 2013 season kicks off under the lights against Yosemite High on Friday, Sept. 6.
Senior center Emmett Barrett hopes that he will never have to feel the way that he did, that fateful November night in 2012.
“Thinking of the loss just reminds us of how it feels, and how we don’t want to be in that spot again,” said Barrett. “It motivates us more than anything.”