M. Terry / SFVS

Lions In Wait — Reseda players (l-r) Kevin Siguenza, Louie Hernandez, Leo Perales and Sevaun Thompson plan to restore the Regent’s roar in 2015.

The Regents of Reseda will look to the 2015 football season as a wakeup call.

Specifically, to wake up from the nightmare they’ve been trapped in ever since the team’s ascension to Division I in City Section football. A nightmare that has seemed overly long and competitively cruel since 2011.

 Quite simply — quite honestly — the Regents did not have the roster manpower to battle the behemoths of Division I week after week, and were often worn down to tree stumps by the season’s end.

“Although they felt accomplished in being in Division I for four years, compared to where we came from, when they saw the realistic part of it, every week, they knew that it probably wasn’t where we needed to be or where we could have a realistic shot at competing,” said Reseda Coach Alonso Arreola. “Because there are just so many great teams over the hill, with so much depth and experience, the talent was just different.”

Arreola points to the team’s 2011 season, when the Regents went 8-2 in their first Division I regular season, and a perfect 6-0 in the Valley Mission League. That “earned” them a 15th seed in the playoffs, where they traveled to Harbor City to play Narbonne in the first round.

“We had some talent but we only carried 34 kids,” Arreola said. “We step off the bus and are going through warmups, then see Narbonne come out with 80-plus players. We’re going, ‘Oh my goodness, this is crazy.’”

The next three seasons were particularly punishing ones, as the Regents struggled to match up against bigger teams with larger rosters. Last year Reseda bottomed out, going 2-8 for its third consecutive losing season. It was outscored 364-122 over the course of the season, and was shut out four times.

Certainly every team dreams of better times during these dog days of summer. But the Regents do believe things can and will change. They were moved out of Division I and into Division III, with an opportunity to face teams of similar size and makeup. How much better they can be in 2015 will be proven during the season. But there is genuine hope of being on a more level playing field.

“I think it really shines a positive light for kids,” Arreola said of the switch. “I worried about the state of mind of the kids, going from I to III — were they going to feel inadequate. But I think they see the reality of our last couple of years and why we were dropped two divisions.

“So I think they can go into this season thinking they can compete for playoffs, and maybe more. I think that, looking ahead to our season, there’s wins out there for us to go get. We obviously have to prepare well and continue to grind out the year. But if we give ourselves an opportunity to get to the playoffs, we’ll be seeing teams that look more like us in 2015.”

The players say they can’t wait.

“Me personally, I don’t care what division we’re in,” said Sevaun Thompson, 17, a senior who plays running back and middle linebacker. “All I want us to do is go out there and dominate on the field. All I want to happen is for us to play like a family. So if I get hit or hurt, another one of my brothers will step up and fill my spot, play the same way I would. And we’ll have a great season.”

“Personally, I think we’ve been put into this position for a reason,” added Kevin Siguenza, 16, a senior who will play running back and strong safety. “It does [stink] going from Division I to Division III. But now we’re going to be able to compete, and the team’s gonna go out there and fight. We’re all in this together, and we all know the goal: trying to go to the championship.”

The key to bringing about a positive change to the program is a simple one, said lineman Louie Hernandez, 16, a junior. “Hit the playbooks and know the plays. Study them, so we can execute them perfectly on game day.”

Receiver and free safety Leo Perales, a junior, agrees, adding the players seem more ready this season to accept responsibility for each other and strive for a common goal.

“I think not all of us on the team were on the same page last year,” said Perales, 16. “But I (see a difference this year in practice). We’re a lot more organized and we’re executing every play, going as hard as we can.We’ve built a strong bond; it’s unbreakable.”

Although the current Regents’ roster is still small — a total of 51 players including the junior varsity — the players bring a confidence and degree of experience that has been missing. Arreola and staff played as many sophomores as they could last year to acclimate them to varsity football.  

“I like the fact that I have a good core of kids to work with from last year,” the coach said. “I think they should be very excited to turn that around and finish strong here as far as their career at our school. You still have a few hardheads; everybody deals with that. But, ultimately, I’m really excited about the types of kids that we have. I think they’re good kids, with good intentions, and want to work hard and better themselves both on the football field and as young men.”

The biggest question still facing Reseda is who will start at quarterback. Arreola was still undecided at press time.

But even that situation doesn’t feel insurmountable.

Nothing does after what the Regents have already gone through the past three years.