A 180-degree swing in the fortunes of a football team can come swiftly from a dynamic infusion of new blood from a loaded junior varsity or an influx of transfers eager for a fresh start. It can also take longer, the rebuild and restoration coming brick by painstaking brick.
And sometimes you must venture down both paths.
Back in 2011, the Reseda Regents were moved by City Section officials from Division II into Division I, a move they were ill-equipped for at least when it came to the level of skill and girth needed to compete for more than a year.
After a four-year stretch of little-to-middling success — and another move down into Division III —the Regents erupted for 11 wins in 2016, and made it to the City Section Division III title game (losing to Franklin).
Reseda was moved back up to Division II this year. And the Regents, so far, have shown no signs of sliding.
The 30-14 victory against Chavez on Sept.1 improved Reseda’s record this season to 2-0. Despite some early moments where the offense struggled and the defense was hamstrung by penalties, once the Regents took the lead early in the third quarter, they kept the lead the rest of the night.
Coach Alonso Arreola is definitely happier with the promotion this time than he was with the move to Division I in 2011.
“We were definitely excited to be moved up,” Arreola said. “Eventually we want to be a D-I team, which is what everyone should strive for. But we want to have D-I players and D-I depth. We’re getting closer to having more kids with that kind of football experience and knowledge.
“There are quality teams in Division II, and we want to compete for the championship. I think we have the kids that can progress to accomplishing that goal, and need our guys to be better. But they have set the goal for themselves. They believe, and that is half the battle.”
Fernando Monnarez, the lone returning starter on the offensive line, put it another way.
“It was tough losing,” said Monnarez, 16, junior. “We all had put our hearts into it, fought as hard as we could. We’re even more motivated this season. Once you get a taste of [playing in a final] you want it even more.”
Arreola wouldn’t mind having a larger roster than the 37 players listed. But despite the relative youth — only 10 seniors — he likes the overall quality of the group, especially on offense.
It starts with quarterback Mike Martin, a senior, who’s run for 169 yards and four touchdowns, and passed for 291 yards and two touchdowns. “He split time last year (with Zack Almora) so we didn’t throw the whole playbook at him,” Arreola said. “This year we asking him to do more.”
Martin doesn’t have to be a one-man band. Running back Augustine Elizalde, a junior, is capable of picking up yards in chunks. Wide receiver Jalani Ellison, a senior who’s caught seven passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns, is the main deep threat but sophomore Mario Martinez shows promise and athleticism.
Youth is being served on the defense with Prophet Tagoai, a sophomore linebacker, currently leading the team with 25 tackles. Not bad for a 14-year-old who got his first look at varsity when he was pressed into the 2016 title game because of illness and injuries to other starters.
The coaches thought enough of Tagoai’s ability and demeanor to make him a captain. Tagoai wasn’t sure initially if he could handle the responsibilities Arreola and the coaching staff wanted to give him, but he is becoming more assured with each passing week.
“It feels good” to be on the varsity at his age, Tagoai said. “It feels like an achievement. But it’s not like anything was handed to me. I had to work for it — which was important.
“[The coaches] told me I gotta be a leader on the field. Even though I’m that young, I had to show people they had to respect me. I didn’t know if some of the juniors and seniors would listen to me. But [the coaches] explained to me the role I have to play on the team, and that I had to step up.”
And then there’s Alonzo Hall, who transferred to Reseda after last playing football at Norristown High near Philadelphia. Hall, 16, a junior, is a manchild already standing 6-5 and weighing 215 pounds. His speed, strength and wingspan have already created an impact at defensive end, where Arreola said he has five sacks in the two games.
“When I first heard about [Reseda] I was a bit skeptical, just not knowing,” Hall said But when I looked into it, found out about the education and the coaching staff, I wanted to come here.”
As for the football here in California, Hall said “It’s on a whole other level compared to [back home]. It’s much better — especially the work ethic. The last team I played for worked hard, but not as hard as they work here. I’m getting better technique, much stronger and great coaching. From the time I’ve been here, it’s definitely helping me get to the next level.”
Hall is eager for his first exposure to the rivalry game (and home opener) Reseda will play this Friday, Sept. 8, against Cleveland. He also wants a championship ring as badly as Monnarez and Tagoai say they want one.
Arreola is excited that Reseda once again has the ability to compete for one — this year and beyond.
“A foundation is in place,” he said.