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WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Friday’s games

NBL

Rancho Cotate at Casa Grande at SRJC, 7:30 p.m.

Windsor at Ukiah, 7:30 p.m.

Cardinal Newman at Santa Rosa, 7:30 p.m.

Montgomery at Maria Carrillo, 7:30 p.m.

SCL

Healdsburg vs El Molino at Windsor, 7:30 p.m.

Sonoma Valley at Petaluma, 7:30 p.m.

Piner at Elsie Allen, 7:30 p.m.

NCL I

Cloverdale at St. Helena, 7:30 p.m.

Willits at Kelseyville, 7:30 p.m.

Middletown at Lower Lake, 7:30 p.m.

NCL III

Calistoga at Potter Valley, 7 p.m.

Nonleague

Clear Lake at South Fork, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday’s games

NCL III

Tomales at Rincon Valley Christian, 1 p.m.

Anderson Valley at Laytonville, 2 p.m.

Point Arena at Mendocino, 2 p.m.

Nonleague

St. Vincent at Balboa, 2 p.m.


For Elsie Allen football coach Bill Wight, even the small victories are important.

Like when the Lobos were down “only” 20-6 in the second quarter earlier this year.

Like when a defensive player makes a tackle for a loss.

Heck, even scoring multiple touchdowns in a single game is cause for celebration.

It’s been so long since Elsie Allen actually notched a victory, reaching for that brass ring might be pretty bold. Maybe it’s better to just strive for incremental improvements.

In his first season at Elsie, Wight brings with him the fresh optimism of a new coach taking on a program that has nowhere to go but up. When he accepted the head coach position, he actually called it his “dream job.”

Reality is tough to ignore, though.

“Giving up as many points as we’re giving up is painful,” said Wight, who was a defensive coordinator at his last coaching job.

One can sympathize. Elsie, at 0-3 this year, has lost by scores of 77-0, 60-20 and 53-0. Opponents have scored 8.5 times as many points as the Lobos.

“But from where we started, it’s not so bad,” Wight said.

Where they started is here:

One win in the past three seasons.

Three wins in the past seven seasons.

Nine wins total in the past 12 seasons.

That makes the Lobos 9-102 since 2004.

The seniors on the team have seen Elsie Allen win just one football game in their entire high school experience.

Wight and athletic director Madison Lott chalk some of that up to a culture at the school that for years didn’t celebrate athletics and has accepted losing as status quo.

“Our school spends a lot of time feeling sorry for itself. That holds our kids back,” said Lott, who coached football last year and still coaches boys basketball.

“I always tell our kids, ‘You can’t allow yourself to feel bad about something, you have to find a way to rectify the situation.’ We emphasize that it’s OK to achieve greatness.”

The historically weak football program may also have cultural roots, the coaches said.

The soccer program had 60 kids show up.

“There’s no commitment to the (football) program,” Lott said. “I had more kids in basketball conditioning in the fall than the total we had in our football program. The mindset is they’re going to lose anyway. They want to be part of it, but they don’t want to commit to achieving something.”

There also is no youth football program in the area, like Piner or Montgomery have.

“When you’re not a football school, the kids who want to play football don’t come to Elsie,” Lott said. “Most of our kids who come out for football as freshmen, it’s the first time they’ve played it. It’s a huge eye opener and some don’t want to play anymore.”

After Lott stepped away last year as football coach, the school hired a former NFL practice-team player as head coach. But he only lasted a few months, often not making it to practices because he commuted from the East Bay.

He also was unhappy with the level of skill, football knowledge and commitment of his young athletes, Lott and Wight said.

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Friday’s games

NBL

Rancho Cotate at Casa Grande at SRJC, 7:30 p.m.

Windsor at Ukiah, 7:30 p.m.

Cardinal Newman at Santa Rosa, 7:30 p.m.

Montgomery at Maria Carrillo, 7:30 p.m.

SCL

Healdsburg vs El Molino at Windsor, 7:30 p.m.

Sonoma Valley at Petaluma, 7:30 p.m.

Piner at Elsie Allen, 7:30 p.m.

NCL I

Cloverdale at St. Helena, 7:30 p.m.

Willits at Kelseyville, 7:30 p.m.

Middletown at Lower Lake, 7:30 p.m.

NCL III

Calistoga at Potter Valley, 7 p.m.

Nonleague

Clear Lake at South Fork, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday’s games

NCL III

Tomales at Rincon Valley Christian, 1 p.m.

Anderson Valley at Laytonville, 2 p.m.

Point Arena at Mendocino, 2 p.m.

Nonleague

St. Vincent at Balboa, 2 p.m.

So Wight, who had been hired as an assistant but left when it was clear his coaching style was different than his boss’, was offered the job to return as head coach.

It’s been more than a challenge, he acknowledged, especially having coached as an assistant at Montgomery and in state-championship caliber programs in Idaho.

When he took over Elsie, there were 20 kids on the roster. Six were then ruled academically ineligible to play.

The Lobos started their first game, against Esparto, with 15 kids. Four got injured by halftime, so the same 11 had to play both sides of the ball the entire second half.

Final score: 77-0 Esparto.

By the second game, Wight called up all the sophomores from junior varsity to play against Ygnacio Valley and there “20-something” players on the roster.

“We moved the ball well. Did some good things offensively,” Wight said.

The Lobos scored 20 and quarterback Frankie Suarez threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns.

Still, they lost 60-20.

Last week, with Suarez injured for much of the game, Lower Lake took it to the Lobos, holding them to 72 total yards and winning 53-0.

Lott said he will give Wight some leeway as he takes on the program.

“The kids aren’t quitting. They’re staying out there,” he said. “The results aren’t the best. It’d be nice to be competitive. Accountability is always important as a coach, but at high school our jobs aren’t to win games, our jobs are to mentor kids.”

Wight said he was impressed with the core group of kids who’ve shown up every day and worked hard, despite the dispiriting losses.

“They’re really special. God bless ’em, they can’t play football very well yet, but they work hard,” he said. “Early on, every day after practice they thanked us and shook our hands, said thanks for being our coaches. It’s touching that kids would say that.”

Another small victory Wight has enjoyed this year came in that ugly Esparto game. Despite running up a 10-touchdown lead, the Spartans scored again as time ran out.

“But you know what,” he said with pride. “I was getting compliments from the officiating crew on how hard our kids were working out there.”

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.