Hans Graham has been with the Castle Park High School football program for 16 years and it is not an understatement to say that he bleeds Trojans red and black. But after a longtime stint as the team’s offensive coordinator, Graham is tackling a new position — that of head coach.
“Having been the offensive coordinator, I’ve coached every position on the offense,” Graham said. “When the opening for the head coaching position came up, I applied for it. It’s at my old school. It’s pretty fun. It’s cool.”
Graham is looked up to as a father figure, or a big brother, by many in the CPHS program and his concept of the Trojan family is all encompassing. But make no mistake, he can mete out discipline when required. There is a genuine respect that goes both ways, and the Trojans hope to prosper under that after multiple coaching changes in the past few years.
The new Castle Park sideline boss has some stability on which to lay the groundwork of this year’s team. Senior running back/defensive back Paul Sierra and senior defensive/offensive lineman Jesus “Chuey” Villegas serve as the team’s two captains.
Five other seniors join them as the core leadership ground in 2010: quarterback John Hernandez, linebacker/offensive lineman Aaron Sillas, linebacker/running back Jovonnie Gonzales and linebacker/ fullback Jamar Shelby.
“That’s our group,” Graham said. “They’re our leaders.”
Shelby, Sierra and Hernandez all earned all-league honors last season.
The Trojans are carrying 53 players on the varsity team this season. Graham said there are about 120 student-athletes in the school’s football program.
By comparison, about 100 incoming students tried out for Eastlake’s freshman team.
“The numbers are getting better,” Graham said. “That’s a positive. We’ve lost students to other schools over the past few years but I think that’s stabilized now and more students should be coming here in the future. It always helps if you’ve got numbers to work with.”
Castle Park has been mired in a downturn in recent years after being hit by a massive wave of graduation following the 2006-07 season and ensuing low enrollment numbers.
Prior to that, the Trojans had enjoyed a decade of success at or near the top of the South Bay League standings, finishing with eight or more wins on four occasions in a five-year span from 2001-05, reaching the division semifinals twice.
Castle Park finished 7-4-1 in 2006 but dropped to just 2-7 in 2007.
The Trojans rebounded to win the 2008 South Bay League title to earn a home playoff game against Point Loma but finished 3-7 last year.
The Trojans hope to be on the upswing this season.
It’s a sharp contrast to bygone years when Castle Park won San Diego Section championships in 1994 and 1996 and finished runner-up in the 1997 and 1999 finals.
But with the creation of the new Metro-Pacific League in which the Trojans are charter members along with Montgomery, Sweetwater and Olympian, a reboot of the program’s winning ways might seem in order. The Metro Conference’s realignment into three leagues certain offers a fresh start for many and new horizons to explore.
Graham said that with a new head coach — and a new league in which to compete — that he is hoping to bring back some of the program’s old tradition. “There was a time when people were afraid to play Castle Park,” he said. “That hasn’t been the case so much lately but we’d like to get back to that. Our goals remain the same: to win league and go deep in the playoffs.”
The Trojans kick off the 2010 season with a Sept. 3 home game against Kearny.
Castle Park Trojans
2010 Varsity Schedule
(All games 7 p.m.)
3: Kearny at Castle Park
10: Castle Park at Mater Dei Cathiolic
17: Grossmont at Castle Park
24: San Ysidro at Castle Park
1: The Rock Academy at Castle Park
8: Chula Vista at Castle Park
15: Castle Park at Mar Vista
29: Sweetwater at Castle Park
5: Castle Park at Olympian
12: Montgomery at Castle Park