New season. New coach. If that sounds like a broken record, well … it’s one that Cody Roelof hopes to fix at Hilltop High School.
Roelof, a graduate of Granite Hills High School and a social science teacher at HHS for the past four years, was named head coach of the Lancers’ football team last spring. Like his predecessors, he hopes to establish a sense of continuity and benchmark of stability to a program that has much potential but one that hasn’t produced results on the field in recent seasons.
“This year we want to try to build and earn some respect,” Roelof said.
The Lancers finished 4-6 last year after a meteoric 3-0 start, finishing just 1-4 in Mesa League play and 1-6 over the last seven games of the season to fall out of playoff contention.
Hilltop’s schedule remains just as challenging this season despite the move from the Mesa League, inarguably the Metro Conference’s top playing circuit, to a slimmed down four-team South Bay League.
Non-league games against defending Division IV champion Mission Bay, Mesa League powers Bonita Vista and Chula Vista, South Bay League champion Olympian and Metro-Pacific League challenger Montgomery will all pose challenging.
The Lancers have only three league games — one each against Mar Vista, San Ysidro and Southwest.
There is thus a new sense of destiny on campus, with t-shirts sporting the 2010 battle cry: “New league, new legacy.”
Top returners include junior quarterback Omar Hernandez, senior linebacker/tight end Luis Herrera III, senior linebacker Gregory Williams, senior defensive end Ryan Taylor, and senior offensive linemen Anthony Villalobos and Abel Morales.
Hernandez threw for 1,626 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009 while also showcasing his scrambling ability with 547 rushing yards and eight scores.
Hernandez scored both touchdowns in a 30-14 loss to Palo Verde in last Saturday’s CIF Kick Off Classic at Montgomery High School.
Roelof lists the team’s impact newcomers as senior defensive back Sam Medina and senior defensive lineman/fullback Eduardo Servin.
With the departure of standout Sebastian Smith to graduation, the Lancers may get a boost from newcomer P.J. Green.
Several players have switched position in an effort to maximum the team’s potential. Taylor, a linebacker in 2009, was nothing short of impressive from the defensive end position in last Saturday’s scrimmage.
But it’s evident there is much work to be done before Hilltop kicks off league play. The Lancer secondary was repeatedly victimized by Palo Verde QB Robbie Shupe. Shoring up the pass defense is a must for this team.
“We want o keep it simple,” the HHS coach said. “If we do that, the momentum should carry over from last year. Last year’s team left a good platform on which to build.”
Roelof was an assistant coach with Hilltop in 2007 before going on to serve as the offensive coordinator at Mt. Miguel (2008) and El Capitan (2009). The GHHS grad said he’d like to instill some of the successful ingredients in the Lancer program.
“I’m trying to bring that East County mentality over here,” he said.
A strong bolt of the gate could work words in the self-confidence department.
As for challenging for the league title, Roelof said he feels this team is right in the mix.
“I don’t see a favorite — I think we all have a shot,” he said.
A league title would give the SBL champion an automatic berth in the San Diego Section playoffs. Respect? It’s out there.
Hilltop kicks off the 2010 regular season with a Sept. 3 home game against University City.
2010 Varsity Schedule
3: University City at Hilltop, 7 p.m.
10: Hilltop at San Diego, 6:30 p.m.
17: Chula Vista at Hilltop, 7 p.m.
24: Hilltop at Mission Bay, 3 p.m.
8: Hilltop vs. Bonita Vista at Southwestern College, 7 p.m.
15: Hilltop at Montgomery, 7 p.m.
22: Olympian at Hilltop, 7 p.m.
29: Hilltop at Southwest, 7 p.m.
5: Mar Vista at Hilltop, 7 p.m.
12: San Ysidro at Hilltop, 7 p.m.