The Championship Run

Sudarshan Kannan

     As the season comes to a close, the football team has its sights set on the league championship and a run for the Central Coast Section rounds. Undefeated until last week’s game against Fremont High School, the Cupertino Pioneers currently hold a 4-1 league record and 7-2 overall record.

     It has been a long 11 months, with weight training, running and conditioning starting in Jan. of this year in preparation for the long haul. Despite the loss of junior linebacker Matthew Kimball and senior lineman Shayan Shafikhani early in the season due to injuries, the team adapted quickly to this setback with the defense stepping in to fill the void left by the two players. In contrast with prior seasons, the Pioneers brought a new physicality to the game, allowing them to match teams regarded as more aggressive. Said Head Coach Christopher Oswald, “We have had seven wins before, but these were seven pretty good wins. We were a lot more physical this year, and we usually are not characterized as physical in terms of out hitting the opponents.” This change was evident in Week Eight’s home game against Los Altos High School, with the Pioneers facing players from Los Altos considered to be larger and more physical. Nevertheless, the Pioneers won 14-7. Building on the results of last year and the groundwork laid by returning players, the coaches and players had the chance to increase the level of effective play on both offense and defense.

     With their sights set on clinching the El Camino League Championship and making it to CCS, the Pioneers aim to carry their momentum leading into this Friday’s championship game against Homestead High School. Said Oswald, “This is going to be a more physical game. Both teams will be on the ground, toughing it out. We have to make good tackles, and when we are running the ball, we have to stay on blocks because Homestead plays extremely physical. We need to try to match their attitude and physicality.”

     With several key seniors departing next year, the priorities for next season include retaining current juniors and conditioning the incoming junior varsity players to perform at the varsity level. Says Oswald, “We have some great leaders coming back next season, so we will not need to look hard for leadership. The key is to get the incoming players to understand that it is okay to beat the teams you are supposed to beat, but you have to beat the teams you are not supposed to beat to have a winning season.”