Sonora Raiders Football ready for redemption
By Erik Marcus
La Habra Journal
When looking back, the Sonora Raiders 2013 football season would not be characterized by the term excitement. The Raiders were a team which started few seniors and ended the season led by a sophomore quarterback and tailback. The Raiders dropped all but one game during freeway league play, and ended with a 2-8 record.
A victory against Sunny Hills to finish off the season left a glimmer of hope for the Raiders.
“Playing as many young guys as we did, we knew it was going to be a tough year, but we knew we were also building for the future,” Raider Head Coach Paul Chiotti said.
However, the 2014 season could be a different story. The Raiders will return 9 of 11 starters on offense, and 8 of 11 defensive starters.
The Raiders have seen their team grow not only physically with another year of growth and weight training, but have been able to grow mentally increasing their understanding of the game and the playbook.
“This is an exciting year for us, I think our kids definitely want to go out there and have something to prove,” Chiotti said. “They’ve been working hard and I think they want to show everybody that we were a young squad last year.”
Last season, the Raiders picked up their only league victory with a win over Sunny Hills in the season finale.
Sophomore Jacob Fimbres ran for 233 all purpose yards en route to being named First Team All League. He finished the year with 858 yards on the ground and 254 yards receiving. This year he will transition to a role as the primary tail back after starting last year as the team’s starting safety.
Cole McDonald will start the year at quarterback with his entire starting offensive linemen returning with at least three games experience.
Jorge Bernabe will look to follow up his second team all-league selection as the team’s top offensive tackle and defensive end.
“He’s put on the size and he’s one of our hardest workers and gets after it, and I think he’s going to have a breakout year for us,” Chiotti said about Bernabe.
Brandon Ahrndt will be moved to receiver after losing his starting quarterback spot to McDonald.
Ahrndt’s season was cut short due to injuries and will be joined by Jason Clayton at receiver.
“(Clayton’s) had a tremendous summer and is really emerging as a brave wide receiver and playmaker for us.
With camp ahead for the Raiders, they will look to develop some depth amongst the younger players.
“We’re hoping a couple of the younger guys who maybe didn’t get the playing time last year can step up and give us the depth that we need,” Chiotti said.
With greater depth the Raiders hope to be able to endure a long season.
“Our league is pretty physical so it’s nice to sometimes get some other kids to step in and help keep each other accountable,” Chiotti said.
With a handful of seniors ready to step into leadership roles, they have set their sights high.
The Raiders will look to compete for a league title, win a CIF playoff game, and if everything breaks right, come away with a CIF title.
The Raiders open the season up with three home games before traveling to play Don Lugo High School.
Sonora returns to host Whittier Christian for the first time.
The Raiders will play most of their Freeway League games on the road, including ending the season against perennial powerhouse La Habra.
“If they want to achieve these goals,” Chiotti said, “they have got to compete on every play, every second, and every game.”