Salinas football

Salinas (5-6, 3-3)
 Hard to believe coming off a playoff season can be labeled a down year. Than again,  expectations at Salinas have grown with each postseason appearance.
 That's what happens when you've made a school record nine straight playoff appearances, captured a share of a Gabilan Division title and reached a CCS title game.
 "It serves as motivation when people suggest we're a 5-5 team,'' senior linebacker Drew Schuler said. "We were a few plays away from potentially being 8-2 instead of 5-5.''
 Meaning cleaning up the mistakes is the objective this fall for the Cowboys, whose schedule includes eight playoff teams from last season.
 "The expectations from the kids are higher than what anybody else wants,'' first year Salinas coach Steve Zenk said. "It boggles me that a playoff appearance is considered a disappointing season.''
 Steve Goodbody retired as the winningest coach in Salinas football history -- a history that's over 75 years old. Stepping back into the drivers seat is Zenk, a one-time North Salinas head coach.
 "I did not realize how much I missed being a head coach until after the first practice,'' Zenk said. "I missed being the director for all the kids. I got 74 kids smiling everyday.''
 Having spent the last three years as the offensive line coach for the Cowboys, Zenk will be different than the man he is replacing.
 A more traditional ground game will be enforced with tailback Ritchie Cerda back along with Brett Reade, who threw for over 1,500 yards last fall at quarterback.
 "He (Cerda) was on pace for 1,400 yards before he got hurt last fall,'' Zenk said.
 But that doesn't mean the tempo will slow down. The Cowboys will be aggressive and push the pace in an effort to ware teams down.
 You can do that when very few starters are going both ways.
 "We always have a ton of kids,'' Zenk said. "But we're three deep at most positions. This is one of the deepest teams I've been around.''
 Reade, who also rushed for eight touchdowns last year, will have a familiar target to throw the ball to in flanker Jeff Weimar, who caught a team high 42 passes last year.
 "He's got great hands and is a great blocker,'' Zenk said. "We're going to move him all over the place this year. We're still a spread team with multiple sets. We'll do what we are good at.''
 No doubt Goodbody left the program in good shape. Especially on defense with the return of the 6-foot-1, 220 pound Schuler, an all-league linebacker, who compiled over 100 tackles last year.
 "I'm more of a leader by example,'' Schuler said. "I'm a little more comfortable in being a vocal leader this year. This group is a lot closer. We do things off the football field as well.''
 It won't hurt having 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive lineman Noah Habes back in the trenches for the Cowboys. Last spring he was a top seven selection among 600 kids at the USA Football Camp.
 "Right now it's kind of hard to run our offense in practice because the defense is so good,'' Zenk said. "I'm watching some great things happen in practice.''
 While the Gabilan Division just got even stronger with the additions of Aptos and Seaside, the belief is this is the year of the Cowboy.
 Of course, for that to happen, Salinas will have to find a way to end a 14-year losing streak to their rivals to the west in Palma, which is where Zenk prepped at.
 "I'm not thinking about that,'' Zenk said. "My only concern is getting these kids prepared for our first game. I love our energy and effort. I love seeing kids smiling and enjoying a game.''

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