"It's night and day."
That's how Cabrillo football coach A.J. Pateras describes the development of the Cabrillo football program from year one as he enters his third season on the sidelines at CHS.
Will that development lead to more wins in 2019? That remains to be seen.
The Conqs went 0-10 in 2018. The closest they came to winning was the 26-25 loss to San Marcos in a Channel League game. The Conquistadores were also competitive in a 24-7 loss to Ventura Buena.
They were outscored 400-72 in 10 games.
The Conqs went 0-10 in 2018. The closest they came to winning was the 26-25 loss to San Marcos in a Channel League game. The Conquistadores we…
Those numbers haven't put a damper on Pateras' enthusiasm when talking about his program and the changes being made in Vandenberg Village.
Pateras has found his groove after coming over from Ventura County in 2017.
"I remember my first year, I was still driving up from Ventura and we were running morning workouts at 6 a.m. I was driving an hour-and-a-half to get to workouts," Pateras said. "Now we've got more coaches in place, we have coaches going on year three. We brought in coach (Doug) May."
Pateras says May, who spent two seasons leading the Orcutt Academy 8-man football team and was an assistant at Righetti last season, has brought major value to the program. May has been working with Cabrillo's offense after spending last season as Righetti's DBs coach.
"He's been a huge stability boost in terms of another head coach with tons of experience," Pateras said of May.
There's also been improved weight-room work at Cabrillo and the school's athletic trainer has been more involved with the strength and conditioning program.
"With our booster club and our parents and the family support, and the administrative support behind the scenes, I feel less stressed coming into this year just knowing that I'm not looking to do everything," Pateras said. "We've got a lot of good pieces in place to support our kids and support our coaches."
Pateras confronts the issues his team's offense faced last season, noting they were shutout four times and averaged just over seven points a game in 2018.
"My focus was, 'How do we bring stability to the offense?' Pateras said. "Hiring Doug, right off the bat, his knowledge and experience as a head coach, lower level coach and coordinator, it's like I have another head coach out there."
Pateras said the team is scaling back its spread offense, though there will still be spread elements in the base offense.
Junior Zack Ramos was tabbed to lead that unit at quarterback after spending last year running the JV squad.
On defense, Patrick Durham returns as the unquestioned leader of that unit. Last season, the linebacker piled up 110 total tackles in 10 games. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound machine is one of the top defensive players in the Channel League.
Pateras says Durham is almost like another coach in the locker room and on the field.
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"He's another sounding board. 'What do you guys need? How are you guys feeling?' Pateras said of how he communicates with Durham. "He's hard on himself and he looks to be perfect."
"Not only am I focused on improving myself, but I'm also focused on improving my teammates, my other linebackers, my other defenders," Durham says. "I got a lot of tackles last year but my teammates didn't get as many.
"I want my D-Line to get more tackles than me, I want my teammates to get 500 tackles this year."
Durham will also play some fullback on offense.
"It's the first time, in my life, that I've played running back and I'm really excited," Durham said. "I'm a good hitter on defense so I think I'll be pretty good on offense when it comes to hitting. I have speed. I think right now I'm the fastest one on the team. I think I'll be good."
Durham is expecting sophomore Julian Carlson to step up on defense at linebacker and junior Cade McNamee to be a force at defensive end. McNamee is a 6-foot-4, 200-pounder who also plays tight end.
"He's already insane when it comes to D-End," Durham said of McNamee. "I think he can get a lot of pressure off my back and get some tackles in there. The last one I'm really excited for is Trey Robison. He's playing safety this year. Last year he played outside linebacker and he'll be really good in coverage. He's probably the second fastest guy on the team."
McNamee says he'll use his size at both tight end and defensive end this year.
"You gotta use the physicality of being big bodied," McNamee said. "Work hard and be big and strong when you go up for a ball. Really, you can't compete with it."
McNamee says Ramos, the new starting QB, has shown promise during the preseason.
"Ramos is a grinder, he's good. I have full faith in him that he can really dominate that position," McNamee said. "He's been working hard throughout summer camp. I have full faith in him."