Homecoming football preview: Damonte Ranch at Truckee
Sierra Sun sports editor
It’s a sports rarity, but winning may not be the primary focus for either team when Truckee hosts Damonte Ranch on homecoming at Surprise Stadium Saturday (Oct. 2).
Damonte, which opened last year in north Reno, is the new kid on the Reno high school block. The enrollment has grown from 500 to 900 in one year, but the majority of the infrastructure is young. Likewise, Damonte’s sports programs are made up of mostly underclassmen athletes, and the football team is no exception.
“I don’t think I have a senior that’s played four years of football,” said Damonte head coach Tony Amantia. “Some are even guys I’ve called and asked to come out (and play on the team).”
Amantia’s roster consists of only five seniors, and about 5 out 7 of his 33 players are sophomores. Youth and inexperience typically don’t produce a winning formula, and the Mustangs are 1-3 while playing an independent schedule in 2004.
“We’re going through a lot of growing pains,” Amantia said. “We’re very green.”
Understandably, Amantia’s focus is not winning ” Damonte’s lone win came against the Carson junior varsity ” because he realizes it would be an unrealistic expectation at this point in the school’s history. What Amantia would like to see is a better overall understanding of the fundamental things that have to happen to build a successful football program.
For instance, one of his players recently skipped out on a practice in favor of a basic teeth cleaning at the dentist office. These are the type of elementary circumstances that need to change, in Amantia’s opinion, if Damonte’s going to adapt the attitude of a winner.
“The faculty is even young,” he said. “No one (here) really knows what it takes to have success at the varsity football level.”
On the other hand, in his first year as the varsity coach (Damonte fielded a freshmen squad and an Amantia-coached JV team that finished 1-4 in 2003), Amantia takes a passive approach toward the situation.
“I don’t get as frustrated as I might have gotten when I was younger,” he said.
When Amantia was younger, he was in a similar situation as an assistant football coach when the Galena program was in its newborn stage. Amantia said Galena ended its inaugural year, 1992, with only 17 players on its roster.
“I’ve been through it before, but it’s a lot more stressful when you’re the head guy,” he said.
Winning, however, is not a foreign concept to Amantia, and that’s where his connection to the Truckee program begins. In addition to being good friends with Wolverines offensive coordinator Bill Branca ” the two played college football at Nevada in the early ’90s ” Amantia was head coach of a Bishop Manogue team that lost to Truckee in the 1998 NIAA 3A state championship game. Amantia then coached Wooster from 1999 to 2002.
From Truckee’s perspective, beating Damonte is not necessarily the goal because anything less would be a major disappointment.
Undefeated in the Northern 3A and coming off a spectacular 35-6 win over Spring Creek, the Wolverines are heavily favored to win, but that doesn’t mean head coach Bob Shaffer is taking the Damonte matchup for granted.
“We’re going to go into this game plan just like we do every other one,” he said. “We have to approach it from that aspect. Otherwise, I think I’m doing my players a disservice.”
Unless something terrible and unforeseen strikes Surprise Stadium Saturday, a Wolverines’ win is a foregone conclusion. It’s how Truckee wins that concerns Shaffer, and there are specific improvements he is looking for from his team.
The main improvement would be what Shaffer refers to as the “C” word: Consistency. In practice, scrimmages and games, he has seen instability from his unit at times. Shaffer thinks inconsistency is a major concern for the Wolverines in their quest for a third 3A state championship in seven seasons.
“If you play one quarter well and you take another quarter off, you’re never going to be successful against the real good teams down the road,” Shaffer said. “(We need to) play every play as hard as we can and to the best of our ability. When we can get to that stage, we’re going to be a pretty good football team.”
Penalties have also plagued Truckee on both sides of the ball this season, a reflection of that inconsistency Shaffer constantly talks about when questioned about the “W” word: Weakness.
But the fact remains, Truckee is already a quality team with the penalties and the inconsistencies, and it’s scary to think how good Shaffer’s squad could be. In its two league wins, Truckee has outscored Sparks and Spring Creek 87-6, and Spring Creek was actually ranked above Truckee in the MaxPreps Power Rankings before the two met last weekend.
Now Truckee is ranked No. 12, and its only loss came to a 4A Hug team (currently ranked No. 9) in a game that was much closer than its 34-21 score suggests.
Despite its early season success, Shaffer still wants his team to gain more discipline and generally be more passionate about the game of football.
“I would like to see our intensity level and our enthusiasm raise up a little more,” he said. “We need to play every down with that enthusiasm.”
Shaffer expects Damonte’s strength to be on defense. In studying film, Shaffer has noticed that the Mustangs do a respectable job of running to the ball and tackling in the open field.
For Amantia, who six years ago was preparing for a championship game against Truckee, he now just hopes to take something positive away from this year’s game.
“I don’t talk about winning or losing, I talk about getting better,” he said. “I’m just trying to teach the game of football. It’s like shuffling the deck each week with these guys.”
The future of Damonte Ranch football is already looking up, however. Forty players have suited up for a freshmen team that is undefeated so far this season, its most notable win coming against the Battle Mountain JV team, Amantia said.
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The two-time defending state champion Truckee baseball team opened league play in style this weekend, taking a three-game sweep of Sparks.