Surprising Comets are fast learners with Coach ‘Zo mojo

Leave it to Alonzo Carter to one-up an old axiom.

“I’m trying to kill three birds with one stone,” Carter, the
first-year Contra Costa
College
football coach, says of his vision
for the program.

“I’m trying to win games, make sure these kids get an education,
and make sure they move on to four-year schools.”

So far no one’s crying foul.

After the team went 1-19 over the previous two seasons, Carter’s
Comets have found a Coach ‘Zo mojo. They are 3-3 after Saturday’s
27-9 win over Redwoods in the Bay Valley Conference opener.

Carter, who has coached at McClymonds and Berkeley high schools,
optimistically says the goal is to win six or seven games and earn
a bowl berth. He is trying to change a
football culture too accustomed to
mediocrity.

“People are comparing the record — winning two games to 1-19
the past couple of years — and they’re ready to light up a victory
cigar and put out a marching band,” Carter said. “Two wins — but
I’m not satisfied with that.”

Contra Costa threw a scare into both of its Contra Costa
Community
College District rivals this season,
falling 27-20 to Diablo Valley and 25-17 to Los Medanos on
back-to-back weeks.

Last season, the Comets lost to the Vikings and Mustangs by a
combined 109-21.

Consider Contra Costa defensive end Niko Aumua exhibit ‘A’ of
the Carter way.

A 6-foot-6, 225-pound former wide receiver at Alameda High,
Aumua took a year off after high school, then struggled on and off
the field at Contra Costa last year. He was suspended from the team
for nearly half the season.

Now, in a new position, he leads the state in tackles for losses
and ranks fourth in sacks. Aumua has received an offer from
Washington State and is closing in on his AA degree.

“In high school I never had anybody on top of me as far as
keeping me academically sound,” Aumua said. “Even here I was
clowning around, and they (Carter and his staff) helped us get
tutoring and financial aid. It’s made huge impact on the team.”

Aumua had tried to convince Carter to let him play receiver, but
the coach wouldn’t budge. Carter didn’t see a viable Division I
opportunity for a 6-foot-6 wideout, but he did remember Aumua as a
dominant outside linebacker against his Berkeley teams.

Now Division I schools are lining up for Aumua

“It’s fun,” Aumua said of his new role. “I played a little bit
of defense in high school … I’ve got that speed coming off the
end.”

Carter is pleased to have some local gems on the squad,
including defensive backs Keenan Coogler (Berkeley) and Issac Goins
(El Cerrito), wide receiver Najee Lovett (St. Mary’s) and defensive
end Jerry Smith (El Cerrito).

The Comets, who have 40 freshmen, are ranked 17th in the state
in yards allowed per game, at 305.8 — a far cry from the 479.2
average over 10 games last season.

Carter can’t emphasize enough how important it is for his
players to hit the books, not just blocking sleds.

While coaching at Berkeley, Carter took night classes and earned
his own AA degree last May at Contra Costa. He plans to continue
his studies at Cal State East Bay, where he played
football and ran track from
1986-1990.

“One thing I noticed when I graduated from Contra Costa
College was there were no
football players graduating,” Carter
said. “I had problem with that. We’ve got to change that. … Now
we have several players ready graduate.”

Contact Matt Schwab at mschwab@bayareanewsgroup.com .