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


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


“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


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


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


“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 .