San Clemente doesn't want to be one-year fad
LOS ANGELES - San Clemente is a throwback of sorts.
It’s a one-school, one-town community. When the Tritons take the field on Friday nights, they’re typically the only show in town.
Their run to the PAC-5 Championship game last season at Angel Stadium was taken out of a page from the annals of San Clemente history.
It was the first time the Tritons reached a CIF final since 1979. It was like déjà vu for then head coach, Jon Hamro, who was a member of that 1979 team.
Just days before the 2011 season began, the Tritons didn’t know who their head coach would be, let alone how they would keep it together to make an epic run to a CIF final.
Hamro, who’s also the school’s athletic director and offensive line coach, was tabbed as the interim head coach in 2011, leading the magical run.
He’s since gone back to assist on the offensive line with former USC Trojan and NFL offensive lineman Pat Harlow.
Former defensive coordinator Jamie Ortiz was named head coach in March. He’s the third head coach for the Tritons in as many years, but, as strange as it may sound, that has not disrupted the continuity of the coaching staff, which remains intact - a bonus for Ortiz and the Tritons.
“We have a great group of coaches. Guys that played in the NFL and guys that have coached high school for numerous years,” Ortiz said. “Having that experience and that group of guys together to lead this team is important.”
It takes a community like San Clemente for such change over the last three seasons to have the appearance of no change at all. In fact, 23 of the 25 coaches for the San Clemente football program live in the city of San Clemente. For Homecoming, the entire city shuts down for a huge parade down Del Mar Street.
“That’s huge,” Ortiz said.
He estimates 10,000 of the 15,000 in attendance for the CIF final against Santa Margarita at Angel Stadium last season were San Clemente faithful.
If there was anything to gain from reaching the CIF final last season it's that ending a 32-year hiatus was not enough. It needs to be a routine and the Tritons want to win.
“(Making the finals has) made the coaches more accountable (and) made the players more accountable,” Ortiz said. “We don’t want to be a one year fad. We want to be able to go in every year and be like an Edison and be like a Servite and Mater Dei and compete every year for that championship and it’s not just a one year deal.
“We want to build that tradition.”
So what is there to say about the 2012 team as they try to build the tradition of San Clemente football under Ortiz?
Preseason rankings for the Tritons are all over the place. MaxPreps has them ranked No. 10 in the state. OCVarsity says they’re No. 8 in Orange County.
San Clemente lost a ton from last year’s team, including quarterback Travis Wilson (Utah), offensive lineman Kyle Murphy (Stanford), wide receiver/defensive back Christian Tober (USC walk-on) - who Ortiz says is “pound-for-pound” one of the greatest players he’s ever coached - defensive back Herbert Gamboa (Montana) and running back Mike Elespuru (Penn).
The offensive line will be the core of the team led by Washington commit Sean Harlow, but they can’t live off of the legacy left behind by last year’s team.
“A lot of conversation talking to people is ‘Where’s Travis Wilson? Where’s Kyle Murphy?’” Ortiz said. “I love both of those players. They’re awesome, but now we need to talk about Sean Harlow’s and (quarterback) Sean Donnelly’s, the next group of guys, (and) they’re going to do what they can to lead us to the playoffs and hopefully a league championship and a CIF Championship.
“We had a great group of kids last year and now it’s up to these guys to step up to the plate to show what they could do to represent Triton football.”
It will be interesting to see where the Tritons end up this season. San Clemente will certainly be watching. It’ll be the only show in town.