New year, new coach, new football season

Claremont High School football coach Shane Hile is happy the Pack won its opening game last week against Norte Vista, 34-28. But now his focus moves to Friday when Claremont travels to Upland High School.

Last year Coach Hile was Upland’s defensive line coach when the Highlanders shut down Claremont’s offense, so it is good to have him on the Pack’s side this time around. That 42-3 loss was the most lopsided result of the entire season.

However, if Claremont fans were hoping that Coach Hile had smuggled a secret playbook out of the Highlander war room, they will be disappointed.

“I plan to use the same tactic that we always have. We are going to play our butts off for 48 minutes. That is our secret special tactic,” he said.

For his players he had a more direct message: “You are going to beat this team because you are more disciplined,” he said during practice on Monday.

“Upland is a phenomenal team. I coached there along with my son, so we know all about Upland. Lots of talent, lots of kids and well-coached, I have nothing but the utmost respect for those guys. But at the same time, we are not going to just walk in there and bow down, we are going to play football,” he said.

Last year, Claremont’s offensive plays were relatively unimaginative—just hand the ball to Duy Tran Sampson and try to open a hole for him to run through.

This year Claremont is hoping to have a more balanced approach, which will revolve around junior quarterback Reggie Ratzlaff.

“I think our passing is good,” said Coach Hile, “Just based on Thursday we were pretty balanced. We were able to throw it, we were able to run it, and if we can keep that up through the season we are going to like what we have.”

During the Norte Vista game—the Braves defeated the Pack 49-21 in 2016—the Pack could not afford to let up on the pressure.

This year Claremont was up by 13 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but Norte Vista scored a touchdown, and then Claremont lost possession on the Braves’ 25-yard line when they failed to convert on fourth down. Norte Vista took over with about 90 seconds remaining, but Claremont’s defense stopped them from advancing. Then Noah Gonzalez and Owen Miller got a sack, and that was the end of the game.

“It was a lot of excitement and a great experience for our kids, because all of the things we have been telling them [in practice] they got to actually see,” Coach Hile said. “Our motto of out-working our opponent [paid off], but it took us all 48 minutes to win that game.”

On Monday the team was hard at work running drills in the late afternoon heat, as the coaching staff watched with a keen eye. Senior Drew Johnson was waiting on the sidelines for his turn on the field. Johnson had two touchdowns and rushed for 101 yards during the Norte Vista game, which earned him an unofficial MVP award. “I am hard to take down,” he said “I get the yards even after contact, you can’t [tackle] high on me.”

“Defense did a good job especially up front,” Coach Hile said. “Norte Vista doesn’t really pass the ball at all, I think they passed maybe 12 to 15 times all last year. They just run it, and our defensive line did a great job of stopping that. Any time you hold Norte Vista to, I think it was 250 yards rushing, you have had a good night.”

Regardless of what happens on Friday, the big game comes next week when Claremont plays rival Damien High School at home. Claremont won two years ago, 42-17, with Raine Pohaku Kaheaku-Paiva at quarterback but lost last year, 38-17.

Coach Hile offered a somewhat philosophical take on the game:

“If you play hard-nose football and then look at that thing at the end of the field [he motions to the scoreboard], you see where you fall at the end of the game. That is pretty much it. Nothing special.”

—Steven Felschundneff


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