The Clements Rangers haven’t had a winning campaign since 2009. But fourth-year head coach Bobby Darnell believes a breakthrough is on the horizon.
Darnell, who is in his second coaching stint at Clements, said the program has been building toward success since he returned in 2016. The Rangers finished with a 1-9 record in his first season, then went 0-9 in 2017 and 2-8 last season.
“It all started with changing the culture and mentality of what our athletes were thinking and how they were preparing for games,” he said. “It was a dramatic culture shock as far as putting in the work. The hard work will pay off, but you’ve got to pay the price. That’s how we’ve been able to change things.”
On offense, the Rangers will lean on returning seniors such as quarterback John Perry (1,363 passing yards, 13 touchdowns in 2018) and tailback Pierre Djunga (769 rushing yards, seven TDs) to breathe life into the attack.
“They lead by example and talk when they need to talk, so we’re excited about what they bring to the table,” Darnell said.
Junior receiver David Kasemervisz (381 receiving yards, six TDs) looks to be Perry’s primary target entering 2019. Senior receivers Andrew Bottiglieri and Caleb Guajardo combined for just 22 catches and 146 yards a season ago, but Darnell said the two should help take the playmaking burden off Kasemervisz.
Seniors Sebastian Recinto, Vehbi Karabag and Lee Sanders will anchor an offensive line that is short on game experience and will need to develop quickly.
“We really have a good core nucleus who can get the job done,” Darnell said.
Anchoring the Rangers’ defensive front will be senior linebackers Jacob Gray and Jose Falcon, while Darnell called the secondary of Patrick Smith, Haci Gunes, Athan Rodriguez and Babawande Onipede the most athletic the school has possessed in his years there.
Overall, don’t expect too many changes despite slightly differing personnel for the Rangers, outside of having more players focus on one side of the football to keep them fresh all season, Darnell noted.
“There’s definitely a philosophy we believe in, both offensively and defensively, and nothing is going to change that,” he said. “We’ve got to play great defense, run the football and control. Those things win games.”