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THE LONG ROAD BACK

Lancers aim to halt streak of 10 straight losing seasons

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THE LONG ROAD BACK

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POSTED August 25, 2010 11:51 p.m.

One of the best football teams in East Union school history didn’t even make the playoffs back in 1993 when it triumphed in eight of 10 games.

The consolation prize was a season-ending 24-10 victory over rival Manteca, the outright Valley Oak League champion.

Such has been the luck of the Lancers, and luck has surely been no ally since then.

East Union is hard at work with hopes of making its own breaks. One thing the Lancers would like to break is the string of sub-.500 records that stretched out to 10 successive years with a 4-6 finish in 2009.

 “We want it pretty bad,” said two-way lineman Kyle Edwards. “That’s why we’re working so hard. This team hasn’t had (a winning season) in a long time.

“Going at least 7-3 would be a big step for us.”

More like a gigantic leap.

East Union hasn’t made a postseason appearance since 1992, and its last VOL championship was shared with Sonora in 1989.

The Lancers haven’t since enjoyed a run of success, achieving just one winning season (6-4, 1999) from 1994-2009.

The opening of Sierra, Manteca’s third high school, in 1994 and Weston Ranch in Stockton in 2003 reduced EU’s enrollment size to the point where it became the smallest school in the VOL.
But all that, the Lancers believe, is behind them. A change in offensive and defensive schemes is accompanied by an evolving attitude. The combination of experience, size, team speed and a commitment to the offseason conditioning program has the 2010 Lancers optimistic.

“The energy is more intense than it was last year, and everyone gets along real well,” quarterback TeeJay Gordon said. “It’s just a different feeling.”

Gordon is a big reason why 10th-year head coach Mike James and the rest of the staff has the bar set high. The offense has been revamped to work around the talents of the team’s top playmaker, going from the pro-set formation to the spread under the guidance of offensive coordinator Daniel Taylor. Taylor quarterbacked EU’s last winning team his senior year before starring at Delta College and Texas A&M — Kingsville.

Gordon, the starting QB on the freshman and sophomore teams, got some reps under center last year with then-senior Dennis Johnson missing three games to injury.

“The way the spread offense is going to work, the ball is going in his hands on every play,” James said of Gordon, whom he deems to be one of the best athletes in the area. “It’s not, ‘He’s our quarterback, and we don’t want him to run a whole lot.’ He will be running the ball and throwing the ball.

“There is no holding TeeJay back in our offense — it’s going to go through him.”

Gordon will be surrounded with promising skill players and an experienced offensive line that returns four starters: Chris Andaya (5-8, 215), Dominic Barba (6-0, 245), Nick Duenas (6-1, 216) and Edwards (6-1, 216). Seniors Devon Woodall (6-0, 290) and Brian Calvillo (5-8, 225) gives EU added depth on both sides of scrimmage.

Robert Vaughn returns and is expected to fill in for graduated T.J. Brown as the team’s top receiver. Junior T.J. Williams will line up opposite Vaughn, and junior Steven Gigli is a speed threat out of the backfield.

Senior Dylan Meneses is EU’s jack-of-all-trades at
6-2, 189 pounds. He will back up Gordon at quarterback but will see most of his time at wide out, tight end and safety.

“He is key. The kid is very smart, so he’s doing a little bit of everything for us,” James said.

The Lancers will also have a new look defensively, going to a 3-4 front to take advantage of its linebackers. Eight starters are back with hopes of improving the unit’s points-allowed average of 35 from 2009.

Jose Manzano (5-9, 185) and Nick Steves (5-9, 189) lead the backer corps, with Edwards anchoring the line at nose guard. Vaughn will also play on both sides, lining up at cornerback.

“We are going to try to match up a little bit more to what we feel is one of our best groups as far as defensive team speed,” James said, “We’re very quick on defense this year.”

It’s too early to tell, but the stars appear to be as close to aligning for the win-starved Lancers as they have been in recent years. Their non-league schedule consists of teams (Beyer, Bear Creek, Ceres) that combined for three wins last year, so a good start going into the VOL season could go a long way.

“We only have 13 juniors,” James said. “With the seniors we have coming back and the year (of varsity experience) they have under their belts, that’s a plus. If we’re going to turn this thing around, this might be the year for us to do it.”

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