Football preview: MSJC

Coach Casey Mazzotta hopes for a strong 2017 with a newly-renovated Eagle Stadium

Photo by Corey Evan / The Valley Chronicle
Coach Casey Mazzotta runs his Eagles through drills, before they take flight to Compton on Sep. 9.

■ By Corey Evan / Sports Reporter

Community College sports inherently suffer the biggest Achilles’ heel: student turnover. Because most community college students are gone in two years, rebuilding the Mt. San Jacinto College football team is tough on Coach Casey Mazzotta. But he’s unfazed – he’s done it many times before.
“The one thing about junior college football is that everything changes so rapidly; you lose a lot of guys to graduation every year,” said Mazzotta. That’s a huge part of it.”
Any given school year, this team replaces around 50 percent of its players. Among Mazzotta’s recent grads were defensive linemen, linebackers, a key freshman who got accepted sooner than expected to the University of New Mexico, a quarterback and more. Whether it is through scholarships or signing to the big leagues, Mazzotta is proud of every one of them. “It’s great for those young men to be able to go on and go off on scholarships. But in the meantime, here we are… We’re rebuilding the roster every year.”
To illustrate his experience with rebuilding the roster, Mazzotta has been at MSJC for a decade. Prior to that, he coached at Fullerton Community College for six seasons and spent five years coaching winning high school teams at Bellflower and Foothill high schools.
This year’s challenge is to improve the Eagles’ record. Last year, Mazzotta’s boys won their first three games, only to come undone in the other seven.
“We got off to a really hot start, and were anticipating having a really great year,” said Mazzotta. “Things got away from us a little bit…”
Things like injuries and not strongly anticipating what the opposition would do kept the Eagles from continuing their winning ways in 2016.
But this year the Eagles have a real reason to feel the winning Eagle spirit – thanks to the voters’ approval of Measure AA, MSJC is giving its athletic facilities some much needed attention. In particular, the Eagle Stadium is undergoing an extreme makeover. The biggest change over last year will be the introduction of artificial turf on the field, ensuring consistent playing surfaces and minimizing maintenance costs.
“We’re excited about the new surface… most teams are going to it,” said Mazzotta. “Natural grass is just so hard to maintain. Sometimes it’s either too dry, hit hard, or it’s too wet and soft.”
Among those Eagles excited about their newly renovated home turf are these second-year players:
• Right guard Ryan Shorter is looking forward to bringing energy to Eagle Stadium. “Trying to bring the best I can, all my energy and my effort to the team.” His plans for the future include becoming a registered nurse.
• Cornerback Dmitri Gallow hopes to bring consistency to the team. “I try to influence everybody around me with my effort and my hard work.” Gallow also plans to become a registered nurse.
• Running back Jomari Becnel is looking to be the team’s silent but deadly force: “I don’t talk much so I lead by example; I’m a playmaker.” When he’s not leading his fellow Eagles on the field or helping them with classes, he’s plotting out a future career in behavioral science.
• Middle linebacker James Reeder also tries to be a leader in his own right: “I just come do my job and be a helpful piece to the team overall, to help us win games.” Business administration is his future occupation of choice.
• Safety Lanai Jackson hopes to keep his work-life balance in check so he can keep up his game: “Making sure my grades are handled and being a correct student athlete.” He wants to earn his masters in physical therapy.

The Eagles’ first flight this football season will be to Compton to take on the El Camino Tartars on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m.

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