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Bonding helped Cougars return to playoffs

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SENIOR LEADERS from left: Shane Caraway, Wolfgang Shepherd, Bradley Schmidt, Dominic Morgan, Logan Kirby, Juan Vargas, Donovan Mayer and Gage Raley have helped the Cougars return to the postseason after a lengthy absence. View more photos at mtdemocrat.com. Democrat photo by Krysten Kellum

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From page A6 | November 13, 2013 | Leave Comment

The year was 1996 when President Bill Clinton was unanimously re-elected, the original line-up of the 1970s rock group Kiss reunited and Brett Favre led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl XXXI win over the New England Patriots.

It was also the year the 20 seniors on the El Dorado High football team were born. Little did they know they’d bond and come together to break a Cougar football playoff drought.

El Dorado returns to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs for the first time in 27 years Friday when the Cougars play at American Canyon for their first postseason taste in nearly three decades.

El Dorado went 3-3 in the Sierra Valley Conference, winning its last three conference games while outscoring opponents 133-34.

In 1987, El Dorado’s last playoff appearance, the Cougars went 1-1. Between 1983 and 1987, the Cougars made the playoffs four of five seasons, winning the section’s D-II title in ’83 — an accomplishment the program celebrated with its recent reunion. Prior to that, El Dorado’s lone playoff appearance was in 1977.

“This year’s seniors built on the foundation of what the Class of 2012 left,” El Dorado head coach Joe Volek said. “They spent the off-season preparing in the weight room and set the tone for hard work equals success. They not only are a good group of football players but a good group of young men. I am very proud of them.”

Center and captain Dominic Morgan and running back Logan Kirby felt the growth of the team developed in January inside the Cougars’ weight room.

“It was really intense,” Morgan said. “We started off not as hard.”

Kirby added, “We progressed out here with summer ball.”

In June, El Dorado attended The Cascade Football Team Camp at McCloud High, where the bond grew stronger among the seniors and juniors.

“We had to stay in tents,” joked Morgan. “We really got to bond and come together as a team.”

When they weren’t on the gridiron during the camp, Volek and his coaches took the players to water falls near the camp where the players went swimming. The players talked about their lives outside of football.

“We talked about our personal lives and what we want to accomplish,” Kirby said.

El Dorado started its season with a 3-1 preseason record, its one loss a narrow 29-16 setback to Tokay. The Cougars then dropped their first three conference games to Vista del Lago, River City and Cosumnes Oaks before regrouping to win three straight, including a huge 35-14 victory over Liberty Ranch.

“Our main goal was to make the playoffs,” Kirby said. ”We had three games (to win) and that was huge for El Dorado.”

Morgan added, “That was a huge turning point (against Liberty Ranch). Our defense against Liberty Ranch was the best game we ever played. That just helped us through the regular season.”

The seniors on the team are Kirby, Morgan, Wolfgang Shepherd, Bradley Schmidt, Gabe Hewritt, Alex Lopez, Jacob Dwyer, Geofry Hamil, Jason Prince, Derek Delfino, Brandon Eldridge, Jeremiah Romero, Clayton Jamaca, Bryce Buford, Juan Vargas, Daniel Rivera, Gage Raley, Shane Caraway, Ethan Fox and Tryston Ross.

El Dorado’s playoff opener against American Canyon, along the Oak Ridge-Napa and Golden Sierra-Delhi matchups will be previewed in Friday’s sports page of the Mountain Democrat.

Contact Mike Bush at 530-344-5079 or mbush@mtdemocrat.net. Follow @MBushMtDemo on Twitter. 

Mike Bush

Mike Bush has been a Staff Writer at the Mountain Democrat since August 2011. Follow him on Twitter @MBushMtDemo
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