With members of the 1986 league championship team in attendance and honored before the game, the 2012 Calabasas football team ended its season in grand fashion.
In what, it turns out, was also the Coyotes’ first homecoming win since that same year, 1986, Calabasas defeated Simi Valley, 29-10, as quarterback Ike Fuchs competed 18 of 21 passes for 221 yards and kicked five field goals.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” said Calabasas head coach Christian Pierce. “The emphasis for the last week of the season was that is was an opportunity for the seniors to leave their mark and to try and set the tone for the program going forward.”
Fuchs wasn’t the only senior who had a big game. Caleb Madden caught 11 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. Jordan Pierce had his usual dozen-plus tackles (official defensive stats weren’t available, yet) but also added an interception and a sack.
In addition, Daniel Clay ran for a 9-yard touchdown and Matt Guttridge played well at defensive back.
“One thing I’ve been telling the kids all along is that we’re a better team than their record indicates,” said Pierce. “When you have guys that haven’t won before, it’s hard to get them to understand that they’re right where they’re supposed to be in this place and time and you’ve got to take advantage of the moment.”
Fuchs had engineered a second half comeback the week before against Agoura, but the Chargers pulled the game out with a last-minute drive of their own. This game provides a different and better memory for Fuchs as he ends high school football.
“I’ve known Ike since he was six years old,” Pierce said. “I’m very proud of the kid. I love the kid. He had a great game.”
Madden decided to quit the football team during the off-season. When he came back during the summer and told Pierce he wanted to rejoin the team, he did so with certain restrictions.
“He wasn’t eligible until Week 3 or Week 4 and I added an extra week,” said Pierce. “I wanted to make sure he was coming back for the right reasons. We've got to have some rules. You can’t just quit on your teammates and come back. That’s not what we teach.”
Pierce said he believes the Coyotes, who end 2-8 overall and 1-4 in league, could have won two more games had Madden played every game.
“He was fantastic,” Pierce said of Madden’s final game. “He’s a talented kid. He’s overcome some adversity. Off the field things affect him. Before the Agoura game I told him, ‘The next two weeks will be your games.’”
Pierce put up signs in the locker room and the coaches’ office during the week headed into the game against Simi Valley. The signs read: “Beat Simi.” And also: “Take Pride in How You Finish.”
Calabasas had lost to Simi Valley, 46-17, on September 21, in a game that didn’t count in the league standings. However, the Coyotes were ready for the Pioneers this time.
Pierce said there were times when the Coyotes’ defense was undisciplined against Agoura. A week later, they allowed Simi Valley’s senior quarterback Cody Daste to only complete 12 of 35 passes. Calabasas intercepted three of those attempts.
“It was a good defensive effort,” Pierce said.
The leader of the defense, Pierce’s son, Jordan, will be hard to replace at linebacker. He led the league in tackles as a junior and has only improved this year.
“I don’t know if we can replace him,” said the coach, who noted there are talented players in the lower levels of the Calabasas football program, but none yet, who possess Jordan’s overall ability and football knowledge.
“We’ve got some guys coming up,” Pierce said. “But I don’t think anybody has the football IQ that he has, at least not right now.”
Martin Barboza, a junior, played well at linebacker for Calabasas this year and will be a key returner for the defense in 2013.
Pierce praised his offensive line for its perseverance despite its lack of size.
“Our O-line has always been undersized because of the demographics of Calabasas,” said Pierce. “We don’t have 6-4, 300-pound bruisers, but I think they did the best they could.”
Anthony Freeman, a senior wide receiver/kick returner, injured a ligament in his foot early in week during a practice and couldn’t play in the final game.
Pierce said that a lot of this year’s team consisted of juniors, which he hopes means a bright future for the program.
“We’ve got over 20 juniors coming back next year,” Pierce said. “They were on the varsity this year, so they got a taste of what it’s like. Hopefully, that will ease the transition of where we are to where we want to go. I’m excited about the potential.”
The win against Simi Valley, though, was especially gratifying because of the seniors.
“I’m just really proud about how the guys did,” Pierce said. “The senior class is special. I’ve known them for a long time. They had a good freshmen year. Their sophomore year wasn’t good.
“When they came to the varsity they had some adversity. But they stuck together. It was good to see them go out like that.”