Numbers, attitude improve for East Aurora

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Beleaguered? You bet.

Overwhelmed? Not by a long shot.

Kurt Becker knew it wouldn’t be easy when he returned to his alma mater last year to coach the East Aurora football team. His Oakleys didn’t have rose-colored lenses. He knew wins wouldn’t come easy and they didn’t.

The Tomcats went 0-9 and the program’s losing streak hit 39, but it starts the only way it can, with small steps.

“Eighteen,” said the former NFL offensive lineman. “Last year we ended the season with 18 kids. That’s pretty difficult to operate a football team with 18 players. This year, we’re in the mid 40s. At least you can conduct a practice.

“It’s good. We have so many things we have to deal with but in a year’s time, the kids have changed. We really don’t have the problems we had a year ago and, so far, it’s been a very enjoyable summer and fall camp.

“The kids have become coachable. We spend less time on the disciplinary problems and the societal problems that they have and we spend more time on football. It’s been a lot better.”

He’s also encouraged by increased numbers at the lower levels.

“Last year we didn’t have a freshman team and this year we will,” he said.

“We’ll have three squads with freshman and sophomore teams. We still need kids at the lower levels, but at least we have enough to assemble a freshman team.”

The varsity will feature a core group of seniors including, but not limited to, lineman Derrick Mosley, linebacker LaTrell Lee, WR/DBs Desmond Gant and Qahir Phillips, RB/DB Jamaria Littleton, RB/LB Marcus Massey, LB Iran Fausto and CB Jorge Cabrera.

David Fonseca, who started at quarterback last year as a sophomore, returns but is being pushed by fellow juniors Alphonso Dieppa, Michael Gonzalez and Julian Ramos at the position. All figure to see action elsewhere, too, if they don’t start under center.

Littleton and Massey are joined by junior backfield candidates Maleek Payne and Nathan Booker.

Becker is returning to his roots and coaching the offensive linemen.

“Mosley is our only senior, the rest are all juniors but we have seven kids we’re working with so we’ve been able to create a sense of competition. That’s what we need,” said the coach.

“I’m in a lot more direct contact with the offensive coordinator and try to oversee the defense and its personnel.”

Junior lineman Sergio Barrientos is likely to join Lee and Mosley in leading the defense.

“We’re shuffling kids in and out and we’re trying to find as many one-way players as we can, trying to find a single-platoon squad,” said Becker.

“We have some athletes, but we don’t have a ton of football players. Athleticism is good but we have to convert some of that athleticism into football skills.”

The Tomcats open a favorable schedule, featuring six home games, on Friday night against visiting West Aurora, which will become a league game starting next year when the Blackhawks return to the Upstate Eight.

West Chicago, which has had struggles of its own in the DuPage Valley, joins this season.

The Wildcats, who play at East High in the season finale, replace Lake Park, which moves to the DVC.

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