California keeps winning despite less-than-ideal offseasons

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Saturday, August 29, 2020 | 3:24 PM


Ed Woods is in his second season as football coach at California High School.

It’s been a difficult two seasons in the terms of preparing his squad.

He was hired late in the process before the 2019 season, and the coronavirus has cut into his preparation for the 2020 season.

“I have yet to have a full season with these players,” Woods said. “I’m still learning a lot about them. I’m starting over new again this season.”

Woods, 57, coached 19 seasons at rival Beth-Center. He’s still employed at the school as dean of discipline for kindergarten thru eighth grade.

Despite the late hire at California in 2019, the Trojans still managed to go 7-4 overall and 6-1 in the WPIAL Class A Tri-County South Conference. California lost its first-round playoff game to Cornell, 32-23, after starting quarterback Ryan Cochise left the game with an injury.

Replacing Cochise is one of many tasks Woods must accomplish. He also must replace wide receiver Malik Ramsey and running back Lucas Qualk, who were among the 15 seniors to graduate.

Junior fullback Damani Stafford, sophomore Cole Wolpink and freshman Jake Layhue are battling for the quarterback spot. Stafford, a 6-foot-2, 210-pounder, has picked up things well according to Woods.

“He’s a good athlete,” Woods said. “He’ll also play defensive end.”

Senior Jaeden Zuzak, who was injured most of last season, will take over at running back. Stafford did rush for 455 yards and scored six touchdowns in 2019.

“When Jaeden did play, he ran the ball well,” Woods said. “He’s quick and runs with power.

“We have a lot to replace. When you graduate as many seniors as we did, overall varsity experience lacks, especially in Class A. But we were fortunate to play junior varsity games and play a lot of backups when games got out of hand.”

The offensive line with be new. Woods is counting on Donovon Davis, Tanner Pearce and Seth Rerricha to be stalwarts up front.

Wide receiver Nathan O’Savage and tight end Matt Trunzo look to be the quarterbacks’ top targets. Kwondrea Porter, Ethan Fike and Anthony Haschets are other possible targets.

Defensively, Woods will count on Zuzak, Porter and O’Savage in the secondary, Rerricha and Stafford on the defensive line and Trunzo at linebacker to carry the load.

“The players just need to play and get varsity experience,” Woods said. “We’ll learn a lot about them in our scrimmage against Beth-Center.”

As for the conference, Woods feels West Greene is the team to beat. He also expects Carmichaels to be strong. He’s not sure how the rest of the competition stacks up.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Woods said. “I’m just glad we’re getting a chance to play. It’s been a lot different the past year.”

Schedule

Coach: Ed Woods

2019 record: 7-4, 6-1 in Class A Tri-County South

All-time record: 424-431-14

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, at Bentworth*, 7

9.18, West Greene*, 7

9.25, at Mapletown*, 7

10.2, at Avella*, 7

10.9, Jefferson-Morgan*, 7

10.16, at Carmichaels*, 7

10.23, Monessen*, 7

*Class A Tri-County South Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Ryan Cochise*

38-84, 652 yards, 8 TDs

Rushing: Ryan Cochise*

113-800, 18 TDs

Receiving: Malik Ramsey*

13-305, 3 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• California dropped four contests in 2019, falling to Washington, Laurel, West Greene and California.

• California is a merger with East Pike Run. That merger occurred in 1948.

• California was a WPIAL champion in 1949 when it defeated Dormont, 38-6, to win the Class A title. California finished as the runner-up in 1965, losing to Leechburg, 37-7, and in 1986, falling to Farrell, 28-0.

• The Trojans have made 22 WPIAL playoff appearances, going 7-21. In 97 seasons, California has had one perfect season.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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