A lot has changed since Los Banos High defensive line coach Don Enos graduated from LBHS in 1954 – the town has changed, and the game has changed.
“When I played, it was three yards and a cloud of dust,” Enos said. “In ’51 and ’52, you had Leon Martin and George Lane and Roger Post. Martin was the quarterback. He broke all the school records that were broken by his nephew about three years ago.
“We didn’t throw the ball a lot. But other than that, it was just the culture. The town was different. I played in the first game in Loftin Stadium in ’53. Before that we played at 3 o’clock in the afternoon over where Westside (Union Elementary School) is, and you couldn’t buy a cup of coffee in this town when we played.”
Enos is the elder statesman of a Los Banos High football coaching staff whose members played at Los Banos High in every decade for the last 70 years – Enos graduated in 1954, running backs coach John Painter graduated in 1963 and offensive line coach Anthony Santos graduated in 1975. The 1980s featured JV assistants Aaron Barcellos and Manuel Zorra. Varsity head coach Dustin Caropreso’s playing career straddled the ’80s and ’90s. Linebackers coach Mike Tate, receivers coach Imoni Percoats, offensive coordinator Jeremy Siemiller and freshman head coach Laurence Mitchell all graduated in the ’90s. And freshman assistants Doug Fuentes (class of 2008) and Chris Kelley (class of 2011) take care of last decade and the current decade.
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“Being from Los Banos, and the guys that we have on this staff being from Los Banos, shows you that there’s still local commitment to this program,” Caropreso said. “So that’s a sense of pride that, you know, I think we look at. We say, ‘Once a Tiger, always a Tiger,’ and I guess you could say that about our whole staff, because the majority of us are guys that played at this program, being one high school up until a few years ago.”
Out of 20 coaches in the program, only five played high school football at other schools.
They haven’t all spent the entire time with the program – Enos and Painter started the Los Banos Tigers youth football program in 1971, and will be among those honored at a celebration of the program on Oct. 19. Enos, a lineman, had promises of scholarships from Oregon State and University of the Pacific in Stockton when he graduated.
“My dad died 10 days before I graduated from high school, and he wanted me to go to Santa Clara, so I went to Santa Clara,” Enos said. “Santa Clara didn’t have a football team at the time.”
Enos left Los Banos in 1988, pursuing construction opportunities as far away as Boston, and joined the staff when he retired in 2006.
“It was just a different game. It was not near as sophisticated as it is now, a lot more physical. The kids today are better athletes, but we were so much tougher mentally,” Enos said. “Today these kids ask me, ‘What’d you bench press when you were playing?’ I say, ‘A hay bale.’ We didn’t have weights. We bucked sacks, and we bucked bales. ... It was just a whole different culture.”
Painter played quarterback, and he still remembers the season the Tigers scored 330 points and gave up 33 the whole season, but 20 of those were to Dos Palos in the team’s only loss. Santos also remembers losses to Dos Palos in the ’70s.
“I had two icons of Los Banos – I had three, because I had Coach (Joe) Toscano and Coach (Herb) Himmerich, who is going into the Los Banos Hall of Fame, and I had Coach (Joe) Bondi,” Santos said. “So that’s three icons here as far as Los Banos athletics. And I do find myself saying things they said.”
Santos was coaching youth football when he ran into Toscano, who was near the end of his career at LBHS, about 12 years ago.
“I said, ‘How come you haven’t beat Dos Palos in a while?’ And he said, ‘Why don’t you come down and see what’s going on for yourself?’ And I said, sure,” Santos said. “And I’ve been back here ever since.”
Tonight that staff heads to Modesto to lead the Tigers (4-1, 1-0 Western Athletic Conference) against league favorite Central Catholic (5-1, 2-0). The staff was on hand for CC’s 24-21 win last week over Pacheco during the team’s bye week.
“You look at Central Catholic. They ran 64 plays, and 50-something of them were run plays, and they throw the ball as much as we do,” Caropreso said. “Pacheco ran something like 27, 28 plays. When you play against a team like that, you’re going to try to turn that in your favor. We’re going to try to minimize those possessions. We don’t want to let them have the ball 64 times, because if we do, we’re going to be in for a long night.”
Locals in JC
Modesto Junior College freshman James Sams, who graduated from LBHS in the spring, has spent the first half of the season as MJC’s second option at running back. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound back has compiled 244 yards and 4 touchdowns on 51 carries, second only to Anthony Cota, a fellow freshman from Sierra High in Manteca, who has 393 yards and 5 scores. Sams also has 13 receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Other LBHS grads playing for the 2-3 Pirates include freshman defensive lineman Gabe Lopez (7 tackles), sophomore safety Miguel Marshall (7 tackles), freshman linebacker Markus Rico (2 tackles) and freshman receiver Keith Turner, who is redshirting this year.
At Merced (1-4), a pair of Dos Palos grads are contributing in sophomore linebacker Kevin Cozzi (18 tackles) and, freshman defensive lineman Logan Enos (4 tackles). Others on the roster include freshman kicker Derek Neves from LBHS, sophomore receiver Marcis Tate from DPHS and freshman receiver Sam Jimenez from Pacheco.