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Hard times ahead: Gustine forced to play ironman football with 22 players

GUSTINE -- Adam Cano is having a hard time selling Gustine football around campus. The Gustine coach has done all he can to persuade kids to come out and play. The interest just isn't there. Gustine will start the season with just 22 players on the roster.

"I've been everywhere," Cano said. "I've cleaned this campus thoroughly."

Cano estimates that last year has set the program back about five years.

A hazing incident involving Gustine players during an off-season camp led to arrests, lawsuits and the firing of former coach Carl Scudder.

When Gustine finally got back on the field, it struggled to a 1-9 season.

"Honestly, it's going to take about four or five years to rebuild the character of this program," said Cano, who graduated from Gustine in 1986.

"When I played, this program was all about character. It was still that way four or five years ago.

"We've had one black cloud. It's a huge cloud, but I want to get us back on track."

Cano isn't quite sure how he's going to get the Gustine program off the respirator.

Success would obviously generate interest from prospective athletes and the community.

However, Cano is realistic with his expectations with the lack of numbers.

In the meantime, he's forced to work with what he has out there.

With just 22 players, drills are done focusing on just the right or left half of the offense or defense.

"You have to be very creative," Cano said. "We try to condition them the best we can. It's hard to simulate game conditions and we can only go 100 percent every so often."

Cano wasn't the only one trying to recruit players.

"We tried," running back Jake Filippini said. "Their heart just wasn't in it. If their heart isn't in it, maybe it's better they aren't out here."

Filippini and company are well aware of their situation.

They know when they're tired on the field, there's not going to be someone available to give him a breather.

They can't get hurt.

It's another year of iron-man football.

"This is my senior year," quarterback Justin Zalinski said. "I want to enjoy it. Last year wasn't a lot of fun, but I've never quit at anything before.

"I'm not going to start now. I'm going to do whatever I can to help us."