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New hire could rejuvenate slumping program

There was a renewed sense of energy on the Merced College campus after Tuesday afternoon's announcement that Mark Kaanapu would be the new head football coach.

And while the players certainly seemed to have a little more pep in their steps as they went through their offseason paces, no one appeared more fired up than Blue Devil assistant coach Justin Pinasco.

The reason?

Pinasco and Kaanapu shared a chance encounter a few years earlier while the former Menlo College head football coach was visiting MC on a recruiting trip.

The meeting left an impression.

"I remember meeting him well, because we talked for like 20 minutes while he was here to recruit," Pinasco said. "The reason I remember it was that in those 20 minutes I learned so much about football.

"Just his terminology and overall knowledge of the game were very impressive.

"If you can recruit at a school that's going to cost $45,000 a year, you can recruit here.

"I think the school made an excellent hire and I'm really excited to get started."

While Pinasco has a face to put with a name, the player's enthusiasm on Tuesday was more about the program moving forward.

"We haven't had a chance to meet with him yet, so we don't know that much," MC fullback Xavier Gladney said. "The guys that are going to be sophomores all got together and decided we were going to go hard all offseason, so when we got a new coach, we'd be ready.

"It's a good day because we know what direction we're headed in."