Merced College

Merced College's Lewis baffled just like everyone else

The film room sat empty and dark on Sunday — one day after Merced College was run off its own field by Feather River.

The final score was as lopsided as any in head coach Tony Lewis’ 30-plus years.Feather River 66, MC 20.

Typically, Lewis and the Blue Devil coaching staff meet on Sunday to pick apart Saturday’s film and plan ahead.

It’s sort of a tradition.

Win or lose.

But with a break in the schedule this weekend and another demoralizing loss, Lewis called off the meeting.No one could blame him.

In fact, change might be a good thing for a program stuck in a rut. MC has lost six straight games dating back to 2007, and its been outscored 222-65 in five games this season.

The Blue Devils didn’t take the practice field on Monday, either — yet another departure from the day-to-day operations.

Instead, as a team, they watched the tape — one agonizing quarter at a time.

We caught up with Tony just before Monday’s horror flick: QUESTION: You mentioned after Saturday’s loss that you hoped the film wouldn’t show anyone lying down. Do you get the sense that you might be losing the locker room?

ANSWER: On the sidelines (Saturday), you got the feeling that guys were giving up on the ship. You just hope that they play hard. I don’t know what happened, because we haven’t watched the film, but the last few series we weren’t running very fast.But do I feel like I’m losing the team? No. We feel like the sophomores have to step up. We don’t feel like that’s happening right now.The question becomes: Do we stick to our guns, get it straightened out and compete for a championship? Or do we go with a youth movement and start preparing for next year?This last (loss) was the most demoralizing we’ve had. This one bewildered us. We didn’t see this one coming. It was like they stole our wallets. Q: How do you move forward? How do you keep these 18- and 19-year-olds from focusing on the losing?

A: These next two weeks are the biggest weeks of our season. We’re still playing for something.I don’t know what else we can tell these guys to make them believe in themselves. If we can’t convince these guys that they’re a good football team, it’s going to be a long, frustrating year. Q: Bye weeks can be a great time for a program to do some serious reflecting. What can you and the rest of the coaching staff do to make things better? Or are you doing all that you can?

A: We feel like we’ve tried to push some buttons ... to see if we could make the team better.We’re going to evaluate some positions and see if there are some positions we really need to look at it.At the same time, you have to play the cards you are dealt. We can’t just overhaul the offense and defense.Defense is a little different, but offensively I don’t know what we can do to get more productivity. We’re sort of scratching our heads. We thought we’d be more prolific. Q: You routinely play the big dogs of the junior college world. But teams like Fresno City, Reedley and Delta have big budgets and resources. Assess your situation.

A: There are some programs that have more support in terms of assistants on campus. Most teams have at least three on campus that are full-time. We have one. I feel like we have a pretty good situation overall, but sometimes we don’t feel like we’re getting as much support as we should get. Q: What would you say to ease the fans’ fear of a winless season?

A: Follow my lead. I’m not going to give up. Even if you’re 0-9, you play to win every game. You don’t bag a season.To tell you the truth, personally, I feel like I’ve let (the fans) down. If I could give everyone a pill and change this thing, I would. But we can’t change what’s happened in the past. We can still go into conference and win it, and I just hope everyone believes that. James Burns is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at jburns@mercedsun-star.com.

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