Eagle Football coach Roche has many holes to fill

Dave Sjostedt
Coach Charlie Roche supervises a tackling drill.

Most community college football coaches breathe a sigh of relief when they have a first-team all-conference quarterback like Thairen Sivongsa returning to take the reins. That relief is short-lived for College of the Siskiyous coach Charlie Roche when he looks at the other holes in his lineup.

The Eagles lost all-conference running back Andrew Kannely-Robles of Yreka, second in the National Nor-Cal League with 125 yards per game, and fellow all-leaguer Alex Light who averaged 71 reception yards per game and scored seven touchdowns.

Also needing to be replaced will be top return man Deangelo Bryant, a couple of all-conference linemen, and the starting punter and field goal kicker.

Coach Roche, who played for the Eagles in the early nineties and captained the team in his sophomore year, was in the first week of practice and hadn’t yet sorted out the 120 men out for the team but liked his recruiting.

Roche has coached at both community colleges and four-year schools and says that it’s much tougher at a two-year school where freshmen have to be brought up to speed quickly since many will be starters.

At a four-year school Roche had the luxury of experienced upperclassmen that allowed him to develop his young players at a pace they could handle.

Roche said that he “had length at wide receiver with five or six guys over six foot three” to join returning speedster Dangelo Briggs who had 18 receptions and two touchdowns as a pass-catcher. Briggs, a Washington State 100 meter champ in high school, also had 325 kick return yards.

The team will field 50-60 athletes from Oregon, 18 from Northern California, and about 20 from Washington state. Three Aussies are out for the team, one a convert from rugby.

Roche mentioned Tristan Lewis who handled kickoff duties last season as the leading candidate to kick field goals along with Brady Kaplan from Modoc.

Sophomore Thomas Little showed promise last year as a pass-catching running back. His experience should help anchor the position that has many freshmen vying for the job. Christian Dowdell, who ran the 100 meters and long-jumped for the COS track team last year, will add some speed to the mix.

A scrimmage with Southern Oregon University will help Roche sort out his defensive and offensive lines. Asked last year if working out against the four-year school would help him get ready to play perennial community college powerhouse San Mateo in the Eagle’s season opener, Roche replied that San Mateo sent nine players on to division one schools including one to frequent national champ Alabama.

Reminded of the exchange, Roche laughed. “One of their safeties has already committed to Auburn.”

The Eagles start play at home against San Mateo, likely their toughest opponent of the year, although they also will face a bevy of highly ranked teams, including National Nor-Cal Conference foes Butte and American River.

The College of the Siskiyous has never beaten San Mateo in five tries. Roche likes having the home field advantage but knows he’s in for another tough game against a team that thumped the Eagles 42-0 last year.