AMERICAN CANYON – You won’t see Chris Yepson or Kirk Anderson, the team’s coordinators, on the sidelines during American Canyon High School football games.
They are upstairs, in the press box, watching the action unfold below on the field. They are on headsets, calling in plays, assessing what is working well and what adjustments may be needed. They are in constant communication with the staff on the field.
“They’re seeing everything,” head coach Larry Singer said after Tuesday’s practice at Wolf Den Stadium. “They are very thorough with their jobs, taking care of everything that we need them to take care of. They’re analyzing, play-calling. They’re crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.”
Yepson is the Wolves’ offensive coordinator and play caller. Anderson is the Wolves’ defensive coordinator. The entire staff has input on the game plan each week.
This week, American Canyon (7-3), the No. 7 seed, takes to the road, traveling to play No. 2 seed Manteca (9-2) in a second-round game in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs. It’s a 7 p.m. kickoff at Manteca’s Guss Schmiedt Field (San Joaquin County).
American Canyon won the Solano County Athletic Conference title and extended its winning streak to seven following last week’s 17-10 victory over River Valley-Yuba City in the first round of the playoffs.
From their vantage point, there will be a lot to take in for Yepson and Anderson when looking at Manteca – a team that is averaging 175.6 yards passing and 158.4 yards rushing per game. Manteca, the third-place team out of the Valley Oak League, also averages 41.8 points per game, while giving up 16.3 points per game.
It’s Yepson who talks during the game to Chris Rapacon, the Wolves’ running backs coach.
Anderson talks with Singer.
“We’re both pretty locked in up there,” said Yepson. “We like to be detached in the box, because we’re pretty high-motored dudes on the field. It allows us to kind of separate and watch. For myself, the booth allows me to move on from one play to the next. Kirk is always reminding me to move on, if we run a play and it doesn’t go right. The next one has got to get in and the next one has got to be better.
“Being in the booth allows us to communicate well and get what we see down to our coaches on the field, who do a great job relaying what we see.”
Yepson oversees the Wolves’ triple-option out of the flex bone base offense. It’s a run-heavy attack that is led by quarterback LaVar Seay, who has passed for 776 yards and three touchdowns, while running for 876 yards and 12 TDs.
“It really just comes down to our quarterback, LaVar, reading his way out of danger,” said Yepson. “It comes down to making the right plays, no bad pitches, and doing what we did last Friday – not putting the ball on the ground. Zero turnovers are what we always shoot for.
“When you run triple option, it comes down to us and doing our job correctly and making sure that we understand scheme. River Valley tried to do a lot of different things to stop us, and they had some success.”
American Canyon spreads the ball around to its running backs, each of whom is very talented and productive.
Kama Aalona has 649 yards rushing and six touchdowns, Eddie Byrdsong has 623 yards rushing and six TDs, and Brenden Johnson has 522 yards rushing and four TDs.
The two top receivers are Robbin Brown, who has caught 19 passes for 323 yards and one TD, and Aalona, who has 15 receptions for 263 yards and two TDs.
“Offensively, we’re feeling pretty good,” said Yepson. “We have a tall task ahead of us, with a very large, very athletic football team.
“We talk about it all the time – that we cannot beat ourselves by having stupid penalties. If we can just play four yards and a cloud of dust, play triple option, then we’re a talented football team, and it’s hard to stop. The penalties are what kill your drives.”
Anderson is in his first year on the coaching staff at American Canyon and has the Wolves playing very sound defense. They are making big stops and forcing turnovers, as was the case last week.
Aalona forced a fumble on second and goal from the American Canyon 8-yard line, which Kekoa Wilson recovered at the Wolves’ 5 in the first half.
“That was really kind of a momentum-turner for us, and it worked out,” said Anderson.
Wilson recovered another fumble as well and Johnson intercepted a pass.
“Those turnovers were key. We got them at key times,” said Anderson. “I thought we had a good week of practice (last week). We were definitely a little bit of bend but don’t break.”
Anderson had had a big impact on the defense for the Wolves. The 1998 Napa High graduate was on the Indians’ coaching staff (2002-2006, 2014-2016). He was head coach at Mira Loma-Sacramento for two years (2012-2013) and was also an assistant at Burbank-Sacramento, Rio Americano-Sacramento and Bella Vista-Fair Oaks.
Anderson likes the way the Wolves’ defense is playing.
“We’ve got it going pretty good,” he said. “I feel like we have progressed every week. It’s taken a while to learn some of the new structures. But I feel like we’re definitely moving in the right direction. And as long as we can play fast, I feel like that’s when we’re at our best. That’s what we look to do.
“I feel like we’re in a good spot. I feel like, when we play fast, we can play with anybody – that’s the ultimate goal.”
Aalona, who plays slot back and safety, has great respect and appreciation for the coaching staff and all the work each coach does.
“I love the coaches,” he said. “They work us and they keep pushing us. They keep doing their work, off the field. They help us a lot.
“We’ve been working very hard. If we play fast and quick, all the work we have put in, it will help us in the game. We’re going to stay humble and just keep working.”