The players who line up on defense at practice and during games for Vintage High School hear it a lot:
“Do your job.”
“Rally to the football.”
They hear it from Kyle Archer, Vintage’s co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. They hear it from the entire coaching staff.
“The kids have really, really bought into that,” Archer said. “It’s just the principles that we emphasize every day at practice. We have kids that really believe and play for each other.”
Vintage prides itself on defense – being prepared, reacting and responding swiftly to both rushing and passing plays, being physical and aggressive and tough, sticking to the game plan, forcing turnovers, and playing fast and smart and with focus.
“It’s being able to fly around and get to the ball,” head coach Dylan Leach said. “It’s having the heart and the will to get to the ball. And if you’re around the ball, only great things happen.
“The coaches do a great job of working the drills that produce this type of defense. We want to punish people on the ground as much as possible. We work hard on making sure we’re in the right spots.”
The play of the defense has been an important key to the success of Vintage (10-2 overall), which after winning the Vine Valley Athletic League title, has CIF North Coast Section Division 1 playoff wins over James Logan-Union City, 36-0, and a 24-21 double-overtime win over No. 1 seed Antioch.
It’s Vintage’s first year in the VVAL, a brand new league, and the North Coast Section. Vintage left the Monticello Empire League and CIF Sac-Joaquin Section at the end of the 2017-18 school year. The move returns Vintage to the NCS, where it was a member school through the 1975-76 school year.
The Crushers continue their season on Saturday with a NCS semifinal-round playoff game at San Ramon Valley-Danville (7-4 overall). Kickoff is 7 p.m.
“Our defense I would say is one of the stronger points of our team,” said Luis Arroyo, who plays nose guard.
“Everyone is clicking and meshing,” said Viliami Schaumkel, who plays middle linebacker. “Looking at our team, we don’t really have a lot of athleticism, but we will come at any team and try to hit them as hard as we can. We feel confident.”
“Our defense has been pretty solid all year,” said Michael Webber, who plays cornerback. “No one has expected us to do what we have done so far.”
Vintage, the No. 8 seed, carries a 10-game winning streak into the game. It will be the Crushers’ first game since Nov. 9. Poor air quality from the Camp Fire in Butte County forced the NCS to postpone and reschedule games. Vintage finally was able to practice on its campus field on Nov. 20.
San Ramon Valley is the No. 4 seed and tied for second place in the East Bay-Mountain League. The Wolves had a bye in the first round of the playoffs and last week came from behind to beat No. 5 seed Monte Vista-Danville, 21-17.
In this week’s other semifinal game, it’s No. 3 seed Freedom-Oakley (8-3) at No. 2 seed California-San Ramon (8-3) on Friday at 7 p.m.
The NCS championship game is Dec. 7 or 8.
“All season, we’ve been saying, we want to win our league, we want to win the Big Game, and then we want to win a section championship,” said Archer, who is also the special team’s coordinator. “We know that we have two more boxes to check.
“We talk about it all the time. We have our goals. We feel like we’ve put in the work. We know it’s going to be tough. I feel like we’re well prepared. At this point in playoffs, everyone is good, everyone is disciplined, everyone presents some type of matchup problem. We’ve got to handle our business. We feel that if we just keep buying in and do what we do, we have a good opportunity.”
The defense for Vintage is led by Colton Fisher, Zach Daniels, Dominic Smith, Luis Arroyo and Pedja Zivkovic on the defensive line; Viliami Schaumkel, Jakob Bittner, Jesus Galvan and Angel Castillo at linebacker; and Cutler Low, Michael Webber, Jacob Aaron, Caymus Barrett, Mauricio Castro, Josh Robert and Drew Hatfield in the secondary.
After starting out the season at 0-2, with nonleague losses to Wood, 35-7, and Acalanes-Lafayette, 28-27, the Crushers got on track, holding off Lincoln-Stockton, 26-20, in late August.
“At the start of the season, the first two games, we just didn’t know who we were,” said Schaumkel. “The first two weeks, we were just soul searching. But then Week 3, everything just started clicking. Like Coach Leach told us, once we start winning, we’re just going to be on a roll.”
Schaumkel leads the defense for Vintage. Schaumkel is a quiet leader, who always plays at the right tempo and is always doing everything the right way, said Archer.
“He’s a guy that kids just look to, because he’s a guy that traditionally makes that play for us,” said Archer. “He’s just one of those guys that has the natural talent and the natural instincts. He’s just a great kid.”
The defense has been playing “lights out,” said Leach, the team’s offensive coordinator, who is also assisted by Preston Garcia (co-defensive coordinator, defensive backs coach), Dennis Raines (defensive and offensive line coach), Andrew Hall (offensive line coach), Bob Rosenstiel (wide receivers coach), Larry Villanueva (assistant defensive backs coach, scout team coordinator), and Lenny Dinov (running backs, inside linebackers coach).
San Ramon Valley head coach Aaron Becker has great respect for Vintage and the job the Crushers do on defense.
“Defensively, they just play real hard and they really fly around the football and try to smack you in the mouth,” Becker said.
Vintage and San Ramon Valley are each ranked in polls.
San Ramon Valley is No. 14 in the Bay Area News Group-East Bay Times Top 25.
San Ramon Valley is No. 11 and Vintage No. 18 in the MaxPreps.com North Coast Section Rankings.
San Ramon Valley is No. 11 and Vintage No. 20 in the Prep2Prep.com North Coast Section Rankings.