In the past, Novato High and San Marin have been fairly competitive in football. However, as of recently, San Marin has been able to beat the Hornets with ease year after year. A rivalry thrives with balanced competition, so it has become important to examine the reason for the new era of San Marin’s dominance.
Both schools are in the same area so they should be getting athletes in similar numbers and skill. However, this has not been the case. San Marin has recently been getting way more incoming football players than Novato High.
“I mean the biggest issue that we have had was the lack of a Pop Warner system,” said Jason Searle, former Hornet’s varsity football coach, and AP Euro teacher. “I was coaching freshman when the last couple groups of Pop Warner were coming through. I moved up with a group of players who won MCAL in 2013 but they were the last real Pop Warner group that we had.”
In the last seven years, Novato High’s record against San Marin is 0 and 7. This could be due to the absence of a youth football program in Novato. In 2013, Novato’s youth football program was forced to shut down due to the low numbers of players.
Without a youth program to continuously feed players into the high school, the number of experienced players coming to Novato High has significantly decreased while San Marin has had a massive growth of incoming players ready to play. The repeated losing has also caused some athletes to skip playing football altogether or even transfer to other schools.
“I think if we still had a youth program, we’d have more players and we’d certainly have more players that are a bit more skilled,” says Danny Kambur, current head coach of Novato’s frosh-soph football team. “I think of …Sal Carrow (NHS freshman football player), who played youth football and is certainly a very different athlete than our kids, who have come in and never played football before.”
The best chance Novato High has to bring players back to its program is to bring back some sort of way to get the young players exposed to the Hornets culture. It’s important to get them to want to play for Novato, a team that went to the state championship back in 2007.
“I think having a seven-on-seven team could be one way to bring players back,” said Searle, “Since football has changed so much, creating a full youth program is going to be difficult. I think grade level seven-on-seven teams are more possible and you can compete and still teach some of the same skills that you would need in a normal game.”
Another reason for the lack of players could be the constant changes of the coaching staff of Novato. The inconsistency has caused a lot of players to leave to play for other programs with more stable coaching staff.
Stable staffs allow players to get used to their offensive and defensive plays and get comfortable within a system. They also get to stay in one general position that they are comfortable with rather than changing positions that different coaches would want them to play.
San Marin currently has three football teams (varsity, junior varsity, and freshmen) and has almost 120 players in total. Novato’s numbers are much lower, having only two teams (varsity and frosh-soph) and around 60 players total.
If the Hornets find a way to funnel more players into their program and provide some opportunities to gain experience, the program could be back on the rise and compete with the top teams in MCAL. However, if nothing is done, it is very unlikely that much change will happen in the near future.