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2013 Einstein football preview: By any means necessary

Einstein begins its varsity 11-man team with just 20 players on roster

Posted: September 3, 2013 9:41 p.m.
Updated: September 3, 2013 9:41 p.m.

Albert Einstein Academy players (from left to right) Cameron Costanza, Alek Cervantes, Josh Greaves, Alex De Leon and Adam Costanza.

 

The motto for Albert Einstein Academy football seems to be, “make it work.”

And no matter what hand the team is dealt, that’s exactly what the AEA Rockets do.

The Santa Clarita Valley’s newest prep football team is preparing to embark on its maiden voyage as an 11-man varsity team. And it is doing so with just 20 players on the roster, a makeshift practice field and, as of the moment, no home field.

“I just worry game by game and playing with who I’ve got,” said AEA head coach Oscar De Leon. “That’s just the way football is. You go with some young guys and you give it your all. The outcome will be the outcome.”

Unlike other small schools in the area — Trinity Classical Academy and Santa Clarita Christian — the Rockets opted to go directly to an 11-man program despite the small roster.

Trinity is entering its fourth varsity season as an 8-man team and SCCS made the switch to 11-man in 2011, but only after 13 years in 8-man.

The truth is, AEA is sticking with 11-man for a good reason. It was the vision of the team’s creator and late head coach, John Greaves.

“We decided to do that to honor Coach Greaves,” said De Leon, who was Greaves’ assistant last year when the team played a junior varsity schedule. “He never even thought about 8-mam football. He stared 11-man football and that’s the way we’re going to do it.”

Before AEA began its athletic program, Greaves was the head football coach at Montclair Prep of Van Nuys in its final year of existence before the school shut down all athletics.

Many of AEA’s faculty and coaches came from Montclair, so the school was a good fit for Greaves to build a new program.

The team played an eight-game junior varsity schedule last fall and finished 2-6.

Greaves coached the team while battling leukemia, one time actually hailing a cab from the hospital after his treatment to get to a game.

In the months following the season, Greaves began to lose the battle with cancer. He died on April 1 at age 49, but not before leaving an indelible mark on the small, but determined group of players and coaches.

“We try to honor him as much as we can because he was the person who built this program by himself,” says Greaves’ son, Josh, who is AEA’s sophomore starting quarterback.

Josh wears orange cleats, an orange belt and an orange towel to honor his father during games. Orange is the symbol color of leukemia awareness.

The entire team dons stickers on the backs of their helmets that read “JPG” for John Paul Greaves.

After working as an assistant coach last season, De Leon took over the program with the intention of carrying on John Greaves’ legacy.

It gives the team a rallying cry and another reason to unite in spite of circumstances.

AEA practices at Copper Hill Park, a field about five miles from campus which is hardly big enough to fit a full-sized football field.

Due to a last-minute conflict, the Rockets lost their originally scheduled home field in Sylmar. School athletic director Ken Erenberg is still searching for a place to host games.

In all, AEA will play nine games as an independent member of the CIF Southern Section Northeast Division, which means no playoff spot is guaranteed. Only an at-large berth is possible.

“Everything is going to be a challenge this year, but we can take it day by day and practice by practice,” said AEA senior Alex Costanza, who transferred from Saugus High.

Of the 20 players, there are just three seniors and six returning from last year’s JV team.

The biggest player is 215 pounds.

AEA will run an I-formation based offense that emphasizes running with junior tailback Justin Hill.

Connor Quan, Jose Moreno and Marzell Klein return as linemen this year. Those three, along with Greaves, wide receiver/defensive back Alex De Leon and offensive lineman/linebacker Matt Vlaming are the six holdovers from last year’s JV team.

They, like most on the team, will be playing both offense and defense.

The team doesn’t have much depth and can’t afford injuries. But no matter what, they’re going to play. It’s what Greaves would have wanted.

“We build on him. I’m trying to keep that going, his legacy, his memory,” Coach De Leon said. “And that’s what I try to teach these kids. Just fight everyday.”

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