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COC targeting local football players

Posted: June 19, 2014 8:52 p.m.
Updated: June 19, 2014 8:52 p.m.
Hart graduate Garrett Updegraft was an All-CIF linebacker and is now playing for College of the Canyons. Hart graduate Garrett Updegraft was an All-CIF linebacker and is now playing for College of the Canyons.
Hart graduate Garrett Updegraft was an All-CIF linebacker and is now playing for College of the Canyons.

College of the Canyons head football coach Ted Iacenda doesn’t lack any ambition when it comes to recruiting.

He made it clear when he took over as head coach a year ago that he was going to target Santa Clarita Valley players first and foremost.

And as COC begins its summer practice session this week, it appears to be a veritable who’s who of local high school football.

“For whatever reason, I have some kids who are All-Foothill League and All-CIF. Maybe they’re a little undersized, who knows, but I want them. They’re great kids, great football players, and I want them,” Iacenda said.

Some of the more prominent former Foothill League stars All-CIF Hart linebacker Garrett Updegraft and All-CIF Saugus linebacker Blake Austin.

And there are plenty of other incoming COC freshmen players who were Signal All-Santa Clarita Valley selections this past fall.

That list includes All-SCV first-team defensive back Tevon Priestley from Canyon, as well as All-SCV second team linebacker Alberto Portillo (Saugus), lineman Cris Blas-Reed (Canyon), linebacker Cody Shoemaker (Hart) and linebacker Spencer Hixon (Valencia).

And those are just the top gets for COC. All six Foothill League schools have at least one player on COC’s roster for the upcoming season, and others might be on the way as the summer progresses, Iacanda said.

“I could go on and on about each individual kid,” Iacenda said of the SCV recruits. “The caliber of football in this valley and the character of these kids is indicative of the quality of their head coaches.”

While the ultimate goal for most aspiring college football players is to play at the NCAA Division I level, Iacenda said his goal is to try to get kids who were previously overlooked to gain the attention of big four-year schools.

“I don’t care about ability,” Iacenda said. “If he’s a good kid from Santa Clarita and he’s going to help our program ... we’ll take him.”

By rule, COC is only allowed to actively recruit districts adjacent to the Santa Clarita Community College District.

That means the Antelope Valley, Simi Valley, Conejo Valley and San Fernando Valley are fair game.

COC’s coaching staff spends a lot of energy on all those areas, but Iacenda said he’ll always start his recruiting with the SCV home base.

There are a lot of benefits to filling the roster with local names.

For one, it’s easier for kids to get to campus. With out-of-area or out-of-state players, factors like housing and travel come into play.

Another big reason is because local players can often join the team earlier in the offseason program.

Most of this year’s SCV recruiting class started practicing with the team during spring drills in March.

It’s not as easy for kids coming from out of town because they have to stuck around to finish high school.

“It’s a two-year institution. There’s a lot of teenagers. So if you recruit a lot of out of state kids, a lot of kids out of the area, they can’t even show up until July or August,” Iacenda said. “By recruiting mostly local kids, I get them all summer. I get them all spring.”

And by the time fall rolls around, these could end up being COC’s stars.


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