John Cicuto did all he could with some of his troubled players.
He chastised them, benched them, suspended them and criticized
them during a woeful 2002 season.
None of it seemed to work, because some of the Glendale Community
College football players continued to act immature during games and
Instead of starting the season with the same set of apathetic,
undisciplined players, Cicuto, the Vaqueros’ head coach, had a better
idea: just get rid of them.
Following the 2002 campaign -- in which the Vaqueros went a
disappointing 4-6, with one of their wins coming because of a forfeit
-- Cicuto interviewed and evaluated 32 of his soon-to-be sophomores
and did what he thought was best for the squad.
Cicuto asked 15 of his players, including four starters, to leave
the program, and all 15 did. Cicuto declined to reveal the names of
the departed athletes.
That left Cicuto with only 17 returners, some of whom had no
previous playing time and others who saw minimal action.
Among this year’s players is a crop of seven athletes from Burbank
The team will begin its season at 1 p.m. today against Orange
Coast College at Glendale High’s Moyse Field.
Cicuto felt if losing crucial players meant winning less games,
then so be it. He would rather have a dedicated cast of players who
are committed to the team.
“We had so many problems last year, it really centered around
attitude,” said Cicuto, who had a laundry list of issues to deal
with, including players not attending practice or being ejected from
“This is the smallest group of sophomores ever coming back. But
they had a great work ethic and were good team guys.
“This year was going to be centered around good sophomore
leadership. This is the best group of sophomores coming back, as far
as being team players is concerned.
“That’s a great plus for them. They’re all on the same page. Most
of the kids did a good job in the classroom, and that’s what we’re
With the loss of so many players, Cicuto will have to rely on more
freshmen than usual to step in and make an immediate impact.
And the sophomores who did return will be asked to take leadership
roles, a responsibility that most aren’t accustomed to.
It might be a trying year, but it’s a season that Cicuto is
excited about for the simple fact that he has a good group of
student-athletes who are willing to listen and put in the time to
“Everyday we look forward to coaching these guys because they are
extremely coachable and have bought into the program,” said Cicuto,
who enters his 29th year at GCC.
The script that’s been used to run the Vaqueros’ offense since
offensive coordinator -- and former Burbank High player and coach --
John Rome reentered the GCC scene two years ago won’t change.
GCC will run the ball, run some more, and pass only in dire
That’s been Rome’s formula for success. It worked in 2001, as GCC
won the U.S. Bank Beach Bowl, but it failed last year when the
Vaqueros were inconsistent, at best.
This year’s running back core will consist of sophomores Justin
Smith and Aaron Pruitt, and freshmen Justin Tyler and Kalin Kines.
Cicuto hasn’t named a full-time starter yet, but Rome said Smith
-- who redshirted last year at GCC -- might have the edge because he
knows the Vaqueros’ system the best. Pruitt might be hindered by a
high ankle sprain, but he said he’ll be fine by the start of the
“We like them all,” said Cicuto, who lost sophomore starting
running backs Tyrone Burwell and Kartrell Clayton.
Cicuto said Smith will get the starting nod in the opener against
Orange Coast College on Saturday at home.
The starting quarterback reins will be handed to Burroughs
graduate Adam Freeman, who backed up J.D. Ziska last year and
completed nine of 18 passes. Freeman is only 5 feet 8 and weighs 180
pounds, but Cicuto has liked what he’s seen from the sophomore in
Cicuto waited until Tuesday to name Freeman the starter, choosing
him over David Parker, who was an All-Western State Conference
selection three years ago at College of the Canyons. Parker served in
the Army the past two years.
Freeman will start the first quarter against Orange Coast College,
and Parker will play the second quarter. Cicuto hasn’t made a
decision about who will start the second half.
“Adam Freeman has done a great job,” said Cicuto, whose team
averaged 19.9 points per game last year. “He manifests good
leadership, and he’s stronger than last year. We feel much stronger
at quarterback than last year.”
Said Rome: “Adam is as hard of a worker as I’ve ever seen. He’s an
example of what we want.”
Rome admitted Parker has a firm grasp of the offense, and his
experience might pay off.
Tim Fields, Thomas Riley and Getro Elize will handle the receiving
duties. Daniel Mazal (Burroughs), David Sorkness (Burroughs) and John
Dincher (Burbank) will battle for time at tight end.
Guard Nick Bronk and tackle Ricky Valenzuela return on the
offensive line. Center Moris Velasco and tackle Juan Marin will vie
for playing time along side Bronk and Valenzuela.
"[The strength of the offensive line] gives us a lot of confidence
because of the size and power we have,” Pruitt said.
On the defensive side, the Vaqueros have question marks at nearly
Most of their players don’t have experience at the college level,
except for defensive end David Kasbarian, linebacker Josh Martin and
defensive backs Jason Lipscomb and Robert Harris.
As far as every other spot, Cicuto said the starting positions are
up for grabs
"[Our defense] is kind of in limbo,” said Cicuto, who lost
linebacker Adam Gil, defensive backs Todd Lawson and Rainest
Crawford, and defensive lineman Christopher Lovejoy and Shawn
Cicuto appointed himself the defensive coordinator, three years
after relinquishing the position to coach special teams. He’s taken
up the burden again, and if his defense falters, he’ll take the
“If we don’t do well, I’ll fire myself,” said Cicuto, whose squad
will play only two teams -- San Pedro L.A. Harbor College and Compton
College -- that had winning records in 2002.
In recent years, Cicuto hasn’t asked his defense to be the
backbone of the team, and he sure won’t do it this year.
But Cicuto needs to do something to improve on last year’s marks,
when GCC’s poor tackling and lack of fundamentals were two of the
many factors that led to its downfall.
For now, Cicuto said his defense is active and pursues the ball
Dustin Nersesyan, Frank Mederos and Ryan Workman will handle the
inside linebacking chores, with Bryan Gonzalez, Jeff Jacobs and
Christian Briones (Burbank) complementing their teammates as outside
“We’re not going to be big, but we have good team speed and we’re
strong at the lines,” Cicuto said.