Last season St. Monica won its opening football game and lost the next nine.
The main problem was injuries. There were terrible amounts. Now there’s a new coach and he was asked about the wisdom of taking a job that most certainly will begin with a rebuilding program.
“There’s potential in any situation,” answered Chris Caminiti.
You see, the native of Connecticut is a football coach. That’s what he does. Caminiti was once head coach at Granite Hills High in San Diego and an assistant at the University of San Diego.
There’s another reason why he was attracted to the Catholic school in Santa Monica.
“It’s my parish,” he said. “And my wife’s parish.”
Caminiti is also the athletic director at West Los Angeles College. On a typical day he’ll be in his WLA College office by 6:30am. He’ll conduct business throughout the morning, then will drive to St. Monica in the afternoon.
He was hired in time to preside over spring practice and saw some positives. He named David Aiello the quarterback. When the Mariners had a different quarterback almost every week last season due to injuries, Aiello played the last few games.
Anthony Flores, the Mariners’ best receiver last season, also returns. He’s small but swift. Steven Bell and Justin Graves have demonstrated enough potential to become outstanding linemen. Bell weighs 235 and Graves 260.
However, when asked about the running backs, Caminiti didn’t supply a name. He wants to see more of his players in practice.
The Mariners won’t have Vince Valdez, their best player last season. He too was plagued by injuries and then graduated.
The bulk of the roster will be comprised of players who were on the junior varsity.
If the situation seems dismal, remember that Coach Jason Strouse was optimistic early last season. And even when the injuries mounted he continued to praise the caliber of young men who represented St. Monica.
“Things aren’t where they need to be,” said Caminiti. “But we’ll work to improve and I don’t sense the administration has unrealistic expectations. A coach teaches the value of hard work but there are years when there simply isn’t enough talent.“
St. Monica is a small school playing in the shadow of Santa Monica High in the same city. The schools never played until three years ago when Strouse encouraged the idea.
St. Monica won the first year, lost a competitive game in the second and was trampled last season. Samohi led 42-0 in the second quarter and the coaches agreed to use running time during the second half – an admission by St. Monica it had no chance to win, so the game was shortened.
Caminiti is looking into the possibility of adjusting St. Monica’s schedule to remove larger schools in non-league games. But he’s in favor of continuing the annual game against Santa Monica, and it will be played September 29 at Corsair Field.
“That’s the exception,” said Caminiti. “It’s a natural rivalry.”
Caminiti is familiarizing himself with the Camino Real League. From what he’s seen so far, studying films, he’s impressed with La Salle. Last season La Salle defeated St. Monica, 47-0 but lost to league rival Verbum Dei, 18-0.
There’s precedent for St. Monica to do well in football despite the absence of a campus field and the need to play home games at St. Bernard High in Westchester.
St. Monica fielded competitive teams throughout the ’90s and won its only CIF football championship in 1998.
Prior to that, Marcelles Wiley played at St. Monica. He went on to have a long career in the NFL.
More recently, James Dunn caught 99 passes in St. Monica’s 1998 championship season and went on to Tulane.
It looks like an uphill climb for St. Monica but it’s a new beginning.