As he sprints on and off the field at Robinson Stadium in between quick-paced football drills, wide receiver Kemonte Bateman works up a sweat. Returning for his second year on the team, Bateman wants to work harder and be a bigger influence on his teammates.”I want to motivate and be a leader, something I wasn’t last year,” he said about what he plans to bring to the table in the 2010 season. “I want to bring more focus because I wasn’t as focused last year.”

Armed with a staff that has been together for a year, Head Coach James Kuk plans to do his best to lead his players to another bowl victory this coming season.

“Rome wasn’t built overnight,” Kuk explained. “We had an extra year to solidify how the program is run. It’s a lot more fluid, efficient and overall the goal is always to try to get better, whether you’re a player or a coach.”

This is the first year that the football team will be playing in the National Southern Conference, a different conference from the rest of PCC’s sports programs.

The change came when health concerns arose because of the length of the season and because some teams were advancing every year, prolonging the season even more.

Another factor that came into play was budget cuts, proving that everyone is affected by California’s budget crisis.

According to Kuk, northern California football teams contend for the top spot in one round of playoffs while, up until last year, southern California played an eight team playoff format.

In this new conference though, all southern California teams are ranked from one to 37 by their win-loss record in a two year period. From those 37 teams, the top 12 are made into the National Conference, which is then split evenly making them the National Southern Conference and the National Northern Conference. This process takes place every two years when the 37 teams’ records are reassessed.

The new four team playoff format shortens the post-season and ultimately helps ease budget costs and concerns over player injury.

PCC’s conference-mates are Palomar College, Grossmont, Saddleback, Mt. SAC and Fullerton City College.

Though the competition is stiff in this new conference, Bateman isn’t intimidated.

“It’s just more competition,” Bateman said. “Way more than last year. That should push us; it should push all of us. We have to take it way more seriously than last year.”

As far as tactics to be implemented to help the team compete, Kuk is relying on taking a step-by-step approach to teaching the team.

“Our summer program is a four-week program and there are phases and a progression of installation and teaching that occurs, not only from week-to-week, but from practice-to-practice and play-to-play,” said Kuk. “We want to try to capture every opportunity for them to learn and grow so that they can successfully move on to that next progression.”

“Right now it’s just baby steps,” Kuk continued. “You have to teach them to walk before they can run. You start off with very specific skills that lend themselves to schemes and game plans.At the end of the summer program we will have given them the necessary tools to be able to compete at this level; this level being the top conference in Southern California.

Keali Latseli and Manako Tuifua, left, look on as Alex Herrera and Frazer Taua participate in a football drill at Robinson Stadium during Head Coach James Kuk’s summer training program on July 8. (Steven Valdez)

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