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Peñaloza: Tutoring boosts Mustangs

High Schools

November 05, 2013|By David Carrillo Peñaloza

On Tuesday night, three days before Costa Mesa High tries to wrap up an outright Orange Coast League title, almost half the team spent it inside a computer classroom. The 18 players focused on schoolwork, not their next opponent.

Frank Albers, one of the team's assistant coaches, sat in the room. He volunteers his time to make sure the players are doing their homework or making up missed assignments.

He remembers a time five years ago, when the Mustangs finished perfect in league. Then the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs came around the next week. Many of the players' grades at the end of the quarter were far from ideal.

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"We lost 11 kids," Albers said of the number of players ruled academically ineligible to compete in the postseason. "We didn't have the same team. And even without them, we barely lost [17-14] to Santiago [in the first round].

"There was no tutoring [back then]. We talked [about providing tutoring] until we were blue in the face. We weren't proactive."

Now, Albers, with the help of volunteers like Katrina Foley and teachers like Cynthia Kaska, along with tutors and support from the Costa Mesa High School Foundation, there is place for the players to come on a Tuesday night for two hours to improve their academics.

Foley runs the event called "Tuesday Night Dinner Club and Tutoring." She and the rest of the adults in the room just don't want the players to have grade-point averages above 2.0. They want the players to succeed in the classroom just as they do on the field.

"We're trying to take this program beyond eligibility," said Foley, a board member of the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and whose son, Sam Swanson, plays football at Costa Mesa. "We're trying to take this program to the next level where the kids are scholar athletes and they're competitive for life."

Come playoff time next week, Foley said, each player on the team would be eligible.

Before the postseason, the Mustangs have one more game left in league. They can close out league undefeated with a victory at Laguna Beach on Friday at 7 p.m.

After that, the Mustangs will zero in on their first playoff win in 16 years.

•The three local football teams ranked in the latest CIF Southern Section polls are also in first place in their respective leagues.

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