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Football is upon us, and the corporate sporting press floods the valley with pigskin-preview articles. The Box can do no less. Introducing Borrego Springs High School JV and varsity football coach Randy Peyakov. Borrego Springs (go, Rams!) competes in the Citrus League. Other league members are: San Pasqual Academy (Escondido), Warner (Warner Springs), West Shores (Salton City), Calvary Christian (Vista), and San Diego Jewish Academy (San Diego). Peyakov, 40, two kids, one wife, is beginning his fourth year as coach.

Borrego Springs claims 159 students, plays 8-man football on varsity and 11-man on JV. I wanted to know how many kids tried out this year.

Peyakov says, "I've got 32 kids total, varsity and JV. Last year I played with nine guys and still made it to playoffs."

"Nine players. Every boy must have played offense and defense."

"Yeah," Peyakov says. "Of course, I used a couple fillers from my JV, just for bodies. The first year I coached I also had nine guys. We went through the season and came in dead last. Didn't have any athletes; they were all overweight, too big, couldn't move..."

"Must have been discouraging."

"It was discouraging. Then, that summer, a girl gave my running back some pharmaceuticals and ended up killing him." Silence. And more silence. "So, I didn't have a team. A lot of people moved away, couldn't handle the situation because of the death. And this kid was a good kid, never took drugs or anything. It was an eye-opener for the whole district."

"What was your record that first year?"

"One and nine," Peyakov says.

"And nobody showed up the second year?"

"Nobody showed up."

Now, that's discouraging. "Tell me about your third year."

"I'm a teacher in the district, so I talked to kids and told them they could succeed in different aspects of their life and sports is a good way to do that. I just pushed and pushed and pushed and had kids persuade their friends to come out." Peyakov laughs, "It's all flying by the seat of your pants. I think I had 18 kids last year, JV and varsity. I was ecstatic. We finished seven and five and went to the playoffs against San Pasqual Academy." Silence. "I'm trying to build a program in Borrego. Before I started coaching we hadn't won a game, a single game, in ten years."

That's not discouraging; that's a shamanic curse. "And then you made the playoffs last year. Borrego Springs must have danced in the streets."

"Everybody was thrilled. The kids' academics have gone up because of it, and eligibility has gone up."

"What happened?"

"The kids were tight. I had three seniors who were good leaders and pumped up everybody else. And, I was learning how to coach, how to get them into condition."

"Who was your stand-out player?"

"My fullback and defensive end, Ely Smiley, as far as athleticism," Peyakov says. "He made All-League second team. He never got off the field, and he loved it. My running back was Rene Navarro, a talented athlete. Ely was the team, as far as blocking for Rene and everything else, but Rene made the points."

That must have been fun to watch. "How about defense?"

"That's where Ely [as defensive end] got All-League second team. Richard Rethoret was my quarterback and my other defensive end. In eight-man football, you have so few men on the field, the defensive ends have to attack and force the play inside, get the runner to the middle linebackers and the middle linebackers will make the tackles. If you can do that, you'll succeed."

And now for the mindless mainstream sports questions... "How's the team look this year?"

"Pretty good," Peyakov says. "I have a new quarterback, Matt Bailey, up from JV where he was a phenomenal player. I think we have a little better chance this year."

"What are you looking to accomplish as coach?"

"Teach these boys how to become men and how to be responsible people and responsible athletes. That means look good out on the field, look good in your classroom, look good towards the smaller kids. We want to start up a Pop Warner eight-man program in Borrego. I would like my graduating seniors to go through the summer and coach younger kids who are in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade."

I'll be following the Rams this year. "The town must love what's happening."

"Yeah. We do football a little different in Borrego. We don't have people sit in stands. We have stands available, but I have all the parents -- everybody -- put their lawn chairs right on the out of bounds line. They're about two yards back, or whatever the ref says is acceptable. They're all right there with me. Family."

Go get the lawn chairs. The Rams open their season at home against Sun Valley Charter School, 6:30 p.m., Thursday, September 7.

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