The COS football team is undergoing a program turnaround and the goal is for their roster to be comprised largely of local players
By Jermaine Johnson II @Jerm_10
VISALIA – College of the Sequoias’ football coach Joe D’Agostino is in his second season with the team, and is attempting to build an entirely new culture.
After their homecoming win last Saturday, he has led them to a 4-3 record which matches their win total from the last two seasons combined. His plan is to change the program’s recruiting philosophy and that begins by bringing in more talent from right here in the valley.
“We’re a community college so we have to service our community,” D’Agostino said. “You can’t get any support if you don’t have kids on your roster from that area.”
About 75 percent of this year’s roster are players from the valley, and he expects that number to continue rising. Last winter during his first full recruiting season as COS’ head coach, D’Agostino visited 22 high schools in the local area. That allowed him to establish relationships with those football coaches who have been vastly helpful in his local recruiting efforts.
“When I was the defensive coordinator, we had little interaction with our local coaches and now I get weekly calls and text messages” he said. “They have been a grassroots recruiting help for us.”
One of the first local head coaches that D’Agostino established a relationship with was Tulare Union’s Darren Bennett.
“When I met with Coach Bennett, he said I was the first COS head coach [in nearly 15 years] to come to his area,” D’Agostino said. That relationship resulted in several players who are leaders on this year’s team, including one that is proving to be the top recruit of the 2019 freshman class.
Bryson Allen was a standout football player at Tulare Union. During his senior season in 2017, he was one of the top receivers on a team that won the Division II Valley Championship. He was originally committed to play football at Sacramento State, and red shirted during the 2018 season before having second thoughts. Coach Bennett then called up D’Agostino and told him to check out Allen, who had plans of relocating elsewhere.
“At first, I was going go to Fresno City College, but then I talked to Coach D’Agostino. He told me about how they’re improving and what they can do for me so I decided to give it a go,” Allen said.
Fast forward to now, Allen has scored a touchdown in each of the team’s first seven games of the season. He is the first freshman in program history to do so.
“If Coach Bennett doesn’t call me, I may not have the chance to have [Allen] here,” D’Agostino said. “Last winter if I don’t go to those 22 schools then I wouldn’t have those relationships. When I took over the job I had about two phone numbers for local coaches and now I have around 40-50.”
D’Agostino is happy with the results he is seeing from his new philosophy, and wants to continue practicing what he’s been preaching. His vision is for COS to be the place where local players begin their collegiate career and then eventually, they get a scholarship to go play somewhere bigger. The team’s starting quarterback Gus Villareal is from Dinuba, along with the top two receivers, several linemen and several defensive starters being from the area. Tulare, Lemoore, Selma, and Fresno are just a few of the areas represented.
“If you want to beat Fresno City College you need players that have played those players,” he said. “I think we have a viable brand of football that is indicative of our area if we can build it the right way.”
The Giants are currently undefeated at home, and D’Agostino is happy to be receiving more support from local fans.
“I’m just excited because we have people showing up to our games. It’s nice to have people there supporting us and It’s a good feeling to have people there that want to see us be successful,” he said. “It’s fun to have kids from these different schools all playing together. From Porterville to Tulare to Visalia, the outcome is what I thought it’d be: a good team with a lot of camaraderie.”
For standout freshman Bryson Allen, he believes that Coach D’Agostino’s plans will help “put the valley on the map.”
“It’s always good having people from the valley to represent where you come from and to let people know that people from the valley can play football and we’re just as good as anybody else,” Allen said.