Inscribed on the back of this year’s Coronado Islander football team shirts are the words ‘one percent.’ As in one percent better every day.
“Our focus was to get one percent better every time we stepped in the weight room, the classroom, or on the field,” head coach Kurt Hines said. “I felt like we did that all year. Even through the adversity we faced, we kept getting better each week.”
The Islanders season ended on November 18, with a CIF Division IV, 35-15, semifinal loss against eventual section champion Palo Verde Valley.
“A season is an emotional roller coaster,” Hines said. “When it comes to an end you think ‘not just is the season over but my opportunity to coach these young men and women who have been with us for four years has come to an end.’ I try to reassure them we are going to be here for you no matter what, even if your playing days are over.”
A self-described “optimist to a fault,” Hines characterized the postgame feeling inside the locker room as bitter sweet.
“There were a lot of tears from myself and our players, but they were happy tears,” Hines said. “Yeah, it wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but look at what we did and how far we came.”
The Islanders 6-4 on the season, went 2-1 in league games, with wins over Hoover and Kearny, after going winless in league play last season.
Junior Graham Bower was the Islanders’ jack-of-all-trades, leading the team in touchdown passes, rushing touchdowns, forced fumbles and interceptions. Bower also kicked extra points, going 20 for 22 on the year and served as the Islanders punter.
“I can talk for hours about Graham, he is an amazing athlete but more important an incredible human being,” Hines said. “He started for us last year as our best slot receiver and because our starting quarterback moved, Graham was the next best option at quarterback, a position he hadn’t played before. He stepped up huge.”
Hines also singled out seniors Elias Valdivia and Saxton Sylvester as being crucial to the team’s success.
“Elias Valdivia was a stud on all sides of the ball; Saxton Sylvester was a stud on the offense and defensive line, but when captain and starting center J.T. Nelson went out [injured] we moved Saxton from guard to center and didn’t really lose anything there.”
Valdivia had a pair of receiving touchdowns, and led the team in sacks. Sylvester notched three sacks and finished the season with 36 tackles.
Hines, in his sixth year with the Islanders, added seven new faces to his staff this year, including four who had never coached before.
As successful as the Islanders were on the field, it is what happened off the field that Hines will most remember from the 2022 season.
“I know that there were some lives changed,” Hines said. “Some of our players and coaches are going through some really heavy stuff in their personal lives, that we weren’t able to fix, but help navigate through.”