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Gang coaching at Mendocino College
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Tom Gang couldn't pass up the opportunity.

"I felt like it was a good time for me to get out of the Valley," he said. "It's been great for my family."

Tom and his wife, Stephanie, and children, Ashley, Matt, Elise, Haylee, Lindsey and Allyson, moved from Ceres to Ukiah, a town in which 15,000 people reside in, last year. Tom took a job teaching (physical education) and coaching (football) at nearby Mendocino College.

The Eagles finished fourth in the Bay Valley Conference with a 2-3 record and went 3-7 overall during Gang's first year as head coach. The Eagles went 0-5 in league, 0-10 overall in 2002.

This season, Gang is hoping to establish a winning tradition with help from Ceres' Randy Green, Mikey Sandberg, De'Saunte Walker, Jose Camacho and Modesto's Clint Haglund.

"We're definitely going to be a lot better because of those kids," Gang said.

Green, Sandberg, Walker, Camacho and Haglund have already completed placement tests, attended orientation and registered for classes at the college, which serves around 2,500 full-time students.

School starts on Aug. 16.

"It's real peaceful," Sandberg said.

Green and Sandberg would have moved to Ukiah last month but had another commitment. The 2003 Ceres High graduates returned home from Colorado on Aug. 3. They umpired at a Little League World Series for two weeks.

"I want to make a new name for myself where no one knows me," said Green, who will major in psychology and minor in sports medicine. "I want to start over."

Added Sandberg: "At this point in time, I want to get out and do my own thing."

Green will vie for time at wide receiver and defensive end.

"I got some ground to make up," he said. "I took a year and a half off."

Green was the leading receiver in the Stanislaus District during his senior year. He caught 58 passes for 893 yards and six touchdowns. He had two interceptions on defense.

Sandberg will play baseball and football. Baseball's his primary sport.

"I think I have the ability to play and I might as well do it when I'm young," said Sandberg, who redshirted for the Merced College baseball team last season.

Sandberg played baseball for the Tri-Valley Blazers, a competitive team based out of the Ripon/Escalon area, this summer.

He hasn't played in an official football game in over a year. Sandberg participated in the 2003 Rotary All-Star Football Game in Chowchilla.

"I kept myself in pretty good shape," he said. "I'm not that far behind."

Sandberg started at quarterback and safety in high school.

He was the third-rated passer in the Stanislaus District during his senior year. He passed for 1,840 yards and nine touchdowns en route to claiming second-team, all-league honors.

Sandberg will play quarterback and/or defensive back in college.

"There's no set positions," he said.

Sandberg wants to pursue a career in counseling so he can coach.

"I took four years of drafting in high school," he said. "That will be my fallback."

Sandberg, Green and Camacho will share an apartment. They're moving to Ukiah this week.

"We grew up together," Sandberg said. "Me and Randy played three sports together in high school for four years."

Added Green: "He (Mikey) threw me my first touchdown pass my junior year."

Camacho graduated from Ceres High in 2002.

He returned punts and played receiver for the Modesto Junior College football team in 2002-2003.

He didn't go to school or play football this past season.

"I just missed it so bad so I decided to go up there with them (Mikey and Randy)," Camacho said. "I'll be more focused because it's country. There's not really any partying up there. It's school and football. That's it."

Camacho must redshirt this year because he played at Modesto JC. He has to establish residency.

"He has to take 12 units before he can compete for us," Gang said.

Said Camacho: "I'm going to practice with the team."

Camacho participated in a flag football league in Modesto last winter. He also played baseball.

"I'm still in good shape," said Camacho, who has been running three miles a day for the past three months. "I still got the speed."

Camacho wants to become a physical education teacher.

"I want to go up there and explore, have fun and live my life," he said.

Walker moved out of his parents' home on May 30. He's sharing an apartment with his girlfriend.

Walker, a 2003 Calvary Temple graduate, had to sell his 1996 GMC Yukon so he could afford rent.

"I'm just trying to be responsible and take positive strides in becoming a man," said Walker, who works full-time at Mervyn's.

This past year, Walker went to Modesto JC for a semester. He took two courses, music and film.

He also had two jobs. He worked construction full-time with his father and detailed cars in Modesto.

Walker transferred from Ceres High to Calvary Temple prior to the start of his senior year. He led the Warriors into the playoffs in 2002-2003.

Walker played safety, running back, receiver and also returned punts and kickoffs.

On defense, he ranked first in forced fumbles (4) and recovered fumbles (4) and second in tackles (87) and interceptions (3).

On offense, he ranked second in receiving. He had 27 receptions for 450 yards and six touchdowns.

Walker didn't plan on playing football in college.

"At first I didn't but I missed it too much," said Walker, who will play strong safety.

Walker wants to pursue a career in nursing.

"Hopefully, I can earn a scholarship and graduate from college with a bachelor's degree," Walker said. "I want to become a nurse. If that doesn't work out, I want to manage and own my own business one day."

Haglund played varsity football for three years at Central Catholic. The 5-foot-7, 150-pounder was named the Southern League's Most Outstanding Specialist after leading the Raiders to the Division V title this past season. He played receiver, running back, defensive back and also returned punts and kickoffs.

"It's always been my dream to play college football," said Haglund, who put on pads for the first time in the third grade.

Haglund was recruited by several four-year colleges, including Cal Poly and Montana State.

"I was talking to a couple of other schools and the coaches didn't seem as enthusiastic," he said "Once I talked to coach Gang, I knew I definitely wanted to go to Mendocino. I like the offense and my parents like coach Gang too."

Haglund will play slot receiver for the Eagles.

"The kid has tremendous field presence, great hands and he's very fast," Gang said.

Haglund had 1,171 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns during his senior year.

On defense, he had 52 tackles and seven interceptions.

Haglund's most prolific performance came against Denair in the playoffs. He caught six passes for 205 yards, registered 11 tackles and had one interception in a 47-6 victory over the Coyotes.

Haglund moved to Ukiah after Fourth of July. He's sharing an apartment with 2004 Central Catholic graduate Chris Torres.

Haglund is looking forward to teaming up with Sandberg again. They played for the Ceres Falcons youth football team.

"It will be a lot of fun," said Clint, who attended Westport Elementary and Blaker-Kinser Jr. High schools in Ceres. "I used to play with him in Pop Warner."

"They also played t-ball together," said Jennifer Haglund, Clint's mother.

Haglund will major in agriculture-business or dairy science.

"I'm going to take over my dad's livestock auction yard," he said.

Mendocino opens the season on the road against Santa Rosa on Sept. 4.

"If we don't win the conference championship, we should fire our whole staff," Gang said. "We're so much more athletic."

Said Sandberg: "We don't expect nothing less."

Gang was an assistant coach for 13 years at the high school and college level in the Central Valley. He coached at Ceres High for four years (1993-1996) and at Modesto JC for seven years (1996-2002). He taught at Ceres High for more than 10 years. - By DALE BUTLER / Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier