Fikaris makes immediate impactBy Joe Tuscano, Staff writer
Sam Fikaris might not realize it, but he could be the most amazing story on California University's football team this season.
If the name seems unfamiliar, you are not alone.
Fikaris entered fall camp third on the depth chart at nose tackle. But Avery Goode, the projected starter, left to take a job and his backup Andre Williams was forced out of football because of a back injury.
Fikaris beat out three others to gain the starting position and will be there today when the Vulcans battle Southern Connecticut State in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs at Adamson Stadium. Kickoff is noon.
Fikaris has 24 tackles, including seven for losses, and two quarterback sacks for the 11-0 Vulcans. Not bad for someone lining up for Mayfield Heights (Ohio) football team last season.
"I knew I might have a chance to rotate in," said Fikaris, a 6-2, 270-pound freshman. "I didn't expect to start. I had no idea there would be an opening."
There is a good reason for that. Head coach John Luckhardt rarely allows freshmen to start.
"He's had a tremendous year for us," Luckhardt said. "Sam came ready to play."
Fikaris is part of the best defense in Division II but still had to convince his teammates that he could play his position.
"In my first scrimmage, the first time we went full go, I got by Tim McCutcheon and batted a ball down," Fikaris said of Cal's three-time All-America lineman. "I felt that if I could go against the best lineman in the nation, I can go against anyone."
Like the rest of the Vulcans, Fikaris is eager to play in the school's first playoff game. Last season, Mayfield made the playoffs for the first time since Fikaris arrived and won its first-round game.
"I felt we were in after the ninth game," said Fikaris of the 22-13 victory over Slippery Rock. "(Southern Connecticut) is a sold offensive team. They had 550 yards last week. They have big guys on their offensive line but the coaches tell us they are not the most athletic. If we can stop their running game, I feel we can shut them down."
Now that's power
Power rankings normally capture the interest of bettors and fans. So take the following for what it's worth.
The Born Power Index provides power ratings for New Jersey and Pennsylvania high schools and most college football teams.
The system uses a mathematical equation to figure out spreads. In today's game, California is listed as 20.7 points stronger than Southern Connecticut.