Return of the Founding Mothers
With a limited roster and the direction of new ownership, the San Diego Surge finished the 2013 campaign with a 9-2 record. It was another impressive season for the defending Women’s Football Alliance champions, but it ended with a 40-14 loss to the Central Cal War Angels in the conference semifinals.
It was their first season without quarterback and team co-owner Melissa Gallegos. After leading the team to a hard-fought victory in the 2012 WFA national championship game, the 11-year veteran and her partner Christina Carrillo decided to take a hiatus from football.
“I felt it was the right time to step away and let the mind and body heal,” said Gallegos. “I also had my first son Braydon and felt it was the right time to step away and spend time with him.”
Gallegos and Carrillo handed the keys to the franchise over to Knengi Martin, who went on to earn first-team All-American honors as the team's running back and linebacker while handling front office business off the field.
“Knengi did a great job with the team while we stepped away for a season,” said Carrillo. “When we started the Surge in 2011, it was never our intent to sell it off. We needed a year to bring our new child into our lives and get things back in order.”
“We are very excited to be back as owners, and we look forward to a very successful 2014 season.”
While attending a few Surge games last season, Gallegos felt the urgency to get back on the field.
“I feel like the time away has really helped my shoulder heal and rejuvenate,” Gallegos said. “I missed football so much, and I know that I can still compete at this level.”
Gallegos' return to the gridiron encouraged more alums from the 2012 championship team to make a comeback as well.
Receiver and kick returner Holly Peterson is back on the roster after a one-year stint with the Sacramento Sirens. As a member of the Sirens, Peterson faced her former team twice last season.
The Sirens earned a 40-18 win during the regular season, but the Surge won the rematch 38-13 in the second round of the playoffs.
Joining Peterson is cornerback Ashley Moody and running back Deana Guidry.
“Things all fell back into place when we retained ownership of the team,” said Carrillo. “I believe many of the players saw that Melissa was returning for another season, and knows the level of play she brings to the team.”
This year's squad will also feature players from the 2012 team who stuck around and stood out in 2013. All-Americans Knengi Martin, Melissa Strother, and Katrina Walter will be back along with Jessica Cable, Eboni Chambers, Crystal Stokes, and Tracy Wong.
If that wasn’t enough, the Surge added nine veterans who previously played for the Pacific Warriors and Los Angeles Amazons. They bring a combined total of over 50 seasons of football experience.
“We have a great mix of veterans, and some very exciting rookie players as well,” Carrillo added.
Notably missing from this year’s roster is All-American defensive tackle Maria Rodriguez and 2012 WFA Championship MVP Cassey Brick.
Introducing Coach Harris
After the 2013 season concluded, Mike Suggett resigned as the Surge head coach after three outstanding seasons.
Carrillo and Gallegos didn’t have to look far to find his replacement. They turned to William Harris, who served as an assistant coach since the team’s inaugural season.
“I was torn at first," said Harris. “Mike Suggett is one of my best friends and the best head coach I have ever worked with, so I was unsure about taking over.”
After a few long phone calls, Harris decided that the opportunity was too good to pass up.
“Once I knew Coach Suggett had my back, I was all in. Now I'm just excited to get into game week.”
Suggett’s resume includes an overall record of 32-3, the 2012 WFA coach of the year award, and a national title win in two appearances. Harris obviously has some big shoes to fill.
“I feel like it was a blessing to be able to keep almost the entire staff from previous years,” said Harris. “That has allowed me to feel a lot less pressure. I have learned that this job is a lot easier when you are able to surround yourself with the best staff in the league.”
“The Surge program has a tradition and class about it that is unheard of,” Harris added. “All I want to do is maintain that.”
Update: Suggett will remain on the staff as the linebackers coach.
“He couldn’t stay away too long,” said Carrillo.
Viva Las Vegas!
Harris will make his head coaching debut this Saturday when the Surge open the 2014 season against the Las Vegas Showgirlz at Santana High School. This will be the fifth meeting between the teams with the Surge owning a 4-0 edge in the all-time series.
“Vegas is a fun game for everyone involved,” said Harris. "Nobody ever travels across state lines and doesn’t want to win badly. So I am sure they will bring their best, and so will we.”
Coming off a 5-4 record last season, the Showgirlz will begin their 2014 regular-season on the same field where their 2013 season ended. They will be seeking redemption after suffering a 72-14 loss to the Surge in the first round of the playoffs.
Under the direction of head coach and team owner Dion Lee, the Showgirlz return five WFA All-Americans including the one-two punch rushing combination of Shameka Finks and Jennifer Cowan, center Ramona Montgomery, linebacker Carrie Walters, and defensive tackle Brandi Rodgers.
“From a coach’s standpoint, this will be one of those games that will be decided by the team that makes the fewest mistakes,” said Harris.
“It should be a good one to watch on film come Sunday morning.”