Coming off an uncharacteristic 4-6 season in 2011, the San Lorenzo Valley High varsity football team has a relatively small squad of talented and smart athletes.
With 35 players, the roster is smaller than the 50 or so players SLV typically fields each season. But that’s no excuse to let down the proud San Lorenzo Valley tradition.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said head coach Doug Morris, now in his 24th year as head coach. “It’s a good group of athletes, and with these numbers, we get to look at the little things.”
The Cougars also face several other obstacles as they prepare to open the season with the preseason jamboree Friday, Aug. 24, at Cabrillo College.
They enter early-season action without a proven quarterback and with an offensive line that’s less bulky than some.
Still, the team is ready to compete.
“They worked hard in the offseason,” Morris said. “These kids are strong, but not very big in stature.”
Quarterback, running backs
For just the second time in his coaching career, Morris has called a sophomore up to varsity to challenge for the quarterback position.
Sophomore Isaac Newbury has a strong arm and started for the junior varsity team as a freshman. He’ll be joined by senior Pat Duran and junior Patrick Primeau handling snaps. A clear-cut starter has not yet been named, Morris said.
In the backfield, senior running backs Robbie Biagiotti and Derek Poetzinger will share carries. They were the second and third leading rushers on the team in 2011 behind Jonny Cooper, who graduated in the spring.
Matt Phillips, John Camacho, Max Cunningham and Jon Szakacs return as offensive linemen for the Cougars, looking for ways to protect the quarterback and run the ball.
Phillips, at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, is a rock in the middle.
Receivers, tight ends
The Cougars’ offense will move away from the power running game into a spread-type offense.
“It’s influenced by the players we have,” Morris said. “We don’t have the big, bruising linemen.”
Seniors Sid Chi and Lucas Sinnott both return to play key roles as wideouts, but they will double as tight-ends in SLV’s passing attack. Junior Kjell Johnson will help stretch the field with his speed, while Sinnott (6-foot-3) and Chi (6-1) could both cause problems for opposing defensive backs after strong seasons in 2011.
Ben Knudson, a senior, will handle placekicking duties and junior Jordan Peabody will punt for the Cougars.
Dave Poetzinger remains defensive coordinator for a traditionally stout and well-coached Cougar defense.
Defensive line and linebackers
Seniors Camacho and Phillips return as key members of the defensive line that is still in formation.
“A lot of these juniors are going to have to step up and play,” Morris said.
Biagiotti and senior Trevor Patterson will anchor the defense at middle linebacker, while Derek Poetzinger and Sinnott handle the outside backer duties.
Chi and Dylan Miller return as senior defensive backs at a position where the Cougars have ample numbers.
SLV won the league title in 2010 before missing the playoffs in 2011. However, Morris said this year’s team will challenge every opponent.
“They’re smart, good athletes, and they’re spirited,” Morris said. “So we have to stay healthy and get sprinkled with a little bit of luck, and good things will happen.”