It has filled Corbella’s void in an unexpected way: with defense.
“The strength of our team is going to be our defense,” said head coach Louie Walters before practice Tuesday. “Our kids move really well on defense, and we know what we’re doing because of all the kids we have back (from last season).”
The Falcons’ 32-player squad includes a slew of returning starters in the defensive backfield and linebacking corps. That may prove to be the deciding factor in many games this season as the team tries to improve on last year’s second-place SCCAL finish and playoff berth.
Quarterbacks are likely to have a tough time piling up yards against the Falcons, who return four starters at defensive back: Abe Alvarez, Joe Gillette, Garrett Johnston and Andrew Stumbo.
Johnston, a senior free safety, will also play quarterback. Gillette, now 6-foot-4, was a star wide receiver as a sophomore in 2011 and will be relied upon to produce on both sides of the ball for the Falcons. Alvarez and Stumbo will also be counted on for big plays all season long.
Linebacker, defensive line
At linebacker, the Falcons feature many strong athletes who are expected to give running backs and tight ends fits. The linebacker corps includes Ari Wargon, Jake Renberg, Bradley McClaron, Kevin Sieb, Tyler Bach, Emmanuel Johnson and Brady Botkin.
“This is a very athletic group,” Walters said.
Wargon, especially, will have his work cut out for him as a starting running back and linebacker.
On the line, Simon Harris, Justin Meed, Peter Marigonda and Josh McKim will hold down the trenches and tie up blockers to allow the linebackers to make plays on running backs.
The Falcons will return to a 50 percent run, 50 percent pass-to-run balance after relying heavily on the rushing attack in 2011. With offensive linemen who are smaller in stature but quicker than in the past several years, Walters hopes to use their speed for more blocking downfield.
“They’re not big, but they are one of the more athletic lines we’ve had,” he said.
The balanced attack will be headed by Johnston at quarterback, backed up by Jake Lobo, a sophomore, and Alex Turowski, a junior.
“Johnston is a very good athlete,” Walters said. “He’s a smart, smart football player whether he’s playing offense or defense.”
Running back Wargon and fullback Renberg will start for the Falcons, and Chase Hardwick, Sieb and McClaron are predicted to get the majority of the touches for the Falcons.
“Wargon is a thick, explosive kid that has great football vision,” Walters said. “He’s our leader. He’s the heart and soul of the team.”
Offensive line, tight end
Carson Shoemate, a two-year starter at center, is the leader of the front five. Christian Murai, Brett Turner, Cameron Boostani, Harris, McKim and Bach will all share time in the trenches. Next to them will be tight ends Tyler Bisel, Johnson and Botkin.
“They can all run and catch,” Walter said.
Gillette, a first-team all-league performer as a sophomore, leads a talented group of receivers capable of big things for the Falcons.
“He’s a big kid and one of the top players in the league, we feel,” Walter said.
In addition to Gillette, second-year starter Ian Howard and juniors Deonte Balhin and Willie Johnston (Garrett’s younger brother) will get time on the outside.
Former NFL kicker Joe Nedney continues to work with Scotts Valley’s kickers, and Walters thinks this year’s crop will continue the strong tradition Scotts Valley has developed.
Walters said Jack Lavery and Howard will share punting and place-kicking duties.
Tough preseason on tap
Following the preseason jamboree Friday, Aug. 24, at Cabrillo College, Scotts Valley High’s tough nonleague schedule will prove whether the school’s football team has what it takes to win another Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League title.
Head coach Louie Walters’ team opens the season hosting Evergreen Valley High from San Jose before traveling to Texas to play at 2,500-person San Angelo Central High. Returning to California, Scotts Valley will visit Le Grand High, which lost in the state championship game in 2011, and Bear River High in Grass Valley, another tough opponent.
“If we can survive that, I think we’re going to be pretty competitive in league,” Walters said.
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