It almost seems like a never-ending story for Scotts Valley High football coach Louie Walters, who has to deal with large turnover rates on his roster nearly every season.
The Falcons lost 26 seniors due to graduation, which was a little more than half of the team.
But the longtime coach is optimistic that this year’s group of young and hungry players are more than capable of stepping up to the challenge.
“They had success on the younger levels. I think we’re going to be OK,” Walters said. “We’re going to be competitive, that’s all I can say.”
Scotts Valley will feature a plethora of newcomers on the varsity squad including seniors Tristan Roure, Sam Freeman and Colton Duerson.
If those names sound familiar, they should.
Roure was a standout on the boys’ basketball team, Freeman sprinted his way into Central Coast Section Track and Field finals and Duerson is one of the top golfers in the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League.
Walters, who is entering his 22nd season with the program, said the trio has been a nice addition to the team.
All three players are part of a deep defensive back core led by assistant coach Reggie Stephens—a Santa Cruz High School and Cabrillo alumnus and former NFL player.
Senior starting quarterback Cole Leonard will return under center once again.
Leonard got his first start at the varsity level last season. He admits it was a bit frightening, especially because other players were much bigger in stature.
This year is a much different story, though.
“In my mindset, I’ve just been thinking I can do this, nothing’s stopping me,” Leonard said.
Leonard led the Falcons last season to a 9-2 overall record and a Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress division title, going 6-0 in league play. They lost to Leland in the CCS D-III opener.
“The thing is Cole [Leonard] is a leader, he’s our little general,” Walters said. “It’s not like we’re throwing him into the fire. He won the league championship for us and I think he’s a good leader.”
Leonard said they might be young but he’s looking forward to seeing what they can do in the non-league season opener against Santa Cruz High set for Aug. 26 at 7:30pm.
“This year we have a lot more juniors than seniors but I think this team could be great,” he said. “We just put our mind to it, we can do whatever we want to.”
Key returning juniors include Niko Iles, Brady Siechen and the Murphy brothers, John and Lukas.
Leonard said they’ve looked good in practice up to this point despite having a couple of sloppy moments. He said the great thing is they still have time to clean up the lingering mistakes.
“We’re looking strong. Defense is looking great, offense is looking great. I’m excited,” he said.
When he heard that only a handful of seniors were returning this season, Leonard was somewhat disappointed.
But then he quickly saw a huge turnout of juniors and some sophomores, including backup quarterback Lucas Ringel, who Walters said is going to make some noise in the near future.
Eli Velez, younger brother of former standout Isaiah Velez, and Jess Ringel are another pair of sophomores who’ve been putting in the extra effort.
“They’ve been working their tails off, playing great,” Leonard said.
Leonard mentioned he’s been stepping up to take more of a leadership role on a young team that will need leadership during a long season ahead of them.
“I’ve been trying to tell them we need to not mess around and just get to the point, work hard,” he said.
Nic Arcangeli, a senior and three-year starter on varsity, is the returning center and is competing for a starting linebacker job, as well.
“He’s our leader, the kids rally around him,” Walters said.
Arcangeli said the key is to treat each other as one, no matter the grade level.
“It really helps us kind of build and we’re with each other all day, every day,” he said. “We treat each other like brothers and it just helps us trust each other on the field.”
Arcangeli said the younger players have fit into their roles nicely and they contribute as best as they can. Whether it’s on the scout team or when they get their shot, they’re giving everyone a look.
“Just coach up the guys behind you because they are the next generation and they’re going to carry the legacy of Scotts Valley High School,” he said.
Arcangeli added they might not be the biggest team—roster size or in stature—but opponents can expect them to have the biggest hearts.
“And you can expect us to have the best sportsmanship and discipline you’ve seen,” he said.
Leonard said there’s a sense of hype going around in the locker room. The main goal for them is to qualify for the CCS postseason.
“Play a good season, let our coaches see how this team can play,” he said.
Walters said this year’s group has some shoes to fill, yet, he believes they have enough athletes and speed to get the job done.
That speed will come in handy for the Falcons after getting bumped from the Cypress up to the Mission division, which is considered the “B+” tier of the PCAL’s four divisions.
Scotts Valley will play former SCCAL rival Soquel High in the Mission division opener on Sept. 23 at 7:30pm; followed by matchups against Monterey, Carmel, Monte Vista Christian, Seaside and North Salinas high schools.
“It is what it is,” Walters said. “It’s a testimony to the success of our program, obviously. But we’re one of the smaller public schools in the CCS, so we’ll see. We just gotta get better every week.”
Scotts Valley has non-league games against longtime rivals San Lorenzo Valley and Watsonville high schools, and a PCAL crossover game against Alisal High which competes in the Gabilan division.
“They’re all teams we can beat, we just have to work hard,” Leonard said.
Arcangeli said it’s definitely an exciting time and he’s ready to take on any challenge headed in his direction.
“For me personally, and I think all the seniors, knowing that it’s our last season, we don’t really care who we face,” he said. “We’ve played these teams before. We kind of know what to expect. We’re just gonna go out there, have fun and whatever happens, happens.”