San Lorenzo Valley High football team has gone through some major adjustments and unfortunate situations over the past three seasons, including three coaching changes in that same time span.
However, not everything is grim for Cougars’ first-year head coach David Grant, who has one of the largest rosters—32 players to be exact—the program has seen in quite some time.
Grant, a 1998 graduate and former SLV player, also has a seasoned coaching staff full of alumni, including former Harbor High head coach Jeff Cox, who will serve as the team’s offensive coordinator.
And, despite the coaching carousel over the past three years, Grant believes they have players buying into the message that the coaching staff is still the real deal with plenty of support within the school.
“I feel good about the program and the direction that we’re going in, but obviously we have a lot to prove,” Grant said.
Grant played under former legendary coach Doug Morris, who led SLV to three Central Coast Section Division IV championships, including back-to-back titles in 1999 and 2000, and in 2002 when they went unbeaten with a perfect 13-0 overall record for the only time in the program’s history.
During that time Grant remembers winning was fun, yet it was the way the community rallied around the football program that made it special.
This year’s group of players attempted to mimic the same type of family-type atmosphere after they took a trip to Lake Tahoe to attend a four-day football camp.
“It’s a cool thing that we want to try to keep the message the same,” Grant said.
SLV finished with a 2-8 overall record and placed sixth in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Santa Lucia Division with a 1-5 record in league play.
Senior inside linebacker Malcolm Deguara said he’s excited to finally have some solid depth everywhere on the roster and he’s already enjoying the improved energy level from last year.
“We’d go into games and in the third or fourth quarter we would just be tired,” he said. “This year, I think we’re going to be able to have plenty of subs from every single position. It’ll help prevent injuries, you will get less time, and we will be able to perform better overall.”
Deguara will also be the starting quarterback in their season opener at South San Francisco on Aug. 25 at 7pm.
“I’m nervous, but I’m ready to take on this challenge,” he said. “I want to lead my team, I want to get a victory and I want to show the coaches I’m a good quarterback. I’m excited, I think it’s a huge opportunity for me.”
Deguara spent some time in the weight room during the offseason and he gained 10 pounds of muscle. The preparation came from a similar thing he went through last year when he played various positions on the field.
“It’s a lot, but it’s nothing I can’t manage,” he said.
Grant is expecting big things from players such as senior Jack Fontinell and junior Jack Dagan, who has played most of the reps at quarterback.
The Cougars are also getting a pair of returners in seniors Dominic Chiechi and Connor Sarborough, who both suffered season-ending injuries in Week 1 and 2, respectively.
“We weren’t really able to see how the season would pan with them,” Deguara said. “Once we get them out on the field, and once they start playing, we can see a huge boost in our confidence and our performance.”
After the 2022 campaign finished, junior lineman Haden Woolworth said he got lonely not being able to be with what he called his second family.
“I love to be out here, it’s my favorite sport and I try my hardest every single day,” he said.
The Cougars were injury prone last year and they didn’t have the bodies to fill out the empty spaces.
Woolworth said he feels a lot more comfortable this year knowing they’ll finally have some rotation on the offensive line, which is great considering what the Cougars went through last season.
A good sign is the program continues to grow and has a solid JV group of 34 players, along with a nice core of ninth graders coming up.
“I feel like we’re gonna be more confident with ourselves and I feel like we’re gonna strive for greatness this year, truly, because we have just a lot more players,” he said. “I feel like we’re gonna do some great things.”
The Cougars will compete in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Santa Lucia Division alongside Gonzales, Greenfield, Harbor, Marina, Pajaro Valley and Stevenson.
Deguara believes a huge part of building self-assurance is bringing up the intensity. He said even with all the injuries last year they still had the ability to win a lot of those games, but they came up short because they lacked some of that courage.
“A large part of this year and trying to lead our team has been a lot of positive reinforcement, just helping everybody out trying to get everybody confident and get a pretty good feel for the game so that we can go out there Friday nights and Saturday afternoons and go win some games,” he said.