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What's next for Foothill football?

We look ahead to the 2014 season

Posted: December 21, 2013 10:56 p.m.
Updated: December 21, 2013 10:56 p.m.

Canyon's All-Foothill League twin tandem of Israel (left) and Liam Cabrera. The two juniors will lead the Cowboys into 2014.

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If the 2013 Foothill League football season taught us anything, it was how arbitrary time can be.

On Oct. 25 Canyon held a commanding 28-6 lead over Valencia in the third quarter.

Across town, an undefeated Hart team was in the midst of a 38-3 blowout of a Saugus squad headed towards its fourth straight loss.

Somewhere in between that moment and now, Canyon lost to Valencia and in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division playoffs and the Vikings took league and were Northern Division finalists.

Saugus made the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division semifinals.

And of course, Hart lost its final two regular season games only to rebound and capture the program’s ninth CIF title — at the expense of Valencia no less.

Seven weeks can be a blur and an eternity all the same.

Now there’s an offseason, which will feel the same come next fall.

After a historic Foothill League 2013, we’re jumping ahead in time.

Here’s an early look at what to expect from one of Southern California’s most competitive leagues in 2014.

Hart (2013 finish: 12-3 overall, 3-2 Foothill League, CIF-SS Northern Division champions)

The Indians captured their ninth CIF title this past season, and with quarterback Brady White and receiver Trent Irwin returning in 2014 it’s likely that expectations will be sky high in Newhall once again.

White will have solid protection when he drops back to look for Irwin, too.

Ethan Quinn, Stephen Simon, Nick Presley and Martin Zdimal have all started games on Hart’s offensive line at some point or another, and they all return in 2014.

“You never know,” said Hart head coach Mike Herrington. “We’ll have a nucleus of players back, but we lost a lot of talent.”

Hart will be without the benefit of playmakers in running back Connor Wingenroth and linebacker Garrett Updegraft next season, as the seniors will graduate in 2014 along with notables Blake Porter, Davis Koppenhaver, Wes Fitzpatrick and Chase White.

Only a junior in 2013, Hart running back Joey Bilbo will be back after stepping in at times for the injured Wingenroth during the season. Bilbo averaged 5.9 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns on the ground this past season.

Not known is the impact that Hart’s underclassmen will have at the varsity level, but if records are any indication the Indians are in a great position to re-establish their stronghold on the Foothill League.

Led by sophomore offensive lineman Colby Pursell and sophomore running back Nelson James, Hart’s junior varsity team went 9-1 and captured a league title.

The freshman squad took it up a notch, posting a perfect 10-0 record.

Valencia — (11-3, 5-0, fifth straight Foothill League title, Northern Division finalists)

Valencia’s stranglehold over the Foothill League might not be over.

The Vikings will be shooting for a sixth straight crown and will have a lot in place to make that a reality.

“We’ll be in the mix — there’s no doubt,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir.

There will be key players to replace — Foothill League Offensive Player of the Year wide receiver Nick Jones, the Southern Section’s third-leading passer in Jake Wallace, Foothill League Defensive Player of the Year Jourdan Nguyen and four other All-Foothill League first-teamers.

But there are some key players expected to return.

Two-way force Jay Jay Wilson will be the top returning receiver and defensive player.

Center Trevor Hendrickson made an impact as just a sophomore in 2013 and Tyler Bjorklund was vital on the offensive line as a junior.

That’s good news for running back Stone Jackson, who was Valencia’s best player in its Northern Division championship loss to Hart.

Linebacker Sean Teems had a strong season and should get help at the position from a pair of guys who were lost for the season with leg injuries in Josh Semko and Ryan Ferrone.

Guys who saw playing time in 2013 and should see expanded roles are running back Matthew Pham, defensive back Ty’Ree White, wide receivers Ethan Yoo and Brad Prizer and safety Joseph Ordaz.

Cole Parkinson was Wallace’s quarterback in waiting and the talented sophomore showed flashes of brilliance before a shoulder injury sidelined him for the season in midseason.

“I think he’ll be a special, special player,” Muir said. “I think he has tremendous athletic ability, a terrific arm. He’ll get better and better.”

Muir cited a couple of guys at the lower levels who could make an impact on the varsity next season — JV defensive end Cameron Garcia and freshman team lineman Eric Lieberman.

The defensive line is where Valencia has the biggest needs.

The JV team was 7-3 last season, with losses to Hart and Saugus and the freshmen were 8-2 overall.

Canyon — (8-3, 4-1)

Canyon suffers a significant loss in its leader, Foothill League Player of the Year and quarterback Cade Apsay.

There will be plenty of competition for his job and four guys are early candidates — JV players Jack Pinkston and Loman Dunning and freshmen Daniel Cervantes and Miles Fallin.

The JV team went 4-5-1 last season and freshmen were 6-4.

The load will be on the varsity veteran Cabrera twins — Israel and Liam — who were All-Foothill first-teamers at defensive back and wide receiver respectively.

Running back Myron McAfee will have the opportunity to build on a strong 2013 in which he showed he could be a shifty, yard-eating runner.

Canyon will have a lot of pieces to replace on defense with four All-Foothill players graduating in 2014 including pass rusher Ronnie Walker.

Austin Barry will be a key hitter on defense at the linebacker position as will Jordan Sykes.

Linebacker Travis Clarke will be a third-year varsity player as a junior.

As for guys at the lower levels who Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez expects to play big roles in 2013, he mentioned wide receiver Markel Taylor, running back Dylan Nelson and freshmen offensive linemen Colton Costanza and Justin Hamalainen.

Gutierrez was positive about the future after a second-place finish in the Foothill and 8-3 overall record in 2013.

“I think that’s the best part concerning football — the process. The journey officially began last week,” Gutierrez said.

Saugus — (7-6, 2-3, (Northern Division semifinalists)

A large foundation of Saugus’ success in 2013 was built upon its strong senior leadership, so graduation is a problematic circumstance for the Centurions.

Linebackers Blake Austin and Austin Davenport anchored a stout Saugus front seven this past season, so their departures will be felt immediately. With Davenport and Austin leaving, Saugus loses two guys who accounted for 230 combined tackles in 2013.

“Players returning we have Chris Hamilton obviously as one of the first guys that comes to mind,” said Saugus head coach Jason Bornn. “Everybody has room for improvement. Chris is no different. His decision making will continue to grow and improve.”

Hamilton was solid as the starting quarterback for the Centurions in 2013.

In his second year as a starter, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound signal caller threw for 1,931 yards and 20 touchdowns, adding another 504 yards and six touchdowns with his feet.

He’ll be joined by returning all-purpose standout Marc Langford and offensive lineman Christian Stevenson on offense.

The Centurions will lose last year’s leading rusher in Reid Rupe, along with last year’s leader in sacks, defensive end Chase Madrigal.

Defensive back Michael Parker and linebackers Drew Maher, Zach Gragas and Kevin Venger are all juniors who will look to play a bigger role on defense next season after accumulating varsity reps in 2013.

At the lower levels, Saugus was 2-8 on the freshman team and 5-5 with the JVs.

Linebacker Beau Falco, wide receiver Cameron Combs and safety Madden Schefer are three guys who could make an impact on varsity next year in their first seasons.

West Ranch (5-5, 1-4)

The Wildcats improved their 2012 record by three wins under second-year head coach Jan Miller in 2013.

Yet, West Ranch was expected by many to finish better than 1-4 in league.

“This will be our second year of the system we have in place,” Miller said. “The first one we went through some growing pains. The coaching staff will work on being better at using the talent we have to fit the system we want to run.”

Unfortunately for Miller, the Wildcats will have a lot of starting over to do on offense.

Quarterback Chase Killingsworth should be back for his senior season, but he’s only one of three returning starters on that side of the ball.

Instead, West Ranch will rely on its upcoming talent pool to fill the holes left by graduation.

Such is a problematic prospect, as West Ranch has a lot of holes to fill and the Wildcats junior varsity squad went just 2-8 this past season, with the freshman team going 4-6.

After leading the Foothill League in sacks, Wildcats defensive end Alex Rassool will graduate.

Leading tackler Isaiah Guzman, who led the team in tackles, will also be moving on.

Joining them in graduation are linebackers Trevor Aleshire and Andrew Beldyga, meaning that junior linebacker Felipe Montazeri will be one of the only returning defensive players with significant in-game experience.

According to Miller, West Ranch will bring up seven sophomores to varsity next season, the most ever in the seven years he’s been involved with the West Ranch program.

Miller has yet to determine who those players will be.

Golden Valley (2-8, 0-5)

With a lot of players graduating, a lot will have to happen for a program turnaround in 2014.

The Grizzlies struggled again in 2013, scoring 166 points and giving up 403 to opponents en route to a 2-8 season.

Golden Valley did snap its 17-game losing streak with its 34-28 opening week win over Granada Hills High, but the program went just 1-8 from that point on and head coach Robert Fisher stepped down at the end of the season.

The Signal reported Friday that successful Arleta head coach Dan Kelley appears to be his successor, though the school would not confirm that.

Whoever that coach is will have to replace senior quarterback Robert Phillips.

Junior Erik Zarate is the only player with experience under center slated to return in 2014.

However, he struggled there, completing just 22-of-71 passes for 71 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Grizzlies will also lose their top four rushers from a season ago, including playmaker Terry Tamura.

On defense, Bryan Barrera is a junior expected to anchor the Golden Valley defense next season after playing limited time as a sophomore on varsity in 2013.

Do-it-all skill position playmakers Shane Tamura and Nathan Ray are expected to be impact players as they come up from a junior varsity squad that went 4-6.

The Grizzlies’ freshman team finished the year with a 3-7 record.

— Signal staff writer Dan Agnew contributed to this story

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