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Foothill’s football future

Several schools look to be in contention for 2010 league championship

Posted: December 7, 2009 10:55 p.m.
Updated: December 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.

West Ranch quarterback Connor Eichten runs against Saugus at College of the Canyons on Oct. 23.

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Heading into the 2009 season, most people expected Valencia to win the Foothill League championship.

Heading into the 2010 season, it’s not that easy.

Sure, the Vikings have several weapons coming back, none more important than record-breaking quarterback Alex Bishop and tackle-breaking running back Steven Manfro.

But graduation is ransacking several units at Valencia, which could help the rest of the teams.

The only problem?

The rest of the league is also facing graduation losses.

Each school has returning talent, but it’s likely that no one will stand out next season like Valencia did this season.

And that uncertainty is right at home in the Foothill League, which has had four different champions the last four years.

The look ahead to next year starts with this year’s champion.


Valencia
2009: 12-1, Foothill League champions, CIF-Southern Section Northern Division semifinalist


The conversation will center around Bishop and Manfro, but others will have to step up around them.

Wide receiver and safety Zach Tartabull will be gone. So will two-way weapon Brock Vereen. And defensive lineman Darrol Mitchell, who came close to setting the school’s single-season sack record.

Those are just a few of the names. The reality is that Valencia will have gaping talent holes to fill all over the field.

But the Vikings have demonstrated the ability to reload over the past several seasons, and there will be several experienced players coming back, too.

The passing game could still be potent with speedy receivers Max Rodriguez and Jake Reed returning, along with a tall target in Matt Nyberg.

Zach Wermich figures to return and anchor the offensive line, which protected Bishop and opened holes for Manfro so well this past season.

On defense, Valencia projects to have one of the best linebacking corps in the league with ball hawks Trevor Smyth, Ryan Gorman and Connor Howell returning.

Up front, defensive linemen Hector Ramirez and Stephen Rawls will be back to pressure the quarterback, which will be important considering Valencia’s three starting defensive backs are graduating.


Hart
2009: 7-4, Foothill League second place, CIF-SS Northern Division first round


The Indians lose most of their skill players heading into next season, but that problem is hardly new to the coaching staff.

This past season, Hart had to replace every starter on the offensive and defensive lines.

“That solved one problem, but we have another problem without those skill guys returning,” said head coach Mike Herrington.

Hart’s offense is losing its quarterback C.J. Reyes, running back Jake Stephens and its top three receivers in Ty MacArthur, Blake Borland and Da’jon Hairston.

Herrington said it’s still too early to tell who will take the reins under center and in the backfield.

“We’ll look to try to figure that out and we’ll have to find a running back,” he said.

Two starters on the offensive line are coming back in James Fairchild and Oliver Woodhead, and wide receiver Kevin King will be important in the passing game.

The defense loses key components as well, but linebackers John Cornelius and Hayden Scott will return.

So will defensive linemen Justyn Eddins and Michael Chandless, as well as cornerback Bobby Phillips. Free safety Matt Ritz, who started the first five games before suffering a season-ending injury, will also be back.


Canyon
2009: 2-8, Foothill League tied for third place, CIF-SS Northern Division first round


Canyon took its lumps for most of 2009, but the process led to a postseason berth thanks to a coin-flip between the Cowboys, Saugus and West Ranch.

Next season, it might lead to even more.

Canyon loses some of its best linemen, but the Cowboys have a strong tradition of developing those units.

The talent at the skill positions, meanwhile, is already in place.

Jonathan Jerozal will be the first quarterback to start more than one season at Canyon since 2004, and he developed a great connection with sophomore-to-be Drew Wolitarsky in the passing game.

Trent Hernandez, Vincent Rodriguez and Josh Telles provide good depth in the backfield, while highly touted kicker Mohammad Roknipour may prove to be a crucial weapon given a full season with the team.


Saugus
2009: 3-7, Foothill League tied for third place, no playoffs


The Centurions struggled after winning the 2008 Foothill League title, and graduation losses don’t figure to help them get back to the top.

Talented running back Tyler Watt was limited this season due to injury, and if he can stay healthy then he will certainly help Saugus’ offense, which loses quarterback Zack Gauthier and receiver Manny Padron.

Senior-to-be Chase Boscia has the most experience of the potential quarterbacks on Saugus’ roster.

Some key players will return on defense, including linebackers Adrian Cruz and Chris Wolford and defensive back Donavyn Hardy.
The varsity team had several junior linemen this season and will have to restock for 2010.


West Ranch
2009: 5-5, Foothill League tied for third place, no playoffs


The Wildcats took a big step forward in 2009 by finishing with a .500 record and earning the program’s first non-Golden Valley Foothill League win.

West Ranch could take another step forward next season with several key players returning.

“We will not be looking to replace 18-20 starters who graduated last year,” said head coach Sean O’Brien. “We will be able to pick up where we left off.”

Quarterback Connor Eichten will be back, as will linebacker Joe Barbosa and defensive back Matt Bruns.

Most of the receivers who saw significant time are gone, but deep threat Josh Guzman returns, and fullback Trevin Manuel will be a central figure in the rushing attack.

O’Brien also said that Matthew Christensen was impressive on the junior varsity team this season and could make an impact in 2010.

“We might be looking at more freshmen than we normally do,” O’Brien said. “Frankly it’s going to come down to who can start on varsity. We’re not going to pull guys up to sit and watch.”


Golden Valley
2009: 0-10, Foothill League sixth place, no playoffs


The Grizzlies endured a tough season as they tried to turn their program around, but the process also led to several players stepping up.

“We’re returning our backfield and two or three key offensive line players,” said Golden Valley head coach Andy Campbell.

Talented running backs Jeff Coprich and Junior Brown will be back, as will quarterback Reid Soliman.

Golden Valley will also have the versatile services of Andrew Avila, who played quarterback, running back and receiver among other positions this past season.

Campbell also said that the team will pull up talented junior varsity players like Earl Johnson.

“We’ll be getting them up with us,” Campbell said.

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