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Foothill League football preview: In 2012, there are two goals

Valencia and Saugus are the defending Co-Foothill League Champions

Posted: August 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Valencia players, from left, Tedric Thompson, Grayson Largman, Sean Murphy, Jake Solley and Malik Townsend are prepared to defend another Foothill League title.

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Everything changed when the CIF-Southern Section restructured its divisions for this season.

Goodbye Marmonte League, hello Foothill League’s chance at returning to a Northern Division title game.

Now in 2012, there are two titles at stake — the Foothill League championship and the Northern Division title.

“I think it makes it a little easier,” said Hart High head coach Mike Herrington. “You don’t have the private schools or the open-enrollment type of school like St. Bonaventure, Westlake or Oaks Christian. They dominated the division the last couple of years. Of course, it makes the path a little easier because we’re not competing with the all-star type caliber teams.”

It’s unfathomable to think that the Foothill League hasn’t had a team in a CIF title game since 2007, when Hart lost 42-28 to St. Bonaventure.

Last year, Hart and Canyon made the quarterfinals, but lost.

The Foothill Leagues’ co-champions, Valencia and Saugus, were sent packing in the first round.

The Marmonte League, meanwhile, went 12-4 in the postseason and saw its Westlake defeat its Oaks Christian 49-42 for the league’s fifth consecutive championship.

Herrington said the Foothill League as a whole supported a movement to get the Marmonte League out of the Northern Division.

The CIF-Southern Section listened and in came the Pac-7 League (Arroyo Grande, Righetti, San Luis Obispo, Atascadero, Pioneer Valley, Paso Robles and St. Joseph).

Arroyo Grande won Western Division title last year.

Now the Northern Division is made up of the Foothill, Pac-7, Bay and Golden leagues.

It is far more balanced now, and the Foothill League, which earned a reputation for its stellar play because of CIF title runs by Hart and Canyon between 1995 and 2006, has a chance once again to win the division’s top prize.

In order to be in that position, though, one team will have to survive the minefield that is the Foothill.

Or more than one team — as last season showed us.

Due to Canyon forfeiting a victory against Saugus last year, the Centurions split the league championship with Valencia.

Valencia went on to defeat Saugus 35-0 and earn the top seed for the Northern Division playoffs from the Foothill.
Valencia’s an interesting place to start in this year’s Foothill League.

The Vikings have won three straight Foothill League titles.

This season, Valencia has to recover from graduating a dominant defense, led by the Foothill League and All-Santa Clarita Valley Player of the Year and Northern Division co-Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Gorman and Foothill Defensive Player of the Year Billy Shipman.  

“We have a lot of young players, but we feel they’re pretty talented guys,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir. “It will be really important to grow — particularly as the nonleague season goes. The maturity and the growth of those guys will determine the success of our team in the Foothill League.”

Valencia has veteran talent there — seniors in defensive linemen Jake Solley, Grayson Largman, linebacker Anthony Costleigh and NCAA Division I recruit Tedric Thompson.

They have an abundance of talent at the skill positions — particularly with Thompson and sophomore Jay Jay Wilson at wide receiver.

So the Vikings won’t let the league title go away that quickly.

Saugus might have the bigger challenge of holding onto the title.

The Centurions are even younger than the Vikings and sophomore quarterback Chris Hamilton will be guiding the offense for the first time.

The team’s biggest issue this summer has been getting its receivers to come along.

The secondary is also untested.

If there’s a sure thing with the Cents, it’s that the defensive line is powerful in the interior — led by 2011 Foothill Lineman of the Year and senior Denley Rodriguez.

Saugus head coach Jason Bornn said point blank, his team can win a league title.

But there’s the thought that all roads to the league title will have to go through Hart High.

The Indians haven’t won a league championship since 2007.

Remember the years when they won Foothill championships from 1992-2003?

Well, this team is in it for the long haul.

Its quarterback situation is interesting.

Do the Indians go with sophomore first-year varsity player Brady White — who locals in the know have been hearing about since he was in junior high — or the ultra-talented Connor Wingenroth?

If Wingenroth isn’t the Indians quarterback, he’ll still be possibly its biggest impact player on the offense, as he can run, throw, catch and defend.

Or is sophomore wide receiver Trent Irwin the team’s biggest impact player?

Maybe its not a player, but players.

Hart has arguably the best offensive line in the Foothill, led by seniors John Perkins and Austin Lee.

If its defense is strong, Hart might take the Foothill League and more.

Canyon is this year’s Saugus — the team few expect to win a championship, but certainly can.

The reason people aren’t on Canyon’s bandwagon is because of the loss of graduated quarterback and three-year varsity starter Jonathan Jerozal.

Junior varsity rookie Cade Apsay will now be throwing to Drew Wolitarsky — in pursuit of the state’s all-time receptions and reception yardage records.

“It’s obviously going to affect him,” said Canyon head coach Rich Gutierrez on the change for Wolitarsky. “Jonathan being there for three years developed that chemistry. But seeing Cade and Wolly go out there all summer, they’ve built up a strong communication with each other. But they’re going to have to make it happen and communicate and work with each other.”

Canyon has other offensive weapons, but its defense might be its strength, led by All-CIF lineman Juan Rodriguez and middle linebacker Justin Derpic.

West Ranch is another interesting team because people really don’t know what they’re going to get from this team.

Senior defensive lineman Jake Lambirth is who head coach Sean O’Brien said will be the motor for the defense.
Gerrit Mouw will again be the starting quarterback.

O’Brien has said this team’s strength is depth.

But West Ranch has an ambitious preleague schedule, with games against Moorpark and St. Francis — two big challengers.

What shape will the team be in physically and mentally going into league?

Finally, Golden Valley is still in search of its first-ever Foothill victory after 29 games.

Golden Valley graduated running back Earl Johnson, wide receiver Isa Bey and quarterback Reid Soliman — all productive players.

Now Chase Lewis will have to do a lot in his first year as starting quarterback.

The senior runs well and throws a good ball, but there isn’t much depth on either side of the football.

So maybe the Grizzlies don’t have a shot at either title — but the at least four, maybe even five could contend for the Foothill championship.

And at least three teams could make a deep run in the playoffs.

By the end of the 2012 season, we could be saying this — the Foothill League is back.



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