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Prep football: Foothill’s next step

League shows a lot of promise for 2013 after a season full of mixed results

Posted: December 3, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 3, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Golden Valley quarterback Robert Phillips.

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This past Foothill League football season was a major tease.

Of course there were the haves — Valencia, Canyon and Hart, and have nots — Saugus, West Ranch and Golden Valley.

And three teams made it to at least the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Northern Division second round with Valencia reaching the semifinals.

The Northern Division is no longer under the chokehold of the Marmonte League, which exited after the 2011 season.

Now, it’s anyone’s division with the Foothill League once again establishing itself as a division title contender.

But for as big of a step the Foothill took in 2012, 2013 appears to be the year where it will take a bigger step.

Not only is the league looking to be even more competitive in 2013, it appears to have realistic Northern Division championship potential.

Here’s what’s to look forward to: Valencia defending its fourth straight Foothill League title, Hart now a year older and much more threatening, Canyon’s and Saugus’ youth growing up, a new start for West Ranch and a Golden Valley team that will not only be capable of winning outside of the league, but possibly inside it as well.

It’s a year away, but here’s our annual look ahead to the next season.

Valencia  (2012 finish: 9-4 overall, 5-0 in the Foothill League)

The thought coming into 2012 was that Valencia was losing its grip on the Foothill League title.

That didn’t happen as senior quarterback Sean Murphy, an array of talented skill players and a veteran nucleus on defense led the Vikings to the top again.

Now, there should be no doubt about Valencia, despite losing Murphy and four-year varsity two-way player Tedric Thompson.

“We certainly will be in the discussion — no doubt about it,” said Valencia head coach Larry Muir on if his team will be a league title contender next season.

Murphy was the Foothill League Player of the Year and Valencia will have to replace 3,936 passing yards and a school record 38 touchdowns.

But the Vikings have options.

There’s backup Jake Wallace, who will be a senior next year, and freshman Cole Parkinson — who led the Vikings frosh team to a 9-1 record and broke Murphy’s touchdown record on that team.

“He’s a special talent. He’s a natural leader, great arm and great composure in the pocket,” Muir said.

Wallace, he added, has his own strong qualities, including his ability to run.

There will be an open competition for the job.

The Vikings will return four special skill players — slot receiver Malik Townsend and wide receivers Nick Jones, Jay Jay Wilson and Ethan Yoo.

The problem will be replacing five offensive linemen.

Valencia graduates Foothill Defensive Player of the Year Anthony Costleigh, but Muir said there will be a lot left.

Aggressive defensive ends Jordan Nguyen and Josh Stanton should return, as should linebackers Justin Son and Alex Tapia.

A junior varsity team that went 4-6 will promote defensive talents Josh Semko and Joseph Ordaz and underclassmen Jahmar Berkley and Jake Silva should be factors on offense.

Valencia will play the same preleague schedule in 2013 as it did in 2012 — Palmdale, Chaminade, Righetti, Santa Monica and Loyola.

Canyon (2012: 8-3-1, 4-1)

Canyon may be losing the state’s all-time leading receiver in Drew Wolitarsky — but it’s the talent that is returning that has Cowboys head coach Rich Gutierrez excited for the future.

Led by Foothill League Offensive Player of the Year Cade Apsay, who will return as a senior after setting a school record with 39 touchdown passes in his first year at the varsity level, Canyon will feature a plethora of talented veterans on its 2013 squad.

All-league first teamers Chris Reed (offensive line), Ronnie Walker (defensive line) and Myron McAfee (linebacker) and second teamers Liam Cabrera (wide receiver) and Israel Cabrera (defensive back) will all play key roles on the 2013 team.

“I’m excited. The potential to get even better — that’s the fun part,” Gutierrez said. “You’ve got a lot of young guys coming back and they just perform. There was one point on our defense when we had 10 underclassmen on our defense. When you have a core group of kids returning, it’s fun.”

Added to the mix will be a strong group of kids moving up from junior varsity.

The Cowboys entered the 2012 season in the opposite position they’ll enter 2013.

The season started with a lot of new faces on defense and a new quarterback for the first time in three years after three-year starter Jonathan Jerozal graduated.

Apsay stepped up to the plate immediately, though, and led an offense that averaged 42 points per game.

One thing that helped Apsay succeed was the talented Wolitarsky, whose departure will leave Canyon with a significant void to fill.

“You mix it up. I have a fantastic offensive coordinator,” Gutierrez said. “You look at having Cade and finding his flow. Obviously you’re missing Drew and you can’t really replace that, but if we’re talking specific returners having some of our key kids come back on the line — having Liam Cabrera, Dominic Pennucci, Myron McAfee — I’m excited. There’s all kinds of things you can do offensively and that’s where creativity comes into play.”

Next season, Canyon’s biggest test will come in week four when the Cowboys take on Pac-5 power Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks.

“I like (a difficult schedule). I thought we had a challenging schedule (this year),” Gutierrez said. “We were in a battle every game and I think it makes it more gratifying. It also prepares you for league. Every game is work and playing challenging games is what it’s all about — win, lose or draw.”

Hart (2012: 8-4, 3-2)

The future looks bright at Hart High, with an already explosive offense returning most of its skill position players in 2013.

Sophomore quarterback Brady White should again be under center as a junior for the Indians, this time with a year of experience under his belt. He will be aided by a receiving corps that includes returners Trent Irwin, Wes Fitzpatrick, Davis Koppenhaver, Chase White and Andrew MacArthur.

“He can be much better, I think he can be 10-times better,” said Hart head coach Mike Herrington of Brady White. “Unfortunately, we took our lumps on occasions with him and our losses but he had some great games for us throughout the season. And we’ll build on things and learn from what happened this year and expect him to be one of the top quarterbacks in Southern
California.”

The weapons don’t end there for Hart, though, as it will also see the return of one of the league’s most dynamic players in Connor Wingenroth.

Wingenroth saw time at both quarterback and running back this season, as well as starting on defense.

“Connor is just a tremendous weapon,” Herrington said. “He started at defensive back, running back, he returned punts and kicks and did everything for us. One of the top, if not the top, athletes in the league next year.”

The majority of a defense that allowed a league-best 15.3 points per game will also return for Hart, including all-league second team linebacker Garrett Updegraft.

Wingenroth and Fitzpatrick will also return in the defensive backfield.

The only inexperience could come on the offensive and defensive lines, where Hart will graduate all-league first team player John Perkins and second teamers Austin Lee and Max Kramer.

Two starters, Blake Porter and Erik Stafford will return, leaving Hart with three spots to fill.

The Indians will be thrown to the wolves early next season, with Hart scheduling a week one contest against Western Division runner-up Chaminade at College of the Canyons.

Herrington said he is still looking for another game to be played in either week zero or week two, and will again play Ridgeview, Birmingham and Santa Monica.

“Last year we thought our schedule was going to be a little bit tougher,” Herrington said.” Birmingham is always a city power and Tesoro is tough and Ridgeview was in the CIF finals last year.”

Saugus (2012: 4-6, 2-3)

Saugus took its lumps in 2012 with a roster made up of mostly underclassmen.

So there will be a large number of players in 2013 who received significant playing time in 2012.

The Centurions could have nine returners on defense and seven on offense next season.

“I think we have potential to do a lot of good things if we can stay healthy and learn and grow from the mistakes we made last year,” said Saugus head coach Jason Bornn.

The two lower levels of the program went 3-7.

But a lot of kids that would have played at the lower levels were on varsity out of necessity.

Linebacker Austin Davenport and defensive back Dakota Taylor would have been on varsity regardless.

Both were juniors in 2012 and All-Foothill League first-teamers.

Three of the teams offensive playmakers were underclassmen who made the All-Foothill second-team in sophomore quarterback Chris Hamilton, wide receiver/quarterback Marc Langford and Reid Rupe, who showed promise running the ball late in the season.

Big Torrey Patterson benefited from a move to the offensive line, where the junior will see a lot of time next year.

As far as names from the lower levels, Bornn said sophomores running back/linebacker Troy Williams, quarterback/safety Vinny Martucci and wide receiver/defensive back Travis Tate could be contributors
next season.

But Bornn still has a bitter taste in his moth from 2012.

“I have to believe that and hope to do better,” he said. “My goodness, after enduring 3-7 (on the field, because Saugus received a win after Taft was found to have played an ineligible player Sept. 21), I hope it gets better.

Saugus’ preleague schedule will look close to the same with games against Calabasas, Simi Valley, Buena and Ventura. The Taft game is up for renewal.

West Ranch (2012: 2-8, 1-4)

If there’s a question mark in the Foothill League in 2013, it’s West Ranch.

With head coach Sean O’Brien stepping down, the school is still in the process of determining who its next football coach will be.

As a result, it’s impossible to know what the Wildcats style of play will look like next season.

What is clear, though, is West Ranch will have plenty of spots up for grabs — particularly at the offensive skill positions.

West Ranch will lose two-year starting quarterback Gerrit Mouw and running backs Zahr Lyttle and Mark Collins.

Mouw threw for 974 yards this season and four touchdowns.

Collins led the team on the ground with 1,065 yards and six touchdowns, while Lyttle contributed 647 yards and six touchdowns of his own.

The Wildcats will also graduate their top three receivers in Rawston Redick (427 receiving yards and four touchdowns), Kyle Rooney (138 yards) and Jesse Garcia (113 yards, one touchdown) It will also graduate key defensive players, such as Jake Lambirth, the school’s leading tackler, and Andrew Eichten.

As juniors, linebacker Trevor Alshire and defensive back Isaiah Guzman should return to play significant roles on the defensive side in their senior seasons.

Some help could be on the way in the form of a junior varsity team that went 8-2 in 2012.

Quarterback Chance Killingworth threw 16 touchdowns for the JV squad and should compete for the quarterback spot.

Sean Oshey is expected to compete at middle linebacker and Tyler Mouw, younger brother of Gerrit Mouw, could help fill the void left behind by Lyttle and Collins at the running back position.

All-around athlete Bronson Feur is also expected to contribute at the varsity level next season.

But question marks still remain, both in coaching and personnel.

Golden Valley (2012: 0-10, 0-5)

There’s nowhere to go but up for the Grizzlies and 2013 appears to be a season in which Golden Valley will be a better team.

The Grizzlies are riding a 17-game losing streak and are 0-34 all time in the Foothill League.

After its season-ending loss to Valencia, there was a feeling of disappointment, but at the same time one of family.

The Grizzlies are losing some talent, but none bigger than senior Leon Jacobs, who Golden Valley head coach Robert Fisher said has scholarship offers from Fresno State, Air Force, Montana and James Madison.

“That’s a positive. This has never happened. Now it’s (December) and we’ve never had college coaches from top Division I schools at campus recruiting kids,” said Golden Valley head coach Robert Fisher. “In October, November (schools are) offering a kid even though we didn’t win a game. Not one coach is asking, ‘Did you win a game this season?’”

That’s a feather in the cap.

But the Grizzlies will have the benefit of returning almost their entire offensive line in Zach Clark, Kyle Edwards, Thunder Melendez and Jose Villa.

Quarterback Robert Phillips will look to get another crack at starting on the varsity.

Plus, defensive backs Terry Tamura, Julian Brantley and Jake Ortiz should return after strong seasons.

Fisher noted up and comers from the lower levels in stout defensive lineman Alex Jauregui and athlete Isaiah Truchess who could benefit the varsity next season.

Those lower levels also had accomplishments in 2012 — the JV beat Canyon for the first time on any level and the freshmen beat Saugus and West Ranch.

The preleague schedule looks to include Royal, Highland and Agoura again, three teams the Grizzlies played close in 2012.

Fisher is looking to fill the other two games and it will likely be against more equal competition than a Notre Dame team the Grizzlies faced last year.

So things are looking up.

“It’s exciting,” Fisher said.

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