Finally! After the slowest month of the season for the Daily Journal sports department, it’s finally time to get down to some serious business as the 2013-14 high school sports season is finally here.
And as has been the case since 2001, the Daily Journal will present its annual football preview beginning today, looking at all 18 teams in the Peninsula Athletic League, as well as Serra and the College of San Mateo over the next two weeks.
This edition of the Sports Lounge will ask — and answer — a number of questions and provide things to watch for on the gridiron for the upcoming season.
Opening day is two weeks away, with nearly every team kicking off its schedule the weekend of Sept. 6. Here are some things to ponder.
Can Terra Nova simply plug in a new quarterback and experience the success it’s enjoyed over the last several years? By all accounts, yes. From Carl Cox (2009) to Chris Forbes (2010-2011) to K’Ren Spain (2013), the Tigers have had a succession of quarterbacks who would make any team envious. But will 2013 presumptive starter Anthony Gordon follow in those prolific footsteps? My sources say “yes.” I was talking to a referee during a scrimmage at Burlingame last month who said he saw Gordon during a 7-on-7 passing league camp shredding the opposition.
• Will South City have enough offense to keep up with the rest of the Bay Division? The Warriors have always hung their hat on a stifling defense, which will go a long way to keeping them competitive in the Bay. The big question is how will the offense fare? They lost a number of playmakers from last year’s 7-4 squad, so it remains to be seen who will step up and make plays this season. Their defense should keep them in games, but it will be up to the offense to win those contests.
• Who will be the dark horse in the Bay? I’d keep my eye on Sequoia. Coach Rob Poulos told me a couple weeks ago that with more than 60 players on the varsity roster, he will finally be able to have an offense and a defense comprised of one-way players. He said he plans to designate a handful of players who will see duty on both sides of the ball. The Cherokees have steadily gone from a near laughingstock to one of the better programs in the PAL.
Will it be one-and-done for Capuchino? After winning their first outright division title in school history with the Lake Division championship in 2012, the Mustangs move up to the Ocean Division this season.
It could be a bumpy ride. Gone to graduation is record-setting running back Justin Ewing, as well as their starting quarterback Paea Dauwe and tight end/linebacker Zach Khotz. They will also be breaking in a new coach in Josh Horton, who joins the Mustangs from Texas by way of Monte Vista-Danville. The defense could carry the Mustangs in the early part of the season but, much like South City, the Cap offense will have to produce if the Mustangs want to remain competitive.
• Who benefits most from move to Ocean? Aragon and Burlingame have both been staples in the Bay Division for years, but both find themselves in the Ocean together for the first time. The move should be beneficial for both, but look for the Panthers to take advantage. Despite being smaller — both size-wise and roster-wise in the Bay for years — the Panthers should have what it takes to challenge for the Ocean championship. Another factor favoring Burlingame? The Panthers have a five-game winning streak against Aragon.
• Potential breakout star in the Ocean? Keep your eye on San Mateo running back Line Latu. As a sophomore last year, he rushed for more than 1,000 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
A year older and presumably bigger, look for Latu to eclipse those marks this year. With the wiggle to make defenders miss and the speed to run past defenses, the Bearcats could go a long way, led by Latu.
Is there a favorite in this division? The Lake, while considered the lowest of the three-division PAL, may be the most competitive of the three. With Capuchino and San Mateo having moved up to the Ocean and Jefferson and King’s Academy moving to the Lake, El Camino has to be among the favorites to win the division championship. In the last four years, the Colts have compiled a division record of 12-7-1 and have kept themselves in the mix for the title each of those years, finishing as co-champs and earning the division’s lone Central Coast Section berth in 2011.
That doesn’t mean the Colts have a clear path to the crown. Every team in the Lake is capable of winning the championship. One stumble in league play could have dire consequences, however.
• Which team could surprise? Watch out for King’s Academy. Although thin roster-wise, coach William Gittens’ squad could be the fastest team in the division. Quarterback Dominic Sabel, a junior, enters his second season as starter and Gittens said he is much more mature this season. Gittens said he plans to get his playmakers into space and let them go.
Serra and College of San Mateo
Do the Padres have what it takes to challenge for a WCAL and CCS crown? Despite losing a lot to graduation, the Padres have simply reloaded like they do every season. With Notre Dame-commit Matt Dickerson anchoring the defense and a slew of running backs returning, led by Kilepi Lataimua, the Padres should, once again, be in the mix for title of best team in CCS.
• Will CSM finally get over the hump? The Bulldogs have become one of the best community college teams in the country, a team loaded with Division I college talent. That being said, a NorCal Conference title keeps eluding the Bulldogs. Not since 2009 have CSM captured the conference crown, but as has been the case every year since then, the Bulldogs will be in the mix for that title, as well as the Northern California and state crown.
Like every other community college team, the Bulldogs will deal with a slew of turnover at several positions. The biggest question is who will trigger their spread-and-shred offense, as last year’s co-starters — Jon Willis and Blake Plattsmeier — have both moved on.
So there you have it. A few questions to whet your football appetite until the season starts. None of these questions will be answered until the end of the year, however, and in the meantime, a plethora of other questions will certainly pop up as the season goes along.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117. He can also be followed on Twitter @CheckkThissOutt.