For those coaches and teams in the Peninsula Athletic League looking to establish a winning tradition, they have to look no further than Terra Nova and watch how the Tigers and coach Bill Gray go about business.
Gray and the Tigers go through personnel turnover like every other program, but Terra Nova seemingly simply reloads every year.
Don’t expect this year to be any different as the Tigers go for their fifth Bay Division title in a row. Terra Nova has gone 18-2 in Bay Division play since 2009.
“We have good size. We’re fast. We seem to have a good knowledge of our scheme and what we’re trying to do,” Gray said.
Everybody knows what the Tigers want to do: shred opposing defenses with their version of the spread-option attack. The Tigers will be starting their third quarterback in three years, but should be set back there for the next couple of seasons. Anthony Gordon is only a junior, playing his first year of varsity football. Gray believes Gordon has all the tools to follow the likes of Carl Cox, Chris Forbes and K’ren Spain. The only thing he is lacking is varsity experience.
“He has a quick release. Accurate passer. Very strong arm,” Gray said of the 6-2, 175-pound Gordon. “Right now, he’s seems to playing really well. He had a nice summer. We were, of course, concerned if he could play in helmet and pads like he did in T-shirt and shorts.
“Last Friday in our scrimmage (against Aragon and Woodside), he showed us he could.”
Helping ease Gordon’s transition to a varsity starting role are the return of the Tigers’ leading receivers from a year ago: first-team, all-league Jaylen Jones and Domenic Ortisi. Jones was unstoppable at times last season, finishing with a team-high 70 catches for 820 yards and 11 touchdowns. Ortisi caught 42 balls for 440 yards and a pair of scores.
Gray is expecting even more from Ortisi this season.
“Ortisi really made progress over the summer, which will make life easier for Jaylen.”
Nick Pierotti, who had 38 catches last season, also returns as another receiving option and will also help hold down the linebacking unit.
Despite the seeming reliance on the pass, the Tigers aren’t afraid to gouge defenses with their legs as well. Leading the ground game is senior running back John Wallace. It will be his first varsity action after missing last season with injury.
“He’s a very good player,” Gray said of the 6-0, 190-pound Wallace. “A very elusive runner. Very powerful runner.”
Junior Sam Auelua will be counted on to be a stalwart on both the offensive and defensive lines. Aryton Love will join him on the offensive side of the ball, while David Melton and Malik Maignan will help with the defensive push. A pair of seniors will anchor the defensive secondary, with Javier Piccolotti at safety and Aaron Worthens at cornerback.
While Gray believes his defense will be good, he also knows that given his team’s high-octane offense, the defense will be on the field a lot, subjecting it to other powerful offenses.
“We score in bunches, we score fast and we’re going to play a lot of defensive plays,” Gray said. “Because we play an inordinate amount of defensive plays, we’re going to give up points.
“When you run the offense we run, the offense gets the bulk of the practice time. So defensively, you have to keep things very simple, very rudimentary and rely on your athletes.”
Coach: Bill Gray
2012 record: 4-1 PAL Bay, 6-5 overall
Key returners: Dylan Jones (sr., WR); Domenic Ortisi (sr., WR); Nick Pierotti (sr., WR/MLB); Ayrton Love (sr., OL); Javier Piccolotti (sr., S); Aaron Worthens (sr., CB); David Melton (sr., DE).
Key newcomers: Anthony Gordon (jr., QB); Sam Auelua (jr., OL/DL); John Wallace (sr., RB); Malik Maignan (sr., DL).
2013 schedule (home games in CAPS): 9/6 @ Bishop O’Dowd-Oakland, 7 p.m.; 9/14 @ St. Ignatius, 1 p.m.; 9/20 vs. PIONEER, 7 p.m.; 9/27 @ Salinas, 7:30 p.m.; 10/11 vs. SEQUOIA, 7 p.m.; 10/18 vs. SOUTH CITY, 10/18; 10/25 @ Menlo School, 3:15 p.m.; 11/1 vs. MENLO-ATHERTON, 7 p.m.; 11/8 @ Sacred Heart Prep, 2:45 p.m.
11/15 vs. HALF MOON BAY, 7 p.m.