It’s always nice, if you’re a football coach, if you have some experience returning on offense and defense.
The Aragon football team has that experience coming back in some units, but not so much in other. As Steve Sell enters his 15th season as the Dons’ head coach, he’ll have to break in a new offensive backfield, but is hoping a solid defense and strengths in other areas of the offense will help ease the growing pains.
Billy Mason (quarterback), Bubba Tongamoa (fullback) and Curran Brandt (running back) will all be first-year starting varsity players this season, but Sell doesn’t expect the learning curve to be too steep.
Mason served as Nat Blood’s backup last year and Sell likes his makeup.
“He’s a football player. He’s a very good athlete. Good on the rollout,” Sell said of Mason. “He’s very accurate, very poised, very confident. The kids believe in him.
“There are a couple guys competing with him, but it’s his job to lose.”
Tongamoa sat out last season after transferring from Burlingame and he could give the Dons what it seems they have featured every year of Sell’s tenure: a big, bruising back who can run over people, but who has enough speed and quickness to run past defenses as well.
“He’s a combination of power, speed and quickness,” Sell said.
Brandt played mostly defense last season, but will be the Dons starter at halfback this year.
When the Dons aren’t running the ball, Mason will have a number of weapons to throw to, starting with arguably the team’s biggest playmaker in Kono Filimoehala-Egan, who burst on the scene last season. Filimoehala-Egan has the speed to run with defensive backs, the size to shield them off and the power to run through them.
Joining him in the receiving corps are Ty Stokman, Devin Grant and Chad Franquez, who are also all returning to Aragon’s defensive backfield.
“At a time when everyone passes so much, I’m very pleased we have our entire secondary returning,” Sell said. “That’s good.”
Sell is also pleased to have some beef on the offensive and defensive lines. James Fononga returns as the starting tight end and he will team with David Raffo and Edmund Muller to give what Sell calls a good “tight side” of the offensive line.
“You feel good about having one, good solid side (of an offensive line),” Sell said.
Sell said Fononga, at 6-2, 240 pounds, is a legitimate college prospect.
Sell is really high on sophomore, 6-2, 215-pound lineman Tomaslav Medan, who, while listed as a two-way lineman, expects to play mostly one way, on offense.
“He is athletic, big, strong. He’s going to be a great one,” Sell said. “I’m excited about him. I think he’s going to be really, really good.
“We have some big kids up front.”
Like most high school teams, Sell said the biggest key to success is staying healthy and, at the same time, making sure he has quality backups for his starters. Every substitute is only one play away from being in the game and Sell said it can be a challenge to get guys on the bench to understand how important their role on the team is.
“Coaching your backups becomes so critical,” Sell said. “You could lose a [starter] for two weeks. You’d better have a guy who can come in and help win a game.”