Daily Journal Sports File
Hillsdale receiver Shawn Charan showed an ability to make big plays last season. He’ll be counted on for even more production this year.
For the first time since 2007, when the Peninsula Athletic League was a two-division league, the Hillsdale football team finds itself playing in the Ocean Division.
From 2008 to 2013, the Knights were members of the Lake Division in the PAL’s three-division format. But after winning a pair of Lake Division titles — in 2009 and last season — Hillsdale is finally moving up the PAL football food chain.
That being said, coach Mike Parodi wants the 2014 version of the Knights to show they deserve to stay in the Ocean Division.
“This particular group does not belong in the Ocean (Division). Last year’s team did. They put (the 2014 team in the Ocean). What are you going to do with it?” Parodi said. “It feels like a big ocean. We’re a little bit more questionable (this season). This year, who’s going to step up and fill some of the voids? We think we have some answers.
“Is there any good time to move up? This is where we want to be and hopefully we can stay for a while and then move up to the Bay (Division).”
The Knights have some pieces in key positions that should enable them to stay competitive in the Ocean Division, but Parodi admitted his team’s depth is a bit more shallow this season and there are some questions that need to be answered.
While Hillsdale has built its recent reputation on using a spread passing attack, the Knights do have an under-the-radar running game, led this year by James Hollon.
Hollon was the surprise of last season, filling in quite nicely for recent graduate Giancarlo Boscacci, who was not on the field early in the season. Hollon more than made up for the absence with a number of big performances early in the year.
He got banged up midway through the season, however, and was never quite the same. If Hollon can stay healthy, the Knights’ ground attack could provide the balance necessary to keep defenses honest.
“He was kind of the guy early last season, but got an ankle injury,” Parodi said. “He is a very good player. We’re lucky to have him back.”
Joining Hollon in the backfield will be Cameron Taylor, who was the third-string running back as a sophomore last season. He didn’t get a lot of carries, but just the experience should be beneficial for both him and the Knights.
“[Taylor] was the third head of the three-headed monster last year for us,” Parodi said. “Between the two of them (Hollon and Taylor), we feel pretty good about our running game.”
Obviously, to be successful running the ball, the offensive line has to do its job up front. Seniors Stewart Allen and Ryan Stathas, along with junior Michael Mounga, all started for the Knights up front in 2013 and, if they can stay healthy, should provide some continuity on the line this season. Joining those three will be returner Tanner Franco. Parodi is expecting newcomer junior Daniel Medina to play a key role on the line as well.
Allen and Stathas both started on the defensive side, while Mounga also saw a lot of time.
The biggest question facing the Knights is who will handle the duties under center. Gone is two-year starter Cole Carrithers to graduation, leaving senior Brady Mayhan and junior Brett Wetteland battling for the starting job. Both served as backups to Carrithers last season.
“They’re both fairly similar, which is what is making it a good battle. What we’re going to be looking for are the intangibles,” Parodi said. “We’ll probably have a pretty good indicator after our scrimmage (Friday).”
Whoever gets the job, he will be expected to figure things out sooner rather than later and Parodi won’t be using lack of experience as an excuse.
“We’ve told the quarterbacks we’re running our system and you better keep up. They need to be ready to throw and do it well. I don’t want to feel hamstrung with a rookie quarterback,” Parodi said. “These kids, because they have been on varsity before, they have a better understanding of what we want to do.”
Whoever earns the nod will have plenty of targets to whom to throw. Shawn Charan probably has the most production of the returning receivers and showed flashes of being a big-play guy last season. Also returning are Tyler Gonzales, Vince Guidi and Ro Mahanty. Newcomers include a pair of transfers — Darien Concepcion and Landon Yarber. Both had to sit out last season due to the Central Coast Section transfer rules.
“[Charan] had a great summer improving his game,” Parodi said.
The Knights will have to be among the best-conditioned teams in the league because a majority of the key offensive players will be counted on to be the same on the defensive side of the ball. One player who is expected to play mostly defense is senior linebacker James Tostado.
“He’s smart, headsy kid,” Parodi said. “He always seems to go to the right place on defense.”
Despite making the jump in the competition by moving to the Ocean Division, Parodi said the expectation remain the same: win a division title.
“We’ve won Lake championships, now we’re going to go try to win Ocean championships,” Parodi said.
Head coach: Mike Parodi, 6th year
Key returners: James Hollon (sr., RB/LB); Cameron Taylor (jr., RB/DB); Stewart Allen (Sr., OL/DL); Ryan Stathas (sr., OL/DL); Tanner Franco (sr., LO/LB); Michael Mounga (jr., OL/DL); Shawn Charan (sr., WR/DB); Tyler Gonzales (sr., WR/DB); James Tostado (sr., LB); Ro Mahanty (Sr., WR/DB); Vince Guidi (sr., WR/DB).
Key newcomers: Brady Mayhan (sr., QB); Brett Wetteland (jr., QB); Darien Concepcion (sr., WR/DB); Landon Yarbor (sr., WR/DB); Daniel Medina (jr., OL/DL).
2014 schedule (home games in CAPS): Sept. 5, @ Saratoga, 7 p.m.; Sept. 12, LINCOLN-SF, 7 p.m.; Sept. 19, @ Capuchino, 7 p.m.; Sept. 27, CHRISTOPHER-GILROY, 2 p.m.; Oct. 4, MILLS, 7 p.m.; Oct. 17, @ San Mateo, 7 p.m.; Oct. 24, @ Woodside, 7 p.m.; Oct. 30, SOUTH CITY, 5:30 p.m.; Nov. 7, HALF MOON BAY, 7 p.m.; Nov. 14, @ Aragon, 7 p.m.