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Junior quarterback Faavae Brown returns to Sequoia after combining for over 1,000 total yards last season. As a sophomore, he threw for 498 yards and ran for 683 yards.
Since taking over the Sequoia football program in 2008, coach Rob Poulos has steadily and consistently transformed the Cherokees from one of the worst teams in the Peninsula Athletic League into a team that is now among the best as he pulled the program up into the PAL’s top division — the Bay Division.
Now, Poulos and the Cherokees want to take the next step: competing for the Bay Division title. They got their first taste of Bay Division play and it was bitter. Sequoia lost its first four games in league play last season.
“Our big issue is getting the consistency you need to be successful in the Bay,” Poulos said. “When you look at the other programs we play (in the Bay), that’s the thing that stands out. When you make mistakes, they immediately take advantage right away.
“A number of guys (on this year’s team) played last year. They got to directly experience what we’re talking about. For them, it was very important to not have that happen again.”
With a number of key returners, along with plenty of experience, Poulos is hoping this is the season that consistency comes to fruition.
The Cherokees should certainly have the weapons — and the hurry-up offensive system — to compete for a top-three spot in the Bay Division, which would mean an automatic berth into the Central Coast Section playoffs.
And with the system Poulos uses, there is no one key player to the team’s offensive success. But it all starts with the quarterback making the proper read of the defense.
“In our system, we’re going to take what’s open,” Poulos said. “The quarterback, whether he’s throwing or [handing the ball off], they’re all going to take a load based on the defense.”
The Cherokees return their starting signal caller from last season, Faavae Brown, and with a year of experience under his belt, Poulos is expecting Brown to take another step forward as a junior.
“He’s getting more comfortable managing the game,” Poulos said. “A lot of our stuff is read based. The longer you’re in [our system], the faster you can make the read. [He’s playing] more instinctual football, less mechanical.”
That is, of course, assuming Brown is the starter. Poulos would not fully commit to Brown being the starter under center when the Cherokees open the season against Palo Alto.
Poulos wouldn’t commit to any one player being a starter at this point.
“We don’t like anointing players. We like them going out every day and competing,” Poulos said. “There are a lot of openings and a lot of rotations. Lot of kids are flipping (back and forth) on the depth chart.”
Even if Brown is not the starter, he still figures to be a key factor in the Cherokee offense — either as a quarterback or a running back.
With Brown in the backfield, Sequoia will feature one of the biggest backfields in the PAL. Expected to join Brown, who is 6-1, 245 pounds — is 5-10, 220-pound Sione Tuivailala and 6-0, 220-pound Alfred Pohauhau.
“Sione and Alfred are battling for that first spot,” Poulos said. “Sione brings a fierceness when he’s running. He’s a very good change-of-direction guy. He brings a load.
“Alfred, he’s even more explosive and both have blossomed catching the ball.”
Speaking of catching the ball, there are plenty of targets the quarterback — whoever he is — can choose from. The biggest, most experienced threat is receiver Brady Stubblefield, who was second on the team in receptions last season with 13 and third in receiving yards with 144.
Other top targets include returners Tommy Lopiparo and Jason Beard, and newcomer Elijah Frazier.
Defensively, Poulos is looking for his toughest, highest-motor guys to man his defensive line and linebacker positions. Linebacker Tyler Ikeda is expected to be the leader of that front seven and has the attitude Poulos wants from his defense.
“He’s competitive as heck,” Poulos said. “He wants to be in there on everything. He’s a program-first guy. He’s not going to get caught up in his own thing. He’s a hard-nosed, smart football kid.”
The defensive line will be anchored by senior Kite Lauese, who at 6-2, 260 pounds gives the Cherokees a physical presence up front.
“He’s a great athlete. He has really fast feet and is explosive as heck,” Poulos said.
Despite having a number of key pieces in place, Poulos admitted there are still questions when it comes to his team. Ultimately, it’s up to the players themselves to go out and prove they belong in the Bay Division. To that end, Poulos has loaded up the nonleague portion of the schedule with playoff-caliber teams, starting with Palo Alto.
“It’s dependent on the kids. At some point, they have to want it more than we do (the coaching staff). It’s one of the primary reasons we scheduled Paly. Paly is an annual, ‘A’ league, playoff-caliber team,” Poulos said. “If we’re going to be in the Bay, full of ‘A’ league caliber teams, we need to see that in the preseason.”