Daily Journal Sports File
Running back David Teu rushed for just shy of 1,000 yards and scored 11 touchdowns for Woodside last season. The Wildcats will need more of the same this season to be successful.
Returning five first-team all-league players, Woodside by far has the most decorated returning class in the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division.
The list of honorees includes two skill-position players in quarterback Robert Wang and wide receiver Mitchell Cockrum, and rounds out with offensive lineman Adagio Lepeti, defensive lineman Joseph Mahoni and linebacker Colin Kloezeman; each of them helped the Wildcats finish in a second-place tie with Aragon last season.
What’s more, first-year head coach Justin Andrews has come full-circle with this year’s senior class. Andrews coached the Woodside frosh-soph squad for three years, including his inaugural season in 2011 when this year’s senior group was freshmen.
“I like to joke with them that we all came in as freshmen together,” Andrews said. “There’s a strong sense of familiarity. They’ve played for me. They’ve seen my coaching style and I feel like they’ve adapted to me very, very well.”
They’ve also performed very, very well. In 2012, the frosh-soph Wildcats captured the PAL Ocean Division title with a 9-1 overall record and an undefeated record through five league games. Andrews saw continued success last year, as frosh-soph once again went undefeated in league to claim back-to-back championships.
“I know it’s only [frosh-soph], but a lot of these guys who have won championships for me before,” Andrews said of his optimism towards this year’s varsity make-up. “We have a really good relationship. They love to compete, and I think we can restore the dominance of old of Woodside. Hopefully these are the guys to get it started.”
Returning to the spread offense for the second straight year, Woodside will gain a tempo for the first time since Andrews arrived. In three previous seasons, the Wildcats have used three different offenses. In 2011, under then varsity head coach Steve Nicolopoulos, the team utilized a pro-style look. In 2012, Josh Bowie took over as head coach and installed to the fly sweep. Then last season, Bowie switched to the spread.
“It’s exciting to come in knowing what we’re doing and being able to really get it right out of the gate,” Andrews said.
As for dominance, how about 1,265 pounds across the starting offensive line?
“Right now, I really like how our offensive line has been looking, which has been a troublesome part of our varsity system over the past few years,” Andrews said. “They’re faster, they’re more efficient, they’re more physical. They’re communicating pretty well. They’re opening up lanes. A big surprise is how well our running backs are doing with the O-line.”
Senior halfback David Teu stands to benefit most from the powerful front. Last season, the 5-8, 180-pound all-purpose halfback gained over 1,000 combined yards, including 924 ground yards on 177 carries. Teu will be joined in the backfield by sophomore fullback Sione Halaapiapi. The two should prove a formidable combination.
“Thunder and lightning, you can call it,” Andrews said. “David is more shifty bursts — will make you miss in open field. Sione wants to be a shifty guy, but he’s just too big and strong.”
With Wang and Cockrum providing the air support, the bread-and-butter still promises to be the hulking front line. Lopeti — a 6-4, 305-pound left tackle — is the standout of the intimidating quintet. According to Andrews, Lopeti, after dropping 10 pounds from last season, is looking “lean and fast.”
“He’s going to be a force on the offensive line,” Andrews said. “He’s going to make a lot of defensive ends miserable.”
On defense, the Wildcats will run a 4-3, 4-4 hybrid, relying on Cockrum to flex between linebacker and the secondary. Halaapiapi is slated to man the middle linebacker position. But it is the 6-1, 208-pound Kloezeman returning to the outside who gives Woodside a breadth of experience. Kloezeman will be complemented on the outside by senior Dan Defilippo.
The defensive line will benefit from Woodside’s depth. With 42 players on roster, Andrews said he expects to only utilize four two-way starters. Mahoni is a lock at defensive end, but the other position is still being contested among several candidates. In the middle, the Wildcats will go with a committee approach, with as many as four players — headed by Lopeti — manning the defensive tackle spots to keep those on two-way duty fresh.
“I think we can compete,” Andrews said. “I think we definitely can challenge to take the Ocean Division. It’s wide open. I don’t think there is one team that is the all-out favorite.”
Woodside will have the chance to gain some serious momentum this season in playing its first three games at home, starting with Friday’s opener against Dublin.