With the opening of the Davis High football season just two days away, the Blue Devils are looking to improve on last year’s solid 5-5 record.
After scratching and clawing its way to that .500 mark, DHS faces the same 10 opponents in 2013.
The Devils’ optimism is base on their belief that they have all of the pieces to be successful: strength and depth in the trenches, a strong returning defensive nucleus and a deep and talented group of running backs.
Even a one-win improvement probably means a playoff berth for Davis, but a look at the tough teams the Blue Devils will face shows that will be no easy task:
Yuba City Honkers (9-2, 5-0 first in Tri-County Conference last season)
The Honkers improved drastically in a time frame of one year, jumping from three wins in 2011 to nine wins in 2012. They did it with a run-heavy attack (76.6 percent of their plays were ground attempts), playing between-the-tackles, smashmouth football.
However, the Yuba City defense was suspect last year, giving up three or more touchdowns in seven of its matchups.
Standout RB Nate Van Dusen (1,299 yards, 22 TDs) has graduated, but Omar Herrera (10.9 yards per carry, eight scores) will take the torch as Honkers’ new feature back.
Jaylon Deas (6.9 tackles per game, 7.5 sacks) returns to lead a strong YC defensive group that features 25 seniors.
Foothill Mustangs (1-9, 0-5 sixth in Pioneer Valley League)
After finishing in last place in the PVL, the Mustangs may not climb much higher in 2013. FHS scored 22 total touchdowns last year, just 16 of which came from its offense. Quarterback David Carter returns, but loses his two leading rushers, Dillon Paris (656 yards, six TDs) and Robert Dotson (362 yards, six scores).
The Mustangs allowed five or more touchdowns in nine of their games last year, and 14 members of that defense return for this season.
Armijo Indians (1-9, 0-5 sixth in Monticello Empire League)
New coach Karl Finley is trying to change the culture of Armijo Football, but that will likely take more than one year. According the Fairfield Daily Republic, the Indians have not made the playoffs since FDR’s second term (1937) and have not won a league title since 1955.
Last season, Armijo relied heavily on its ground game as 15 of its 18 scores came on rushes. However, none of the Indians’ top four runners return from 2012.
Rio Americano Raiders (4-6, 2-3 fourth in Capital Athletic League)
The Raiders squeaked by the Blue Devils last year but it was certainly an upset.
Graduation made a huge dent in Rio Americano’s offense as quarterback Mark Lyon (1,736 yards, 96 QBR), leading rushers Darrin Nishi (552 yards) and Jordan Vinson (347), and go-to wideout Zack Suarez (604 yards, six TDs) all have departed.
However, those departures are balanced out by a Raider defense that should be stout in 2013. Back is the majority of a unit that forced 24 turnovers and recorded eight sacks, including junior Connor Shatz who had 89 tackles last season.
Woodland Wolves (2-8, 2-3 fourth in Tri County)
The Wolves return 19 players from last year’s roster, including leading receiver Devin Jones who, according to the Daily Democrat, has already received a scholarship offer from the University of North Dakota. Leading rusher Tanner Fellows also comes back to bolster the WHS offense.
DHS’ cross-county rivals will rely on those two to help new QB Brandon Flores acclimate to the offense. Once he does, the Wolves could be exciting as offensive coordinator Rick Secrist, the assistant who installed Woodland’s spread option, returns to the sideline after a one-year hiatus.
Monterey Trail Mustangs (5-5, 1-4 fifth in Delta Valley Conference)
The Devils will see another run-oriented attack from the Mustangs and their veer offense. Last year, Monterey Trail ran 490 running plays and threw it just 48 times.
The MTHS offense returns senior quarterback Donovan Robinson (618 all-purpose yards, seven touchdowns), and second-leading rusher Elijah McGolthin (673 yards, five TDs). The Mustangs have a small roster (just 25 guys last season) so look for those two plus running back Jahmar Sexton to be impact defensive players from the linebacker spots.
Franklin Wildcats (12-1, 5-0 first in DVC)
Though Franklin is coming off of its most successful season in school history, 19 starters including the entire offense have graduated.
The rebuilding Wildcats opened camp with three running QB’s — juniors Peyton Simmons and Matt Allison and sophomore Lamar Jackson — competing for the starting spot.
Senior Joey Banks, a special linebacker who recorded 135 tackles last season, should be the leader of this year’s FHS defense, while seniors Robert Sanders (89 tackles) and Curtis Williams also return.
Laguna Creek (2-8, 0-5 sixth in DVC)
The Cardinals will be dynamic in 2013 behind offensive weapon Cecil Williams II. Last year, he threw for 723 yards and seven touchdowns, rushed for 283 yards and four scores (second on the team), and he caught 13 balls for 117 yards. Verbally committed to play quarterback at Harvard next season, Williams II is expected to see the majority of his LCHS snaps at wide receiver.
Williams II also is the leader of an athletic, fast Cards defense, as he and linebacker Cruz Ramos will roam the middle.
However, depth is an issue on the young Laguna Creek roster and Williams II will have to play out-of-this-world for the Cardinals to be successful.
Grant Pacers (5-6, 3-2 third in DVC)
The 2012 campaign was a very un-Grant-like year for the Pacers. Most observers expect GHS to bounce back, even with a young and inexperienced roster (17 underclassmen may start).
Marquis Carter-Petit (1,126 yards, 14 TDs) has graduated, but his backup Deondre Grays (524 yards, seven scores) is looking to continue Grant’s tradition of stellar running backs.
Perhaps the most intriguing player on the Pacers is 6-foot-8, 325-pound left tackle Darrin Paulo, who will have to lead a young offensive line.
On the other side on the ball, Mosese Moala (11 tackles per game, 11 tackles for loss, four sacks) leads the way.
Elk Grove Thundering Herd (12-2, 4-1 second in DVC)
The Herd is once again the conference favorite. Star RB Robert Frazier (2,120 yards, 20 TDs) is gone, but Elk Grove’s running game shouldn’t suffer a drop off as senior Wadus Parker, he of the 1,373 yards and team-high 24 touchdowns in 2012, returns.
At QB, Tommy Arnold takes the reins of the EGHS offense for the third consecutive year.
Defensively, the Herd will be solid as they return seven starters from a defense that forced 34 turnovers last year.
Senior B’won Canada (five sacks), Parker (five sacks), and Noah Letuligasenoa (four sacks) will provide pressure for a Thundering Herd squad that will try to make an appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship.
— Reach Thomas Oide at firstname.lastname@example.org