El Molino offensive line gets Roan’s full attention

By ERIC BRANCH
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Mike Roan is getting back to his roots.

A former NFL tight end, Roan did catch passes during his playing days, but that wasn’t his identity. A 6-foot-3, 250-pounder who was born in Iowa and played at the University of Wisconsin, Roan was more rugged than regal. He was, he proudly recalls, an extension of the offensive line.

“I was another grunt in there,” Roan said. “I was not a playmaker. I was a Big 10 tight end.”

Given his history, it’s not surprising that El Molino’s coach will be devoting more of his attention to the beef up front this season. Roan, who previously worked with skill positions and oversaw the offense, will coach the offensive line.

“I took that challenge this year and I did lay down the challenge to (the line),” Roan said. “I told them we’re going to do this right and we’re going to do this together.”

Quarterback Mike Pierson and wide receiver Joe Douglass gave the Lions one of the Empire’s most dynamic pass-catching duos in ’09, but there was a problem: Pierson was often running for his life due to a leaky offensive line. Pierson and Douglass are back for their senior years, and Roan wants to ensure they have more time to make connections.

In addition, he wants to develop a running game with more teeth. El Molino averaged 73 rushing yards a game last year and 3.6 yards a carry. If senior Tom Krausmann has bigger holes to run through this season, opposing defenses won’t be able to focus exclusively on Pierson.

“If we can just have an effective running game, I won’t even say dominant, we could be very difficult to stop,” Roan said.

The odds of a marked improvement up front appear good. The Lions return four offensive lineman, including senior left tackle Aren Vierra, a 6-foot-1, 235-pounder who is nimble for his size and is expected to anchor the front five.

Vierra understands he and his linemates are key to the Lions’ success.

“We all know we have a very skilled quarterback, but it always starts with the O-line,” Vierra said. “It’s up to us to give him more time. We have to let plays develop a little more.”

El Molino returns 14 starters, including eight on offense. The Lions won’t have much depth — they will have about 30 on their roster — but a push for the program’s first playoff appearance since 2003 appears possible.

“Since I’ve been here, this is as talented a group as we’ve had,” said Roan, entering his sixth season. “We’re not deep and that’s always going to be our problem, but the players we have are talented.”

TEAM PREVIEW

EL MOLINO
Coach: Mike Roan (6th season, 12-38)
2009 record: 2-8, 0-6 SCL (7th)
2009 JV record: 4-6
Returning starters: OFFENSE (8) WR Joe Douglass, Sr.; RT Gary Hill, Sr.; RB Tom Krausmann, Sr.; WR Jordan Nordby, Sr.; QB Mike Pierson, Sr.; G Angel Razo, Sr.; C Ben Rhoades, Sr.; LT Aren Vierra, Sr.
DEFENSE (6): OLB Garrit Afman, Sr.; OLB Joe Douglass, Sr.; DT Jared Garner, Sr.; CB Chet Lambert, Jr.; ILB Angel Razo, Sr.; DE Aren Vierra, Sr.
Players to watch: QB Mike Pierson: Strong-armed 6-4 senior on radar of several Division I schools. WR Joe Douglass: Pierson’s favorite target led Lions in catches (51), yards (708) and TDs (5) in ‘09. A strong student, he’s being recruited by Columbia, Penn, Harvard and Brown.
Newcomer to watch: WR Levi Karns: Rangy, athletic junior could give Pierson another inviting target.

SCHEDULE
Date – Opponent – Time
9-3 – at Fortuna – 7:30 p.m.
9-11  – at Sir Francis Drake – 2 p.m.
9-17 – vs. Elsie Allen – 7:30 p.m.
9-24 – vs. Alhambra – 7:30 p.m.
10-1 – vs. Casa Grande – 7:30 p.m.
10-8 – at Petaluma – 7:30 p.m.
10-15 – vs. Analy – 7:30 p.m.
10-22 – at Sonoma Valley – 7:30 p.m.
10-29 – vs. Windsor – 7:30 p.m.
11-5 – at Healdsburg – 7:30 p.m.

BY THE NUMBERS
1:
SCL wins since 2005.
4: 100-yard games for Douglass last year.
358: Passing yards for Pierson in a 41-27 loss to Healdsburg last season.