Piner seeks reversal of fortune

Piner defensive tackle Roy Thomas. (JEFF KAN LEE / The Press Democrat, 2010)

By ERIC BRANCH
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

As a kid, Piner’s Roy Thomas played soccer, basketball and baseball and he wrestled.

But he couldn’t do what he wanted to do most: Play tackle football.

That’s what happens to kids who tip the scales at 200 pounds by seventh grade — they’re over Pop Warner’s weight limit and have to wait until high school. While biding his time, Thomas was so eager to play the game, he signed up for four years of flag football for the Monte Rio Tigers. But it couldn’t compare to the first time he strapped on a helmet and pads.

“After the first day,” Thomas said, “I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Thomas, Piner’s 6-foot-1, 298-pound defensive tackle, is one big reason the Prospectors, which have endured six straight losing seasons, are optimistic they can reverse their losing ways. A three-year starter, the industrial-sized senior is expected to anchor a defense that includes four other returning starters.

“He runs as fast as some of our running backs,” Piner coach Matt Tomlin said. “He’s a top-notch college prospect. He’s so big and explosive that he basically takes up one side of the offensive line. You can’t block him one-on-one. He requires a double-team every single time.”

Thomas has worked on his conditioning in the offseason and Tomlin hopes the extra work will make him a terror on each play. Last year, Thomas didn’t have the stamina to go full throttle on every down.

“He’s stronger, more explosive and he’s in much better condition,” Tomlin said. “That’s the number one thing with Roy. If he can go 100 percent on every single play, he’s going to be such a force.”

Tomlin is equally excited about reintroducing a pass-happy, five-wideout offense that he settled on late in 2009, his first season as the Prospectors’head coach. After an 0-6 start, Piner went 2-2 and scored 24 points in a blowout loss to Montgomery, the second-most points the Vikings allowed during the regular season.

After the graduation of all-league quarterback Logan Stiles, Piner has two intriguing options to fill his shoes in 6-foot-5 junior Mason McGarr and strong-armed senior Cameron Giannini.

“We found a way to use our athletes at the end of last year,” Tomlin said. “We have no shortage of athletes at Piner,” Tomlin said. “It was a matter of finding a system that works for us.”

The Prospectors hope to succeed offensively by spreading out oppoents, but they knowSuccess on defense can come if Thomas can effectively clog the middle.

Said Thomas, “There’s no better feeling than knowing they can’t stop me one-on-one.”

TEAM PREVIEW

PINER
Coach:
Matt Tomlin (2nd season, 2-8 record)
2009 record: 2-8, 2-5 NBL (T6th), 2009 JV record: 2-8
Returning starters: OFFENSE (6): LG Angel Becerra, Sr.; LT Dustin Bogges; WR Elias Dehmes, Sr.; RG Matt Harlin, Sr.; RB Robert Holden, Jr.; WR/RB Shane Riveras, Sr. DEFENSE (5): MLB Matt Harlin, Sr.; DE Josh Hickey, Sr.; DT Roy Thomas, Sr.; FS Shane Riveras, Sr.; LB Stephen Roca, Sr.
Players to watch: WR Elias Dehmes: Three-year starter was a second-team all-NBL pick last year. LT Dustin Bogges: Six-foot-1, 280-pounder is team’s top offensive lineman with great athleticism.
Newcomer to watch: WR Natu Hezchias: Six-foot-2 sophomore scored 8 TDs on JVs last year.

SCHEDULE
Date – Opponent – Time

9-3 – at Eureka – 7:30 p.m.
9-10 – at Analy – 7:30 p.m.
9-18 – vs. Healdsburg – 1 p.m.
10-2 – vs. Rancho Cotate – 1 p.m.
10-9 – vs. Maria Carrillo – 1 p.m.
10-15 – at Montgomery – 7:30 p.m.
10-22 – at Santa Rosa – 7:30 p.m.
10-30 – vs. Elsie Allen – 1 p.m.
11-5 – at Cardinal Newman – 7:30 p.m.
11-13 – vs. Ukiah – 1 p.m.

BY THE NUMBERS
2-8:
Record the past four years
4: Returning all-NBL selections
11: Consecutive games won by defending NCS Division II champ Eureka, Piner’s first opponent