Playing fullback a hit with Santa Rosa’s Rosselli

Santa Rosa fullback Ethan Rosselli. (JOHN BURGESS / PD, 2010)

By ERIC BRANCH
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa senior Ethan Rosselli was moved from tight end to fullback in the offseason and his thoughts on the move offer a window into his soul.

“Now I get hit on every play,” Rosselli said. “It’s a lot more fun.”

Rosselli comes by his love for contact honestly.

His dad, Mike, was a consensus All-American linebacker at Santa Clara and is a member of the Petaluma High Hall of Fame. His older brother, Jaden, was a two-time all-league linebacker who graduated last spring and is playing at Willamette University.

Ethan will remain at linebacker this season, but first-year Santa Rosa coach Les Richardson decided he’d make an effective fullback after seeing his 5-foot-11, 200-pound fame.

“I was looking for a real solid, tough kid on our offense,” Richardson said. “If you have a good fullback, teams have to honor that.”

And opposing teams already know plenty about Rosselli. As a tight end, he was one of two non-seniors to earn first-team all-Empire honors.  He figures to help form an imposing tandem in the backfield with senior running back Travis Baker, who earned second-team all-league honors last year.

Rosselli’s younger brother, Kalen, returns at quarterback after starting as a sophomore last year. The Panthers also bring back all-league defensive back Nick Keeton, who will also play wide receiver.

The Panthers won’t have a huge roster — Richardson expects 28 players to dress for Friday’s season opener against Petaluma — but Rosselli is optimistic.

“We don’t have a lot of quantity, but we have quality players, more than we did last year,” he said. “We all understand the game and we like to hit.”

Richardson, Rancho Cotate’s defensive coordinator last year, concedes he is facing some significant obstacles. For starters, he’s the program’s sixth coach in the past eight seasons.

“I think if we can have some early success at some point these guys will buy in,” Richardson said. “But I’m their third coach in three years. I told them that I understand that.”

Richardson, who retired as a deputy sheriff with the Marin County Sheriff’s Department this summer, is devoted to turning Santa Rosa around. But he’s not making any grandiose promises.

Asked why he might be the guy to succeed at Santa Rosa when so many others before him had failed, Richardson laughed.

“I just love coaching football,” he said. “I mean, Bill Walsh passed away. Maybe he was the guy. Can I be the guy? I hope so, but I don’t know.”

TEAM PREVIEW

SANTA ROSA
Coach:
Les Richardson, first season
2009 record: 2-8, 2-5 NBL (T6th), 2009 JV record: 0-10
Returning starters: OFFENSE (5): RB Travis Baker, Sr.; WR Nick Keeton, Sr.; FB Ethan Rosselli, Sr.; QB Kalen Rosselli, Jr.; G Peter Winters, Jr. Defense (4): LB Travis Baker, Sr.; DB Nick Keeton, Sr.; LB Ethan Rosselli, Sr.; Peter Winters, Jr.
Players to watch: WR/DB Nick Keeton: All-league DB also serves as punter and place-kicker. RB/LB Travis Baker: Two-way star earned second-team all-NBL honors as a running back.
Newcomer to Watch: OT/MLB Steven Colter: Rugged sophomore earned promotion after starring on the JV.

SCHEDULE
Date – Opponent – Time

9-3 – vs. Petaluma – 7:30 p.m.
9-17 – vs. Windsor – 7:30 p.m.
9-24 – at Analy – 7:30 p.m.
10-1 – at Elsie Allen – 7:30 p.m.
10-8 – vs. Ukiah – 7:30 p.m.
10-15 – at Maria Carrillo – 7:30 p.m.
10-22 – vs. Piner – 7:30 p.m.
10-29 – vs. Montgomery – 7:30 p.m.
11-5 – at Rancho Cotate – 7:30 p.m.
11-12 – at Cardinal Newman – 7 p.m.

BY THE NUMBERS
2:
Winning seasons in the past 20 years.
10: Years Richardson spent as an assistant at Rancho Cotate before taking Santa Rosa job.
15: Age of quarterback Kalen Rosselli. He turns 16 on Sept. 12.