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Football preview: Wildcats' new era begins

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

About the only thing that hasn’t changed this year for the Ukiah High football program is the purple jerseys the players wear.

Following last season, Bill Norbury replaced Jeff Schuller as head coach and the pass-happy era of quarterback Trevor Taylor came to an end. The gunslinger played two years of varsity ball and passed for 4,606 yards and 46 touchdowns.

Jordan Morris will take over for Taylor and the 5-foot-7 senior has yet to throw a pass at the varsity level.

“He’s an athletic kid and has shown he’s comfortable playing quarterback in practice and in scrimmages,” Norbury said. “The coaching staff has confidence in him.”

Obviously, with an inexperienced quarterback, the offense will be conservative. The Wildcats have been practicing the spread and double tight end looks.

“Morris started at safety last year and he’s quick,” Norbury said. “He can run out of the spread, so that gives us another option.”

Taylor wasn’t the only stat leader lost to graduation. Chris Berg, who rushed for a team-high 966 yards and 12 TDs, departed, as has Max Oswald, who led the team with 92 tackles in 2011.

“We’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Norbury said in an understatement. “We’ve had good practices, a lot of enthusiasm. Everyone here is optimistic.”

The Wildcats’ strengths will be the offensive line and the defensive unit.

Returning starters Jake Krause (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) and Tyler Fields (5-foot-8, 185) will anchor the offensive line.

On the other side of the ball, lettermen include Cameron Bowman (6-foot, 200), Brandon Acevedo (5-foot-9, 185) and Jordan James (5-foot-11, 170).
Norbury and his players would love to match the way the 2011 team started. The Wildcats opened the season by defeating Casa

Grande (47-37) in Petaluma, where the Gauchos have dropped just a handful of games in recent years.
Ukiah went on to win its first four games, but concluded the campaign by dropping five of its last six.

The Wildcats did qualify for NCS but lost to Dublin, 35-7, in the opening round.
Norbury, who coached the junior varsity last year and prior to that started the program at Deep Valley High, does have an idea about how the NBL will turn out this season.

“The team that wins league won’t go undefeated,” he said. “Week in and week out, it’s going to be too tough for one team to win ’em all. We plan to be in the mix.”

UKIAH WILDCATS

Coach: Bill Norbury (first season)
2011 record: 5-6, 2-4 in NBL (5th)
2011 JV record: 7-3

RETURNING STARTERS
OFFENSE (2): OL Jake Krause, OL Tyler Fields
DEFENSE (3): S Jordan Morris, LB Brandon Acevedo, DE Jordan James

PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Morris has assumed the signal calling and won’t hesitate to run out of the spread formation.
OL Krause has the power to open holes for the running game.
DE James has the size and strength to keep opposing offenses under control.

NEWCOMERS TO WATCH
OG/ML Marcus Scott, one of two captains, is a leader with an outstanding worth ethic.
RB/CB Shandler Rickel is an intense player who continually stays in motion.

SCHEDULE
8/31 vs. Arroyo, 7:30 p.m.
9/7 vs. Willits, 7:30 p.m.
9/14 vs Eureka, 7:30 p.m.
9/21 at Cardinal Newman, 7 p.m.
9/28 vs. Rancho Cotate, 7:30 p.m.
10/5 at Windsor, 7:30 p.m.
10/12 vs. Montgomery, 7:30 p.m.
10/19 vs. Casa Grande, 7:30 p.m.
10/26 at Santa Rosa, 7:30 p.m.
11/02 at Maria Carrillo, 7:30 p.m.