Football preview: Analy Tigers ready to repeat 2012’s success

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Analy running back Ja'Narrick "Skittles" James takes a handoff during practice Monday.

Analy running back Alishua Johnson takes a handoff during practice Monday.

Closing practices with a yell of “Tiger pride” reminds Analy players of the football program’s legacy for winning.

In a string of seven consecutive section playoff appearances perhaps the most remarkable was last season’s historic campaign. Matching that success included an undefeated Sonoma County League slate, and making another postseason run will be a challenge.

“It’s going to be tough to do. Last year’s team was a pretty special group,” said Analy coach Dan Bourdon. “We’re just going to try and get better.”

Joining a corps of seven returning starters are several varsity newcomers. Young in the backfield on both sides of the ball and at the receiver positions, Analy must get its quick-hit spread offense in gear.

Anchoring the attack is an experienced line that should bolster the running game and make Analy formidable up front on defense.

“We graduated a lot, but we have some athletes here. Our numbers in our program are up as a whole,” Bourdon said.

Depth creates competition for playing time. A season-opening camp featuring a two-night sleep-over in the school gym helped build brotherhood.

The Tigers will know soon enough how well they have come together when East Bay perennial power Pittsburg visits Analy for the season opener Aug. 30.

A fast start last season had Analy rolling to the best record in school history. The Tigers won a dozen, not falling until El Cerrito defeated Analy in the North Coast Section Division 3 semifinals.

Signs the Tigers again will be competitive were evident in summer passing leagues and camps.

Still, the team is young in varsity experience and must connect more on the field.

“We’re kind of young and it’s showed. We’re making young mistakes. We’re real inconsistent,” Bourdon said. “But we’ll be fine.”

Strong up front, Analy returns three starters on the line led by All-Empire selection Jacob Hicks. Another two-way starter back is All-Sonoma County League lineman Andrew Wollmer.

A solid offensive line gives Analy’s quarterback time to hit the slants and other short passes the Tigers use to open up defenses for the run.

Quarterback is one of many positions where coaches have yet to name a starter.

Jake Royer, last season’s backup, returns for his senior season. Will Smith is up from junior varsity after helping that Tigers team to an undefeated season.

“This is the first competition for quarterback here in a while,” Bourdon said. “You can flip a coin now.”

Both Royer and Smith could get playing time throughout the season with Bourdon starting with the hot hand each week.

A primary passing target should be senior Jaxon Cantu, who leads a young receiving corps.

If the passing game opens the box for Analy running backs, Ja’Nar-rick James can find lanes to scamper through.

As a backup last season James averaged more than 50 yards a game. A speedy, mercurial runner, James scored 10 touchdowns including four on kickoff and punt returns, making All-Empire for special teams.

While the Tigers seek consistency on offense, defense should be steady from the start. Again both Hicks and Wollmer lead the way up front.

Analy typically runs a base defense with three linemen and five linebackers. Returning starter Trent Ackerman will be surrounded by other fast, athletic linebackers.

An All-SCL pick, Ackerman is the leading tackler back from a year ago. Ackerman averaged seven stops a contest.

Another top defender from last season is Cantu.

What the Tigers aim for is bringing along younger players to be better in week ten than in the season opener.

Competition for starting spots raises the level of play in practice and accelerates the learning curve.

“We’re looking for starters in a lot of spots,” Bourdon said. “We’ll be competitive.”

Michael Coit can be reached at Mike.Coit@pressdemocrat.com

ANALY TIGERS

Coach: Dan Bourdon (fifth year)

2012 record: 12-1 overall, 6-0 SCL (first place)

2012 JV record: 9-0-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Jacob Hicks, Sr., DL/OL — Press Democrat All-Empire Offense. Analy averaged 151.7 rushing yards a game last season.

Ja’Narrick James, Jr., RB/KR — Press Democrat All-Empire Special Teams. Averaged 30.3 yards on kickoff returns and 16.6 yards on punt returns with four for touchdowns.

Andrew Wollmer, Sr., DL/OL — SCL All-League. Two-way starter who had two sacks and blocked three field goals.

Trent Ackerman, Jr., LB — SCL All-League. Anchors young linebacking corps and last season totaled 89 tackles and recovered three fumbles.

INSIDE SCOOP

Experienced line a strength and could make Analy strong with the run on offense to balance the Tigers’ pass-happy spread offense. The young Tigers need consistency, particularly at skill positions.

GAME NOT TO MISS

Friday, Oct. 18, hosting El Molino: Historic west Sonoma County rivals, Analy faces an El Molino team with a new coach who wants the Lions to compete with the Tigers. El Molino coach Randy Parmeter is a former Lions player. Analy coach Dan Bourdon is a former Tigers player.

ALL-TIME HIGHLIGHT

Last season was the best in Analy’s long football history, winning a dozen games and reaching the North Coast Section Division 3 semifinals. Matching last season’s undefeated Sonoma County League campaign and making another playoff run will be a challenge.

SCHEDULE

DATE — OPPONENT — TIME

Aug. 30 — vs. Pittsburg — 7:30 p.m.

Sep. 6 — at Maria Carrillo — 7:30 p.m.

Sep. 13 — vs. Miramonte — 7:30 p.m.

Sep. 20 — at Stellar Prep — 7 p.m.

Sep. 27 — at Sonoma Valley — 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 — vs. Piner — 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 11 — Healdsburg — 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 18 — vs. El Molino — 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 25 — at Elsie Allen — 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 1 — vs. Petaluma — 7:30 p.m.

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