Football preview: For Healdsburg, the theme is team

Running back Jared Walker finds a hole in the line during practice for the Healdsburg Greyhounds on Tuesday.   Photo: John Burgess/The Press Democrat

Running back Jared Walker finds a hole in the line during practice for the Healdsburg Greyhounds on Tuesday.
Photo: John Burgess/The Press Democrat

By PETER FOURNIER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

HEALDSBURG — From coach Todd Beth to last year’s leading rushers Trystan Cleaver and Jared Walker, there’s a new model taking shape on the Healdsburg High football team that simply wasn’t there in 2012.

The team concept.

“You don’t win football games with one or two kids,” Beth said. “It’s a team effort. It’s 11 kids on the field at a time, and that 11 that’s out there, they need to play at the maximum. Like it’s their last game. Each game should be played like it’s their last. Leave nothing out there.”

Cleaver, who finished the season with 928 yards rushing, and Walker, the leading rusher in 2012 with 1,007 yards in nine games — not to mention 108 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions and 22 tackles losses at linebacker — are both catching on to what their coaching staff wants this year.

“I’d just like to say there’s a lot of hype about the 2013 Greyhounds,” Cleaver said. “And we’re not working hard to please the hype. We’re out here because we want to win. And that’s really what it’s about. It’s not just me and Jared here, it’s a team effort.”

Walker echoed the sentiments.

“Personally, I want to be less of an individual and be more of a team player, and stop worrying about stats and rushing yards and tackles,” he said. “As a team, we’re going for (the Sonoma County League title).”

Beth said turnout this year was better for offseason minicamps and workouts. The extra effort is necessary, since it’s going to take an extraordinary team effort to win the SCL, on top of matching or surpassing last year’s win total of four.

Despite a sub-.500 record in overall and league play (4-7, 2-4), Beth’s first year at the helm of the Greyhounds after replacing Tom Kirkpatrick arguably was successful. He managed to earn his team a spot in the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs with just a handful of seniors, before St. Helena ended the Greyhounds’ season with a 35-14 defeat in the first round.

The highlights of the regular season were blowout victories over Elsie Allen and El Molino. The other wins were over Piedmont in the season opener, and later a forfeit against Castlemont of Oakland.

“Last year, we were a really young team,” Beth said. “We had a large graduating senior class the year before so we had quite a few sophomores on our team. … We took our lumps last year.”

The four seniors last year more than doubles to nine this season.

“They got good experience last year (playing against) quality opponents both in league and Division 4,” Beth said. “Hopefully, they’re more of a veteran team; they’ve experienced it, they know what to expect.”

The Greyhounds will be tested quickly innonleague play. All four games are against playoff teams, and only one, Piedmont, had a losing record last year. Healdsburg will host Fortuna — against whom it lost 37-0 last season — in its season opener Aug. 30, then travel to St. Helena and Middletown.

The urgency has picked up this season, says Walker, because after his senior year, there won’t be any more chances.

“Last year we were juniors,” he said. “Of course we wanted it, but it takes a while to hit you that it’s your senior season and it’s going to be your last season that you’re going to be playing football.”

Peter Fournier can be reached at peter.fournier@pressdemocrat.com.

HEALDSBURG GREYHOUNDS
Coach: Todd Beth (2nd year)
2012 record: 4-7 overall, 2-4 SCL (4th place)
2012 JV record: 4-6

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Trystan Cleaver, Sr., RB — In nine games during his junior campaign, Cleaver was the Greyhounds’ leading rusher with 1,007 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Jared Walker, Sr., RB/LB — Perhaps one of the cornerstones on offense and defense, Walker rushed for 928 yards in addition to recording 108 tackles, including 22 for losses, in 2012.
Tanner Cristando, TE — In his sophomore season, Cristando snatched 24 passes for 406 yards, earning SCL first-team honors.
Jacob Sloma, DE — It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a returning defensive lineman who notched 65 tackles (more than half for losses) and 8 sacks.

INSIDE SCOOP
The Greyhounds are a team with upside. They’ve had an offseason to gel as a team and have become more experienced, despite the lack of seniors on this year’s roster. Beth and his coaching staff seem to have instilled a “team first” mentality since last year. They could be a darkhorse in the SCL title hunt.

GAME NOT TO MISS
Friday, Oct. 11, vs. Analy. It’s a test against the league champs.

ALL-TIME HIGHLIGHT
The school’s first section title, which was delivered in the 1991 NCS 2A championship game.

SCHEDULE
Aug. 30, vs. Fortuna, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6, at St. Helena, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13, at Middletown, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 20, vs. Piedmont, 1 p.m.
Sept. 27, vs. Elsie Allen, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4, at Petaluma, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11, vs. Analy, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18, at Sonoma Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25, vs. Piner, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1, Bye
Nov. 8, at El Molino, 7:30 p.m.

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