Football preview: For Petaluma, it’s time for success

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Petaluma's quarterback Patrick Bailey throws the ball during the team's scrimmage on Friday, August 16, 2013. (Photo by Conner Jay of The Press Democrat)

Petaluma’s quarterback Patrick Bailey throws the ball during the team’s scrimmage on Friday, August 16, 2013. (Photo by Conner Jay of The Press Democrat)

Petaluma’s football team hasn’t had a winning record in the three seasons since legendary coach Steve Ellison retired.

Don’t be surprised if that losing skein ends in 2013 and the Trojans contend for the Sonoma County League title.

The evidence:

1. Last year’s team won four of its final six games after beginning the season 0-4 and key players from that squad are back.

2. The 2012 freshman team went undefeated and several of those players will be on the varsity this year.

3. Fourteen players from last year’s junior varsity squad that finished 4-6, but were beset by injuries, are moving up to the varsity.

“We’re feeling good about how our team is coming together,” said Rich Krist, who replaced Ellison. “We have better skill players this year. Also, the coaches and I like the chemistry of this team.”

A week ago today, the first day of official practice, the team moved sleeping bags en masse into the multi-purpose room on campus.

“This group already had good chemistry but eating and sleeping together will make the bond tighter,” Krist predicted.

Last year, the Trojans averaged 21 points per game and the coach believes that number will be higher this season.

A key to offensive success will be the health of running back Gabe Medina. In 2012, he missed part of the season with a quadriceps pull.

“He’s our No. 1 running back,” Krist said. “Last year, we were a much better team when he was in the lineup.”

Medina averaged nearly seven yards per touch.

In the offseason, the senior has undergone a physical transformation. Last year, he weighed 160 pounds.

“He’s put on a lot muscle since last season,” Krist disclosed. “He worked really hard power-lifting and it’s showing.”

While Medina has his starting position locked up, there’s still competition over who will be handing him the ball. Patrick Bailey, last year’s starter, is back and he’s being challenged by Brendon White.

“It could go either way,” Krist said. “Both guys have looked good in practice.”

To the coaching staff, the defense is more of a concern than the offense.

Someone will have to fill the shoes of lineman Teddy Scranton, a second-team All-Empire selection.

Expected to play major roles on defense are outside linebacker Joe Lynch, cornerback Nick Temple and lineman Nick McCloskey.

The Trojans will use the flexbone formation on offense and favor the 4-4 on defense.

“We had a good summer of preparation and the kids are ready for the season to start,” Krist said.

The opener, a week from Friday against visiting Santa Rosa, will shed light on how much Petaluma has improved. Last year, the Panthers defeated the Trojans, 42-21.

PETALUMA TROJANS

Coach: Rich Krist (fourth year)

2012 record: 4-6 overall, 4-2 SCL (third place)

2012 JV record: 4-6

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Gabe Medina, Sr., RB — Hampered by injury last season, now stronger and quicker.

Patrick Bailey, Sr., QB — First started late in sophomore season. Improved by attending quarterback schools this past summer where he ran 40 yards in 4.6 seconds.

Joe Lynch, Sr., LB — All-league last year as outside linebacker; a three-sport athlete.

Nick McCloskey, Sr., OL, DL — No. 1 lineman on team.

Nick Temple, Sr., CB — One of the best cornerbacks to play for the Trojans in recent years.

INSIDE SCOOP

Squad size is down from last year, but the Trojans have more skilled players than in 2012.

GAME NOT TO MISS

Nov. 1 at Analy. This one could be for the SCL title.

ALL-TIME HIGHLIGHT

Back in 2008 when the Egg Bowl was still being played, Petaluma scored a dramatic victory over cross-town rival Casa Grande. In a game on the Gauchos’ field, the Trojans fell behind, 14-0, and rallied to win 21-14.

SCHEDULE

DATE — OPPONENT — TIME

Aug. 30 — Santa Rosa — 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 7 — at Tamalpais — 2 p.m.

Sept. 14 — at Terra Linda — 2 p.m.

Sept. 20 — Jefferson — 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 — at Piner — 2 p.m.

Oct. 4 — Healdsburg — 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 11 — at El Molino — 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 18 — Elsie Allen — 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 1 — at Analy — 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 8 — Sonoma Valley — 7:30 p.m.

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