Football preview – Santa Rosa looks to ride momentum

Santa Rosa Football PracticeBy RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Oct. 19, 2012: Santa Rosa 28, Montgomery 7.

The now famous date for Panther fans was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing football season (4-6 overall, 2-5 in the North Bay League and a sixth-place finish) last year for Santa Rosa.

The Panthers are hoping their historic win — the first victory over Montgomery in 22 years — will be a springboard for greater success in 2013.

“The fans stormed the field after the win and everyone was jumping around and having fun,” second-year coach Dave Duncan said. “Our kids had never had that experience.”

The real challenge for Duncan and his staff will be figuring out a way to stay competitive in the NBL with a small roster.

“We have only 34-35 kids on a good day. Our depth is almost non-existent this year. A lot of kids moved away,” Duncansaid. “We are developing a lot of guys on the second and third strings.”

Avoiding injuries is critical.

“Our lack of depth is our biggest concern,” Duncan said. “The key to our success is staying healthy.”

The lack of depth means the Panthers will have a steep climb to finish in the top half of the NBL, but that doesn’t seem to bother senior linebacker Jerimiah Otten.

“We are pretty much the underdog the whole season. Being in the underdog role teams might take us lightly,” Otten said. “I think we can be at least .500 this season if not above that.”

The Panthers do have some experience with seven returning starters on offense and five on defense. Included are is second team all-NBL selections Alesana Sunia (junior) on the offensive line and Jamie Fisher (senior) on the defensive line.

Senior Vince Jones returns to start at quarterback for his third season. The Panthers will run multiple-sets behind a line that includes three returning starters. Jones will be counted on to run the option and pass from the pocket.
“We have focused more on passing in practice,” Jones said. “If we get our passing game down that will open up our running game.”

With the offense riding on Jones’ athletic ability and decision-making, Duncan said he has confidence in his team leader.
“You can see a change in Vince’s maturity,” Duncan said. “He is a lot more focused.”

The running game will have to replace star Jahray Hayes who graduated and is playing at City College of San Francisco. Jahray’s brother, Jahi Hayes, will absorb some of the running duties along with senior Gabe Roque. Senior Alfredo Carretero will likely be Jones’ favorite target among the receiving corps.

“Talent-wise we have had more options in the past,” Duncan said. “But the team is coming together. We went to Sacramento State in June for a football camp. It was a chance for the players to bond together and it helped.”

Duncan’s goal is to make the North Coast Section playoffs, but he has another longer term goal in mind. Getting back to the win over Montgomery last season, Duncan smiled and said: “Our goal is to not let the win over Montgomery be a one-year thing. Our goal is to turn the streak the other way around.”

SANTA ROSA PANTHERS

Coach: Dave Duncan (3rd year)
2012 record: 4-6, 2-5 in NBL (sixth place)
2012 JV record: 6-3-1

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Vince Jones, Sr., QB — One of only two players that is a three-year varsity starter and one of the top three quarterbacks in the NBL according to Coach Duncan. Will run the multiple sets on offense; his experience on knowing when to pitch and when to run on option plays should come in handy.

Alfredo Carretero, Sr., WR/safety — An Honorable Mention in the NBL last season and a big-play receiver who relies on speed and sure hands. Also, an upgraded off-season weight- room regimen should lead to more physicality for Carretero at the safety position.

Jeremiah Otten, Sr., LB — Also an Honorable Mention in the NBL last season and tabbed the Panthers’ defensive leader by Duncan. “He will hit anything, he doesn’t care. Jeremiah has no fear,” Duncan said.

Gabe Roque, Sr., RB/safety — A returning starter at both positions who relies on his speed (4.7 seconds, 40 yards) to accelerate through holes as a ball carrier and function as a ball-hawk in the defensive backfield. Roque will play some slot receiver in the spread offensive.

INSIDE SCOOP

The Panthers will be playing on a new turf field with pre-fabricated markings sewn into the turf instead of painted on. The new field with spanking-new Panther logos should be a nice addition to replace the decade-old turf that Santa Rosa previously played on. “It looks nice and is good for school spirit,” Duncan said. “The kids all like the field. It’s definitely an improvement. It’s one of the best fields in the area.”

GAME NOT TO MISS

Circle the Sept. 27 against visiting Maria Carrillo as pivotal for the Panthers’ success. The first league game for Santa Rosa sets the tone for the NBL season. “We will see how we are doing after playing those two big schools (Antioch and Deer Valley),” Duncan said. The Pumas beat the visiting Panthers last season, 50-34.

ALL-TIME HIGHLIGHT

Last year’s 28-7 home victory over rival Montgomery is at the top of the list. Santa Rosa’s win broke a 21-game Vikings win streak over the Panthers. Santa Rosa fans stormed the field in a wild celebration that hadn’t been seen against Montgomery since the early 1990s.

SCHEDULE

Date – Opponent – Time
Aug. 30 – at Petaluma – 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 13 – at Antioch – 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 20 – Deer Valley – 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 27 – Maria Carrillo 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 – Casa Grande – 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 – Cardinal Newman – 7:00 p.m.
Oct. 18 – at Windsor – 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 – at Montgomery – 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 – at Ukiah – 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 – Rancho Cotate – 7:30 p.m.

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