Sonoma County’s best back for Kiwanis All-Star Football game

Casa Grande's Daniel Greisen, right, takes on Rancho Cotate's Hector Hernandez, left, during the South's football practice held at Rancho Cotate High School in preparation for the Kiwanis All-Star Football Game held on Saturday. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Casa Grande’s Daniel Greisen, right, takes on Rancho Cotate’s Hector Hernandez, left, during the South’s football practice on Wednesday.
(Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)


The new team alignment for the 41st Kiwanis All-Star Football game will feature the usual cast of characters but not in the same roles as we’ve seen.

The North and South teams will face off at 8 p.m. Saturday at Santa Rosa High School with rosters full of Sonoma County’s best, some in new and intriguing positions.

Rather than the typical division of North Bay League and Sonoma County League, a North and South division is bringing more fun to the grass, said North head coach John Antonio.

“I’ll be dead honest, we just want to have fun,” he said. “These guys have played for four years and worked their butts off and now we — as coaches — just want them to have fun.”

One twist for the North will be Windsor’s kicker, Trent Klein, on the first line of the kickoff return. He will also slip into his new role as a linebacker, said Antonio, simply because “that’s just something he wanted to try.”

The North team roster also includes the familiar faces of Logan Francavilla, who graduated from Montgomery in May after leading the Vikings with 311 carries for 1,767 yards and 25 touchdowns.

Quarterback Noel Hernandez will have the chance to play under the direction of his former Piner head coach, as he joined Antonio to lead the Prospectors to a 6-6 overall finish this past season.

“We’ve been having loads of fun at practice,” he said. “The outcome will take care of itself.”

With players from Analy and Casa Grande — the SCL and NBL champions, respectively — aligned for the South team, Antonio complimented the Kiwanis coordinators, and also addressed the talent all around the county.

“They have the Casa kids and the Analy kids, but every team in this county has great football players,” he said. “They did a good job with the alignment. I expect it to be a good game.”

For the South, having the pick of the championship litter is an advantage, but finding players to agree to play can limit the pick, said head coach Gehrig Hotaling.

“Unfortunately, these days, a lot of people decline to play because they are going to college or don’t want to get hurt,” he said. “We fill the roster with other guys we have.”

One challenge for the South could be how deep their bench goes, as Sonoma County’s Mitch Hood takes full responsibility in the quarterback position, while the North has five players who could step into the role.

“There’s some pressure — always — when it comes down to bragging rights,” he said, “but it’s also just a fun thing. Everyone wants to have their last football game as a good memory.”

The pressure has been squashed for many players, Hood said, and it has been enjoyable to piece together the amount of talent the team has.

“We have a lot of great players on our team,” he said, “so we are just trying to bring together all of our unique abilities to beat the North team.”

“I think we have a lot of talent,” Hotaling continued, “and our strength is our size. We are big and strong and physical so we are going to lean on them a little bit.”

The gates open at 7:30 p.m. to the public with general admission tickets priced at $12. Fans over the age of 65 will be $10, while children under 10 years of age are free.

Hood, who will be playing baseball at Santa Rosa Junior College, said it will be fun to play one last game “in the high school atmosphere.”

“For most of these kids,” Antonio added, “it’s the last time playing football and they know that. This is for them.”

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