Football preview: Boost in numbers should help Petaluma

Quarterback Brendan White prepares to pass during Petaluma High School’s football practice on Thursday. He’ll work behind an offensive line that will be bigger than last year’s group. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

Quarterback Brendan White prepares to pass during Petaluma High School’s football practice on Thursday. He’ll work behind an offensive line that will be bigger than last year’s group.
(CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

By PETER FOURNIER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Petaluma football coach Rick Krist matter-of-factly pointed out the difference between this year’s Trojans squad and 2013’s.

“We got a little more beef, which is nice,” Krist said.

Where’s the beef? A 40-man roster thanks to a large junior class – a boost from last year’s 30-man squad – and 15 offensive lineman compared with a lowly seven-person rotation last season.

The strength in numbers should help Petaluma, which made the playoffs after a strong run late in Sonoma County League play, only to sustain a first-round exit to SCL champion Analy. Krist is excited because he feels he has three separate offensive lines he can put in the game at any time.

“We have 15 offensive linemen that I know that I can put in the game at any time at this point,” he said. “I think we can go even further, I think there’s even a half a line left.”

It’s a stark difference from the position swapping and exhaustion most of the offensive line experienced last season.

“It’s a lot better because we have a bigger offensive line, more people to mess around and see who’s better at what positions,” offensive lineman Travis Plank said. “It gives us more of a breather when it comes to games so we’re not all winded at the end and about to pass out and die, pretty much.”

Krist acknowledged the fatigue that plagued the 2013 squad.

“Last year, in some of the tougher games, we ran out of gas,” he said. “We play against Analy with those big beasts that they had on the line. We had little guys, and we had guys going both ways; we just petered out at the end and got real tired.”

Krist estimated that the average weight last season on the Trojans’ offensive line was 165 pounds. compared with this year’s estimated 215.

“This year, I think we’re going to be fresher,” he said. “Keep guys fresh in the game at the key positions.”

A fresh offensive line is a key to success on any football team, but it becomes more essential in an offense like Petaluma’s, a triple-option taser that focuses on a heavy rushing attack, similar to what Navy and Georgia Tech run at the NCAA Division I level.

The offense features a four-man backfield, the quarterback lining up seven yards behind center, with running backs to his left and right and a fullback directly behind.

Krist said, however, that the offense is transitioning to more under-center sets.

“We’re running the triple option out of the pistol set to give our quarterback a little bit better vision,” Krist said.

“It worked well for us last year. We may be doing a little bit more under center this year because of the type of quarterback we have.”

That would be junior quarterback Brendan White, a former tight end who stands at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds. Krist said White platooned last year with senior Patrick Bailey until Krist decided to stick with Bailey once league play began. This year, the job is White’s to lose.

“Brendan gives a completely different look,” Krist said.

But the triple option is still a run-heavy offense, and the Trojans will be looking at Yusef Kawasmi to lead the rushing attack.

A Casa Grande transfer who sat out five games last season, Kawasmi is eager to play a full season of varsity and he’s expected to replace 1,000-yard rusher Gabe Medina.

“There’s definitely a lot to look up to because (Medina) was the leading rusher in the league and you definitely want to be as good as the person ahead of you last year,” Kawasmi said.

Kawasmi said he enjoyed watching Medina, who he said was fast and nimble, but this year’s No. 1 running back option for the Trojans added, “I’m like 230 (pounds) and more of a guy that will run through people.”

That doesn’t mean Kawasmi isn’t fast.

“Speed has always been there for me because I played travel soccer before I did football,” he said.

“So for a big kid, I got to learn footwork skills. So I was lucky in that sense.”

With Kawasmi and a revamped offensive line, the Trojans have a combo they hope will them a consistent punch throughout the season as opposed to the slow start and strong finish of last year.

“Right now, I think we have a championship caliber bunch of kids,” Krist said.

That means the kids can’t step out of line in the classroom or the playground.

“As long as we do that, we have as much of a chance as anybody else.”

PETALUMA TROJANS

Coach: Rick Krist
2013 record: 5-6, 3-3 SCL (T-3rd place)
JV record: Not available

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Brendan White, Jr., QB
A tight end in 2013, White excites Krist because of his height and size. He played sparingly in games last season, but he’s the man under center this year. Krist said White understands the offense and gives the Trojans a completely different look.

Travis Plank, Jr., OL
Krist says the junior is the leader of the Trojans’ offensive line, citing his ability to lead by example. Plank looks to anchor an offensive line that has seen a boost in numbers over last season, noting that he sees a lot more players this year, who’ve brought more spirit to the team’s early training camp days.

Yusef Kawasmi, Sr., RB
A transfer from Casa Grande in 2013, Kawasmi is expected to be the Trojans’ No. 1 running back, filling the shoes of last season’s leading rusher Gabe Medina. Kawasmi is a big-bodied running back, but says he hopes to bring a speed element to his dynamic this season.

Greg Thomas, Sr., K
Krist has no problem praising Thomas, who attended a kicking camp in the offseason and booted a 47-yard field goal against Analy when the Trojans played them during the 2013 regular season. Krist says “he’s nails,” and was probably one of the best kickers in the county last year.

GAME NOT TO MISS

The Trojans’ end of the regular season matchups with Sonoma Valley have made the difference between reaching the postseason or not. Petaluma lost to the Dragons in 2012 and was left on the outside of the playoffs looking in. However, the Trojans earned a nail-biting victory in 2013 earned them a playoff berth. The teams face each other in the first week of SCL play this season.

ALL-TIME HIGHLIGHT

Petaluma rode a 12-0 campaign into the 2009 North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs, defeating Redwood Empire rivals Rancho Cotate and Cardinal Newman before falling to Eureka in the semifinals. The Trojans also won the 1977 North Coast Section Class 3A Redwood Empire section title.

SCHEDULE

Aug. 29  at Santa Rosa  7:30 p.m.
Sept. 5  at Vintage  5:15 p.m.
Sept. 12  Terra Linda  7 p.m.
Sept. 19  at Jefferson  7 p.m.
Sept. 26  Sonoma Valley  7:30 p.m.
Oct. 3  Piner 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 10  at Healdsburg  7:30 p.m.
Oct. 17  El Molino  7:30 p.m.
Oct. 24  at Elsie Allen  7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1  Bye
Nov. 7  Analy  7:30 p.m.