Football preview: Piner looks to extend improvement trend

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Tony Martignoli is the Prospectors’ new quarterback for the 2014 football season.
(KENT PORTER / The Press Democrat)

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The three years John Antonio has been the coach at Piner, his teams have improved each season.

Will the trend continue in 2014?

“We believe it will,” Antonio said with his team’s season opener (at Del Norte) less than two weeks away. “We have several key players back from last year and brought up about 20 guys from the junior varsity that finished 8-2.”

Antonio took the coaching position in 2011 after the Prospectors had won only one game the previous year.

In 2011, the first rebuilding year, Piner went 1-9. In 2012, the team won four games and followed that with a 6-6 mark.

Last season, the school also earned an invitation to the North Coast Section tournament and went on the road to defeat St. Patrick-St. Vincent in the first round.

“Our goal last year was to make it to NCS and win a first-round game,” Antonio said. “This year, our goal is to win a second-round game.”

If there’s a concern about this year’s squad, it’s a lack of depth.

“We’ll only suit up 30 players give or take one or two,” Antonio said. “Our numbers are low but each guy on the varsity is deserving. We’ve got a lot of good athletes.”

Tony Martignoli, who has taken over as quarterback from the recently-graduated Noel Hernandez, thinks his team has the talent to make a strong showing in SCL and the postseason.

“In our first few practices we were definitely more organized,” said Martignoli, a senior. “The young players that moved up have fit right in.

“Also, we have more receivers on this year’s team and that will allow us more options.”

Last year’s team threw the ball an average of 23 times per game and those numbers figure to be equaled or surpassed this season.

Antonio said Martignoli’s strength is throwing the long ball.

“He throws a great deep ball,” the coach said of his 6-foot-3 quarterback.

The receiving corps is led by Ty Simmons, Jesse Bolduc, Justin Tauaefa, Cameron Westphal, Jared Logenbaugh and Henry Aching.

The coach said his current squad showed up at the first practice on Aug. 11 ready to get to work.

“A difference between this group and last year’s is the way they used the weight room over the summer,” he said. “Most of the team was in there every day and it’s shown in practice.

“We’re getting better every day.”

PINER PROSPECTORS

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tony Martignoli, Sr., QB
Moving to signal caller after playing wide receiver last year. Has the ability to throw accurate long ball.

Mark Ainger, Sr., RB/LB
In 2013, rushed for four TDs and averaged 5.61 yards per carry.

Isiah Carter, Sr., RB/LB
Carried 75 times last year and averaged 6.52 yards per touch.

Peter Barbieri, Sr., OL/DL
A 220-pound returning starter, he notched 56 solo tackles in 2013 and assisted on 53 others.

GAME NOT TO MISS
Analy, the favorite to win the Sonoma County League, pays the improving Prospectors a visit on Oct. 11.

ALL-TIME HIGHLIGHT
Last year, the Prospectors returned to the NCS playoffs after a 10-year absence. They defeated host St. Patrick-St. Vincent, of Vallejo, 43-29, in a first-round game.

SCHEDULE
Aug. 30  at Del Norte  3 p.m.
Sept. 5  at Richmond  7 p.m.
Sept. 13  Tamalpais  2 p.m.
Sept. 20  Burton  2 p.m.
Sept. 27  Elsie Allen  2 p.m.
Oct. 3  at Petaluma  7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11  Analy  2 p.m.
Oct. 17  at Sonoma  7:30 p.m.
Nov. 1  Healdsburg  2 p.m.
Nov. 7 at El Molino  7:30 p.m.